Dr Elli Leadbeater

Elli Leadbeater

Dr Elli Leadbeater

Lecturer in Molecular Ecology

Phone: +44 1784 443547

Personal profile


For more information about my past and present research, please go to http://ellileadbeater.weebly.com

 

NEW: PhD studentship in bee behaviour and communication available!

Closing date: 24th January 2014

Title: Urban bees: communication, foraging and survival in cities 

Supervisor: Dr. Elli Leadbeater (Royal Holloway University of London), Co-supervisor: Dr. Richard Gill (Imperial College) 

Bee pollination is enormously important to worldwide food production, and widely-reported threats to bee welfare have attracted global concern. Yet, evidence suggests that bees may be faring surprisingly well in an environment that would seem barren: the urban sprawl. Urban beekeeping is on the rise, and there is growing evidence that floral oases in cities can support surprisingly high pollinator diversity. But although this might provide insight into conservation strategies, we do not fully understand how urban bees adapt to their modern habitat. This four-year project will take a colony-based approach to compare the behaviour of bees from colonies placed in rural and urban environments, focussing particularly on waggle dance recruitment to food. More details are available here. If you have any queries about the project, please email me.

Research interests

I'm interested in animal social life. What cognitive processes are important in social behaviour, and when and how did they evolve? What are the adaptive benefits of being social? My experimental models are social insects- ants, bees and wasps- and my research is empirical, based in the lab at Royal Holloway and at my field sites in the USA.

If you're interested in working with me, as a volunteer, for an undergraduate field or lab project, PhD student, postdoc or collaborator, get in touch! 

 

1. Social learning processes

An insect perspective can encourage deconstruction of apparently complex behaviour into simple learning processes. My current lab work focuses on the associative processes underlying social learning in a classic social insect pollinator, the bumblebee. 

 

2. Communication in social insects

In the social insects, individuals often benefit by providing social informatio to others, so social cues readily evolve into signalling systems. My current work in this area focuses on signalling behaviour in an exciting- but understudied- social insect, the honey wasp. Mexican honey wasps (Brachygastra mellifica) build enormous nests which incorporate vast honeycombs, but we know almost nothing of their foraging organization. My honey wasp work is based in Texas, in collaboration with Texas A&M university.

You can watch a video of my team's honey wasp work in Texas here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVl_lJLHpqo

 

3. Evolution of sociality

Sociality has evolved multiple times in the social insects. My previous work (with Professor Jeremy Field) focussed on the ultimate evolutionary causes of eusociality, involving large-scale field studies of a Spanish paper wasp population (Polistes dominulus).

Educational background

BSc. Biology (Zoology honours), University of Edinburgh 2001

MSc. Evolutionary and Ecological Science, University of Leiden 2004

PhD. "Social information use in foraging bumblebees", Queen Mary University of London 2008 (Supervisor: Lars Chittka)

2008-2011: Postdoctoral Research Assistant, University of Sussex (PI: Jeremy Field)

2011-2013: Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, Institute of Zoology

2013- present: Lecturer and Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow, Royal Holloway

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