Evolution, behaviour and environment


We study the mechanisms underlying animal behaviours, including navigation, visual perception, escape behaviour and collective decision-making.

Our researchers

Professor Dave Goulson

Prof Dave GoulsonI 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

Professor Paul Graham

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 Bill Hughes

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 Beth Nicholls

Beth Nicholls

We use a combination of behavioural, physiological and field-based techniques to study the sensory and cognitive mechanisms that underpin the foraging decisions of insect pollinators. We are interested in the implications of foraging choices both for the nutritional ecology of pollinators, and plant-pollinator interactions. We also examine how external stressors such as pesticide exposure or novel diseases impact on the physiology and behaviour of bees.

For more information, visit the Nicholls Lab website.

Professor Jeremy Niven

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 Pierre Nouvellet

Pierre NouvelletMy current research focuses on developing statistical methods to estimate relevant parameters within complex ecological setting by integrating various sources of information in order to better understand the dynamics of diseases’ transmission and mitigate their public health risk.

The focus of my current work concentrates on 3 themes:

      • Vector-borne and zoonotic diseases, with a strong focus on rabies and Chagas disease.
      • Emerging diseases, with a strong focus on MERS-CoV, Ebola, Zika and antibiotic resistance.
      • Rapid response to outbreaks and real-time analysis, with a strong focus on developing tools and capacity ahead of future outbreaks.

In each of those 3 themes, my interests broadly sit at the interface between ecology and epidemiology where the potential for endemic and (re-)emerging zoonotic diseases lies.

For more information, visit the Infectious Diseases Modelling Lab website.

Professor Daniel Osorio

Prof 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

Professor Francis Ratnieks

Prof Francis Ratneiks

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 Wiebke Schuett

Wiebke SchuettI am an evolutionary and behavioural ecologist with broad interests centred around causes and consequences of individual variation in behaviour. My group conducts both field work on wild populations and controlled experimental work on captive populations. Our empirical work mostly concentrates on birds, fish and insects.

 Major lines of our research include:

• Social and personal information use in habitat and mate-choice decisions and reproductive consequences

• Information use and decision-making in unpredictable, arid environments

• Effects of urbanization on individuals and populations

• Role of sexual selection in the evolution of consistent behavioural differences among individuals of the same species (“animal personality”)

• Life-history trade-offs as mediator of animal personality variation

• Evolution of pace-of-life syndromes