Dr Elli Leadbeater | Reader in Biological Sciences | Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour
“My why… is understanding how a globally threatened pollinator behaves and how human-induced change might affect that behaviour.”
My research group uses bees as a model system to understand how learning and memory evolve, and discover how animal cognitive abilities are shaped by the ecological challenges that they face.Bees need sophisticated cognition to work effectively. They are essential pollinators of crops and it would be terrible without them – we would have to change the way that we do things. I explore the effects on foraging and fighting the challenges of emerging parasites and pesticides to understand how these influence how well bees do in life.
Bees need to learn to forage effectively, but what advantages does learning give them?
The fundamental question is why does intelligence evolve - and what ecological problems does it solve?
Through a unique study we are looking at how stresses affect cognition and how bees use their brains – how important this is on their learning abilities and how well they forage and contribute to the wellbeing of the colony. Bee decline is a global problem and every research contribution makes a difference to the bigger picture.
Studying Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway
It’s important to understand how humans are affecting bees and bee cognition, and to learn more about how cognition evolves – and if we change cognitive abilities what happens?
If pesticides influence cognitive ability, why should we care?
Why aren’t all animals learning more and what are the costs to learning?
Students who join in the studies are curious about the answers to these questions. At Royal Holloway you’ll learn from and work closely with academics who are involved in world-class research and you’ll become part of this research in your third year project.