Prof Madeleine Beekman (University of Sydney)
I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Amsterdam and graduated with an MSc in Population Biology in 1991. After a stint in industry, I decided to embark on a PhD, again at the University of Amsterdam which I finished in 1998. While I was always intrigued by little things, mites and insects in particular, it wasn’t until my PhD that I started in earnest to work on social insects. The bumblebee Bombus terrestris was the topic of my PhD research. After my PhD, and yet another (brief) stint in industry I moved to the UK to join Frances Ratnieks’ lab. During my time at Frances’ lab I did my first trip to South Africa to work on the weird and wonderful Cape honey bee. Ever since I regularly spend significant lengths of time in South Africa. While in the UK I also started working on trail formation in ants, work that I continued after my move to Sydney in 2001, when I joined the University of Sydney, initially as a postdoctoral fellow. In 2003 I received my first ARC QEII Fellowship, my second one in 2008 (and a University of Sydney International Senior Research Fellowship concurrently; and no, I did not receive two salaries) and a Future Fellowship in 2013. Because I was too scared to become a ‘normal’ academic after the end of my Future Fellowship I became the Deputy Head of School, as well as the Chair of our discipline. And since 2004 I am the Secretary General of the IUSSI.
I remain intrigued by social insects, but regularly branch out into other areas. If I have to be completely honest, I have to say that my main obsession really is evolutionary biology, but social insects are an excellent model organism. As mentioned above, I still return to South Africa to study the Cape honeybee (and to get attacked by Killer bees). A more recent research interest is the evolution of virulence of RNA viruses of honeybees, particularly those that seem to have an association with Varroa. My other main research interest currently is understanding how much one can do without a brain. I’ll leave it up to the reader to figure out where that interest came from….
More information about me: https://sydney.edu.au/science/people/madeleine.beekman.php
And the lab:
Francisco Garcia Bulle Bueno ( Sydney University)
I recently started my PhD at the University of Sydney and my research project focuses on stingless bee basic biology, reproductive behaviour, management and pollination. My undergraduate education is from the National Autonomous University of Mexico where I conducted a research project on Stimulation of Colony Initiation and Colony Development in the Mexican Bumblebee Species Bombus ephippiatus. My passion for science has taken me to conduct research and volunteer in Europe, United States, Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico.
Mateua Detoni (University of Otago)
I am a PhD student at the Department of Zoology of the University of Otago, in New Zealand. The main goal of my thesis is to combine investigations on various types of factors that may affect the colony-level aggression behavior in the invasive social wasps of the Vespula genus in New Zealand. My background includes a Bachelor of Sciences in Biological Sciences and a Master’s in Animal Biology and Behavior at the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Brazil.
I am interested in the behavioral ecology, sociobiology and molecular biology of social insects. My previous research experience includes the nesting and foraging behavior of paper wasps, along with neotropical social wasps diversity.
Prof Mark A Elgar (Melbourne University)
I was an undergraduate at Griffith University, (BSc Hons, 1976–1979), and then a graduate student of Nick Davies at the University of Cambridge (PhD, 1982–1985). I subsequently held post-doctoral fellowships with Paul Harvey at the University of Oxford (SERC, 1985–1987), and Ross Crozier at the University of New South Wales (UNSW Fellowship, QEII Fellowship, 1987-1990), eventually joining the University of Melbourne in 1991.
My research group investigates how natural and sexual selection shape biological diversity. We challenge evolutionary theory with bizarre, counter-intuitive or unfashionable examples of natural history, through a combination of field and laboratory experiments, and phylogenetic comparative analyses. Communication is key to social behavior, and we aim to understand the co-evolutionary links between chemical signals, signal perception and behavior in social insects (which forms part of a broader investigation of the evolutionary significance of the diversity of insect antennal morphology). Many of our field projects investigate the role of chemicals and chemical communication in the remarkable biology of the Australian meat ant Iridomyrmex purpureus, whose workers actively interact with non-nestmate conspecifics, other insects and spiders. We also work with stingless bees, steel blue sawflies Perga affinis, and social and aggregating spiders. More details at www.markaelgar.com.
Dr Tim Heard
PhD in pollination biology from Uni of Queensland in 1991. Research scientist for CSIRO from 1990 to 2014, in the discipline of biological control of weeds. , I have since returned to an interest in wild bees formed during my doctoral studies. My interests centre around the stingless bees taxonomic group. I have been involved in many aspects of research from pure studies on their basic biology to applied work on their utilization for economic purposes. I am an entomologist who works across disciplines to answer questions such as how to utilize stingless bees for crop pollination. Published more than 140 research papers and popular articles, including 70 on bees and pollination. Associate fellow of the Behaviour and Genetics of Social Insects Laboratory at Uni of Sydney. Author of the best-selling The Australian Native Bee Book (www.nativebeebook.com.au) which has won three major awards (2016 Whitley Award, 2017 Australian Book Industry Award, 2017 Apimondia book award). The Australian Native Bee Book. further information at Sugarbag Bees www.sugarbag.net or
My research focuses on the behavioural ecology of social insects and the evolution of social behaviour. I combine field and lab based approaches to explore how behaviour, development, and social environment influence physiological and/or genomic factors at the individual-level and fitness at the colony-level. I am currently testing the role of ecological conditions on individual and colony health and behaviour in bumble bees and social wasps - species that are introduced or invasive to New Zealand, but have had enormous impact on the agriculture and ecology here. For more information about the lab and our research, please visit our website: http://www.otago.ac.nz/socialinsectlab or contact me on Twitter: @TheWaspLady
I am a PhD student at the University of Sydney (Behaviour and Genetics of Social Insects Laboratory), supervised by Professor Madeleine Beekman and Dr Emily Remnant. The overall aim of my PhD research is to investigate the relationship between honey bees (Apis mellifera), Deformed wing virus (DWV) and Varroa destructor. I am interested in host-pathogen interactions, such as how vector transmission affects DWV virulence and mechanisms of resistance in honey bees.
My background is in chemical ecology. I completed a Bachelor of Science (Hons) at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC), Queensland. As an undergraduate, I worked with Dr Peter Brooks in developing a new method to analyse Leptospermum nectar, to determine which plants will produce honeys with non-peroxide (MGO) antibacterial activity. For my Honours research, I investigated the chemical properties and repellent effects of Corymbia torelliana (Cadaghi) resin on small hive beetles and Varroa mites, under the supervision of Professor Helen Wallace (USC), Dr Peter Brooks (USC) and Dr Sara Leonhardt (University of Würzburg).
Jorgiane B. Parish (University of Adelaide)
I am a PhD candidate in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide under the supervision of Katja Hogendoorn and Eileen Scott. I am currently investigating aspects of the interactions between honey bees and spores of plant pathogenic fungi. My undergraduate and Master’s degree are from Federal University of Viçosa in Brazil, where I conducted research on Integrated Pest Management
Prof Simon KA Robson
I currnetly hold Honarary and Adjunct Professorships at the University of Sydney and Central Queensland university respectively. Prior to this I was based at James Cook (1995-2018), a PhD student at Boston University (1986-1995), an empoyee of the Dentistry Department at Queensland University (1984-1986) and an Undergraduate and Honours student in Zoology at Queensland University (1980-1984).
My Behavioural Ecology Research Group has a strong focus on various aspects of social insect biology and has hosted a number of international academics and research students. Current research focus involves the organisation of complex behaviours, with forays into sensory ecology and a growing emphasis on the arboreal nest-weaving ant Oecophylla. Research outputs of the lab include such studies of collective decision-making in Oecophylla, the evolution of nest-weaving behaviour in Polyhachis, sensory capacity, brain development and caste evolution in Oecophyllal, navigation in the swimming ant Polyrhachis sokolova, and the role of temperature on the distribution of ants. Further information at https://spectre.cqu.edu.au/profiles/index
Dr Simon Tierney (University of Western Sydney)
I am an Evolutionary Ecologist interested in animal behaviour and ecological interactions. Using field and genetic tool-kits I aim to understand the interplay between whole organisms, their environment and their genes, with a particular focus on social insect organisation, photic niche shifts and pollination.
My PhD investigated allodapine bees that can switch between solitary and social lifestyles (Flinders University, Adelaide), and I then undertook a series of postdocs exploring neotropical halictine bees that are similarly social, but unusual in their habit of nocturnal foraging (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama). This latter program developed a parallel interest in vision and led to projects exploring the molecular evolution of vision genes in nocturnal bees, blind water beetles (regressive evolution) and the development high-throughput sequencing technology and bioinformatics (University of Adelaide); skills that were subsequently applied to bee projects on differential gene expression between queen vs worker castes and social parasites vs their hosts. I have most recently been involved in a multi-disciplinary project aimed at understanding and safeguarding the pollination services provided by Australian bees (Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University), research that combines all of the aforementioned skill sets.
The image shows me being attached by Trigona spinipes (they drew blood) in Jaguariuna Brazil)