- 2011-Present: PhD Candidate, Institute of Zoology and University College London.
- 2010-2011: MSc in Biology (Integrative Bioscience), University of Oxford.
- 2009: YouTheria Project Intern, Institute of Zoology & Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
- 2008-2010: Educational Volunteer, ZSL London Zoo.
- 2007-2010: BSc in Zoology, University College London.
- 2005-2006: Entomological curatorial assistant, Museum of Natural History, University of Oxford.
Understanding the evolution of major biological transitions is one of the major challenges in evolutionary biology. The evolution of sociality is one such transition the peak of which has been reached in organisms that have a distinct division of labour such as the eusocial insects (bees, ants, wasps). In these species some members “worker castes” commit to a lifetime of sterility whilst others remain reproductive “queen castes”. These castes result individuals displaying altruistic tendencies, whereby some individuals sacrifice their own reproductive potential to help raise the offspring of kin.
In advanced eusocial insects (ants, honeybees, some vespid wasps) castes are determined during development, and queen and worker larvae embark on different developmental pathways in response to environmental cues. These species however tell us little about the origins of caste evolution as many of their features are secondarily derived. Whereas simple or primitively eusocial insects, such as paper wasps, have simple behavioural castes (rather than morphological castes) and represent one of the earliest or simplest stages of eusociality. As such these species are ideal models for studying the origins of sociality. Throughout my PhD research I attempt to exploit the plastic nature of these caste roles in primitively eusocialPolistes paper wasps to help us better understand the evolution of caste differentiation which will ultimately shed light on the factors involved in the evolution of sociality. I currently work with two species of paper wasp, the temperate spices P. dominulus in Spain and the tropical species P. canadensis in Panama.
Dr Seirian Sumner, University of Bristol.
Dr Max Reuter, UCL.
I am funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.
Bell, E., Andres, B. & Goswami, A. (2011) Integration and dissociation of limb elements in flying vertebrates: a comparison of pterosaurs, birds and bats. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 24(12), 2586-2599.