Projects

Queen pheromones

Research on the identity, mode of action, and evolution of social insect queen pheromones

Science about science

Research about science itself: research practice, bias, reproducibility, and culture. Mostly text mining.

Sexual selection

Population genetic consequences of sexual selection, honest signalling, sperm biology, etc.

Gene drives

Population genetics of natural and synthetic gene drives

Intralocus sexual conflict

The causes, consequences, and genetic basis of the maladaptation that arises when males and females share a genome.

Evolution in social insects

Question-driven research on the evolution and genetics of ants and bees

The gender gap in science

Using text mining to help redress gender inequality in the STEM workforce.

Sperm

Sperm competition, and evolution of sperm morphology

5 most recent publications

We find that researchers tend to co-publish with same-gendered colleagues, and that this tendency is presently increasing. We found no evidence that senior academics drive this pattern, or that the pattern is stronger in fields where women are in the minority. Interestingly, journals with a high impact factor for their discipline tended to have comparatively many mixed-gender teams.

Many ants, bees, and wasps use similar or identical chemicals as queen pheromones, even though these taxa diverged >150MYA, and evolved eusociality independently. Here, we use mRNA sequencing to identify queen pheromone-sensitive genes in 4 ant and bee species, and show that pheromones affect many of the same transcriptional modules. Pheromone-sensitive genes tend to be ancient, positively selected, peripheral in transcriptomic networks, hypomethylated, and caste-specific in their expression.

We synthesised 459 effect sizes from 65 pertinent experimental evolution studies using meta-analysis, and found that sexual selection on males tends to elevate the mean and reduce the variance for many fitness traits. The beneficial effect was stronger in female traits than males, and for populations evolving under stressful conditions. The results have implications for conservation and captive breeding programs.

We recorded the gender of 36 million authors from >100 countries publishing in >6000 journals from most STEMM, and made a web app facilitating exploration of the data. Despite recent progress, the gender gap appears likely to persist for generations.

We use theoretical models to examine the evolution of female choice when there is both intralocus sexual conflict and local adaptation. We show that IASC can weaken female preferences for high-condition males – or even cause a preference for males in low condition – depending on the relative benefits of producing well-adapted sons versus daughters. We discuss the relevance of our results to conservation genetics and empirical evolutionary biology.

People

Current lab members

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Daisy Kocher

MSc student

Daisy is developing her MSc project right now, and will likely work on evolutionary questions in Drosophila.

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Heidi Wong

Research assistant

Heidi runs my Drosophila team, and focuses on sexual conflict, gene drives, and more.

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Tarli Conroy

Honours student

Tarli is working on her honours, conducting a project on social immunity and chemical recognition in honeybees.

Alumni

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Dan Power

Honours student

Dan found that polyandry helps beetles colonise new habitats, and tested how well sexual selection clears harmful mutations from the gene pool.

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Frances Jacomb

Research Assistant

Frances used experimental evolution to show that sexual selection can affect the evolution of insecticide resistance. We also used quantitative genetics to test whether the gender load diminishes under environmental stress.

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Justin Cally

MSc student

Justin and I looked at whether sexual selection has a net positive or negative effect on the fitness of populations, using meta-analysis and comparative analysis.

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Tom Keaney

MSc student

Tom experimentally tested whether mitochondrial DNA affects social partners as well as the individual carrying the mtNDA, which might lessen or exacerbate ‘mother’s curse’.

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