Our research focuses on the genomic analysis of chemical communication in honey bees and other social insect species. Chemical communication plays an important role in many insect species, and is particularly critical for regulating behavior and colony organization in social insects. Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly apparent that chemical communication is exquisitely tuned to the environmental context and physiological state of both the signaling and receiving animal, and thus represents a subtle and intricate system for coordinating the activities of thousands of individuals in a colony.
Our studies seek to understand the molecular and physiological basis of modulation of chemical communication in honey bees, both in terms of production of the chemical signal and responsiveness of the receiving individual. These studies will not only shed light on the molecular pathways underlying olfaction, behavior, and chemical ecology, but will also serve as the basis for applied research into novel methods for improving honey bee breeding, colony health and management.
We are also extending these studies to other related species, to determine if the genes associated with pheromone response are conserved across species, and to elucidate the evolution of pheromonal regulation of social behavior. This research seamlessly integrates behavioral studies (both in the field and in the lab), physiological assays, chemical ecology, functional genomics, and comparative studies with other pollinator species. It provides an excellent platform for training students in interdisciplinary studies