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Experimental Projects & Goals

Graduate Students

Gyan Harwood: My research examines both colony-level immunity and epigenetic control of behavioral development in honey bees. In both of these endeavors, the egg-yolk protein Vitellogenin plays a critical role. Immunologically, my research shows how Vitellogenin is a transport protein that transfers pathogen fragments between workers, the queen, and developing eggs, helping to prime their immune systems against those pathogens. Epigenetically, my research examines how Vitellogenin binds to DNA and how this might affect worker behavior at different stages of their development.

Neil Hillis: I am currently working on a Master's project exploring the behavioral responses of honey bee foragers/colonies to the risk of ambush predation at food sources. My study asks: who are the bravest foragers? Who responds most and least to probable passive cues of predation risk, such as the presence of bee hemolymph on food sources?

Maddie Ostwald: I am broadly interested in behavioral ecology and social evolution in bees. Arizona is home to 1300 species of native bees, representing a rich diversity of social organization. Weakly social bees like sweat bees and carpenter bees provide excellent model systems for the study of phenotypic plasticity both on the colony and the individual level, because workers are reproductively totipotent, and because colony phenotype (social or nonsocial) can vary even within a single population. I am interested in understanding the proximate behavioral and molecular mechanisms that underlie this plasticity, and how variation in offspring phenotype drives the evolution of increasingly complex societies.

Tyler Quigley: In many ways, glial cells are the underdogs of neuroscience. These fascinating cells, whose namesake is derived from the Greek word for "glue", were once thought to be just that...structures that glued neurons into place. We now know that these cells, of which there are multiple specialized subtypes in vertebrates and invertebrates, are crucial for facilitating important brain functions such as neuronal communication, metabolite transport, waste removal, and immunity. My dissertation is focused on elucidating the structure and function of two invertebrate glial subtypes, perineurial and subperineurial glia. Together, these two cells create a tight seal around the brain, otherwise known as the blood-brain barrier (BBB). To understand its physical structure, I use electron microscopy techniques to describe the BBB cells and how they are arranged into a barrier. With the help of a glial specific marker, I will attempt to isolate glial cells from young and old individuals, to understand how glial gene expression changes with age. Last, with the generous help of undergraduate researchers, I study how the permeability of the blood-brain barrier changes when worker bees are exposed to such stressors as parasites, xenobiotics, and natural aging processes. All in all, this research will allow us to better understand how certain materials can get into the brain, why certain materials canít, and the nature of glial cells in general.

Sebastian Scofield: I am interested in the behavior, ecology, and evolution of eusocial species. My Masterís work focused on the pollination ecology of bumblebees in the UK, where I found that size variation in two Bombus species has an important functional role in intraspecific niche partitioning of floral resources. Now in the Amdam Lab, my focus has shifted to the genetic and molecular basis of eusocial behavior and its evolutionary development. I am particularly interested in the evolutionary co-option of gene-regulatory networks to control division of labor in eusocial species. Honey bees provide an ideal model system to study these mechanisms, with the hope of addressing the ultimate question of how genes translate into behavior.

Program Managers

Osman Kaftanoglu: I received my Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis in 1983 and joined the faculty at the Cukurova University in Adana, Turkey. Afterwards I became a full Professor in 1994, Chair of the Animal Science Department in 2002 and the Director of the Kozan Vocational College in 2003. I received the Student Award given by the Eastern Apicultural Society in the USA in 1981, Young Scientist (Incentive) award from the Turkish Scientific and Technical Research Council (TUBITAK) in 1983, and Honorary Professorship by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Apiculture Research Institute, Beijing China in 2000. I joined the honey bee research team at ASU in 2005 with my main research interests being in honey bee reproduction physiology, honey bee sperm biology, bumblebee breeding and pollination. I am currently the Project Manager at the Honey Bee Research Lab, ASU Polytechnic campus.

Gro Amdam Lab bees on a watch