Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Robinson, Gene E.
Location University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Primary Field Evolutionary Biology
Secondary Field Animal, Nutritional and Applied Microbial Sciences
 Election Citation
Robinson has made a wide range of fundamental advances in elucidating the endocrine, neural, and genetic regulation of behavior at the individual and colony levels in social insects. He has significantly advanced the understanding of the role of genes, hormones, and neurochemicals in the evolution of social behavior.
 Research Interests
Dr. Robinson's research group uses genomics and systems biology to study the mechanisms and evolution of social life, using the Western honey bee, Apis mellifera, as the principal model system along with other species of bees. The research is integrative, involving perspectives from evolutionary biology, behavior, neuroscience, molecular biology, and genomics. The goal is to explain the function and evolution of behavioral mechanisms that integrate the activity of individuals in a society, neural and neuroendocrine mechanisms that regulate behavior within the brain of the individual, and the genes that influence social behavior. Research focuses on division of labor, aggression, and the famous dance language, a system of symbolic communication. Current projects include: 1) nutritional regulation of brain gene expression and division of labor; 2) gene regulatory network analysis in solitary and social species to determine how brain reward systems change during social evolution; 3) brain metabolic plasticity and aggression; 4) automated monitoring of bee behavior with RFID tags and barcodes; and 5) learning and memory in relation to division of labor. In social evolution, the sophistication of neural and behavioral mechanisms for the essentials of life--food, shelter, and reproduction--stems from increased abilities to communicate and synchronize behavior with conspecifics. Social insects, especially honey bees, are thus exemplars for the discovery of general principles of brain function, behavior, and social organization.

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