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

Browse all or visit Google Scholar.

We argue that the effects of mitochondrial DNA on a male phenotype can respond to selection, provided that males interact with their female ‘mitochondrial relatives’, and that the male phenotype affects female fitness. We present experimental evidence that female fitness depends on the mitochondrial DNA carried by interacting males, and discuss the implications for ‘mother’s curse’.

We measured the effects of a natural gene drive, Segregation Distorter (SD), on fitness in Drosophila melanogaster. We find that SD is very costly, especially when homozygous, and that it also has transgenerational effects on offspring fitness and sex ratio. Using a model, we show that these effects may explain the puzzling rarity of SD in nature.

This paper presents eco-evo simulations investigating the feasibility of a newly-proposed type of gene drive, the W-shredder. W-shredders might someday be used to control populations of pests and pathogens that have ZW sex determination, such as Lepidopteran pests, parasitic trematodes, and cane toads.

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.

People

Current lab members

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Daisy Kocher

MSc student

Daisy is investigating social insect queen pheromones, using experiments with honey bees and Drosophila (which, remarkably, shows a similar response to honey bee queen pheromone as a worker bee).

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Dr. 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 project about social immunity and chemical recognition in honeybees.

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Tom Keaney

PhD candidate

For his MSc thesis Tom used experiments with Drosophila to test whether the effects of mitochondrial DNA on males are truly invisible to selection (spoiler: not if there’s kin selection!). Tom is currently writing up his MSc work, and is about to start his PhD.

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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