Evolution, behaviour and environment


Professor Daniel Osorio

 Subject Chair:
Professor Daniel Osorio

This group focuses on how organisms evolve and interact with their environments. We address basic and strategic questions in both field and laboratory settings across a wide range of study taxa, as well as using theoretical approaches.

Major themes are:

  • How changes in developmental gene networks lead to evolutionary novelty
  • The role of natural selection in molecular evolution
  • Cooperation, conflict and organization in social insect colonies
  • Mechanisms underlying animal behaviours, including navigation, visual perception, escape behaviour and collective decision-making
  • Ecology and conservation of invertebrate and plant communities including tropical rain forests, temperate grasslands, pollinators and amphibian conservation genetics
  • The measurement of environmental contaminants, such as endocrine disrupting chemicals, and their effects on human and animal health

Principal investigators and labs

Professor Jonathan Bacon

My research examines insect behaviour, and its underlying neural circuitry, in two escape-behaviour systems.

For more information visit the Bacon Lab website.

Dr Maria Clara Castellanos

Our research is focused on the ecological and evolutionary mechanisms that cause and maintain the high diversity of flowering plants. Our main interest is in plant interactions with animals and with environmental factors in wild populations. We do field work in tropical, temperate and Mediterranean environments.

For more information visit the Plant Evolutionary Ecology website.

Professor Tom Collett

The navigational strategies employed by insects enable them to walk or fly over long distances, find food and return to their nest. To accomplish this they utilise a toolkit of elegant sensory and 'cognitive' strategies. In the Insect Navigation Group, we study these strategies using traditional behavioural experiments as well computational and robotic models.

For more information visit the Insect navigation website.

Professor Adam Eyre-Walker

The principle of focus of my research is the rate, pattern and effects of mutations. We study these questions through the statistical analysis of DNA sequences and mathematical modeling, largely from an evolutionary perspective. Our interests range from the rate of adaptive evolution, to the evolution of base composition and how the mutation rate varies across the genome. I also have a growing interest in the sociology of science. More information can be obtained under the research tab.

For more information please visit the Eyre-Walker website

Dr Bonnie Fraser

The main goal of our research group is to investigate how adaptation to the local environment shapes evolution at the genomic level.

For more information visit the Fraser Lab website.

Professor Dave Goulson

I study the ecology, behaviour and conservation of bumblebees. I'm also interested in pollinators and pollination more generally, and particularly in the sustainable management of pollinators in agro-ecosystems. My group uses a broad range of approaches, from genetic studies (of inbreeding, population structure, and as a means of estimating nest density) to behavioural assays to large-scale field trials. In recent years we have become heavily involved in studies of the impacts of pesticides on bumblebees. We are also involved in various “Citizen Science” projects as a mechanism to involve large numbers of people in conservation and in science more generally, and also as a means for gathering large data sets. In 2003 I bought a farm in France on which to carry out large-scale habitat manipulation experiments.

For more information visit the Goulson Lab website

Dr Paul Graham

The navigational strategies employed by insects enable them to walk or fly over long distances, find food and return to their nest. To accomplish this they utilise a toolkit of elegant sensory and 'cognitive' strategies. In the Insect Navigation Group, we study these strategies using traditional behavioural experiments as well computational and robotic models.

For more information visit the Insect navigation website.

Professor Elizabeth Hill

My research is focussed on the identification of biologically active chemicals which include chemical contaminants which impact animal health or chemical signals which alter animal behaviour.

For more information visit the Hill Lab website

Professor Bill Hughes

The Hughes Lab is broadly interested in behavioural ecology and evolutionary biology. Currently our main research themes include understanding cooperation and conflict in social animals and symbiotic relationships, investigating and mitigating the threats posed to pollinators by pathogens, and understanding the causes and consequences of animal 'personalities' in apex predators. We carry out much of our research on social insects, while our predator personality research is carried out on white sharks and lions.

For more information visit the Hughes Lab website

Dr Ted Morrow

We are interested in understanding more about the nitty gritty of sexual conflict. An understanding of sexual conflict at a more detailed level will clarify how sexual dimorphism evolves (or doesn't) and whether sexually antagonistic can contribute to the maintenance of genetic variation.

For more information visit the Morrow Lab Website

Dr Jeremy Niven

The Laboratory of Evolutionary Computational Neuroscience seeks to understand both how and why nervous systems have evolved. Through a variety of techniques and preparations, we aim to understand how neural circuits work and the selective pressures that operate on them. To do this, it is essential to relate neural function in vivo to behaviour. We use computational approaches to support our experimental work and to provide insights into neural evolution.

For more information visit the Niven Lab Website.

Professor Daniel Osorio

How do animals see their worlds, recognise objects and communicate with visual signals? We study birds, butterflies and cuttlefish to investigate how they use colour and shape in their natural behaviours. We are  interested in how eyes and brains should measure the colour spectrum and spatial pattern in natural images, and especially how different types of colour vision have evolved.

For more information visit the Osorio Lab Website

Dr Mika Peck

Our work ranges from defining conservation priorities of individual endangered species to investigating the impacts of global change on  entire habitats. We are particularly interested in the mechanisms that generate and maintain species diversity in the world's biodiversity  hotspots and human impact on these processes.

For more information visit the Peck Lab website.

Professor Francis Ratnieks

The Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) at the University of Sussex is the largest research group in the UK studying honey bees and other social insects. Social insects are the insects that live in a colony with a queen and workers like many bees, ants, wasps and termites. LASI research studies the honey bee and other social insects "in the round" addressing both applied and basic questions. The applied research is aimed at helping the honey bee and beekeepers, whilst the basic research studies how insect societies function.

For more information visit the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) website.

Dr Chris Sandom

I am a lecturer in Biology, specialising in rewilding and paleo ecology. My research seeks to understand the natural functioning of ecological processes such as predation, herbivory and disturbance. I then apply this research to improving conservation practices in the field of rewilding. Rewilding seeks to reverse the decline in biodiversity through the restoration of natural processes, typically by speices reintroduction. The ultimate aim of rewilding is to restore ecosystems that are rich in biodiversity, provide a balanced suite of ecosystem services and are themselves self-sustainaing.

For more information visit my profile page.

Dr Jörn Scharlemann

We seek to quantitatively assess the impacts of environmental changes on biodiversity and ecosytems and identify policy-relevant strategies to reduce the effects of human impacts. Work in our group extends beyond the traditional fields of ecology and conservation, and we attempt to consider social, economic and political factors that drive, and in turn are driven by, changes in the environment.

For more information visit the Scharlemann Lab website

Dr Alan Stewart

I have broad research interests in population and community ecology, especially of insects.  A unifying theme running through the various projects in which I have been involved is how fundamental ecological principles can be used to assist the conservation of rare and endangered species and the preservation of biodiversity both in the UK and overseas.

For more information visit the Stewart Lab website