Welcome to my website
This is my personal website - mainly about research but also including some other interests; you can find my UEA webpages here.
PHD STUDENTSHIP OPPORTUNITY: A PhD studentship to start in the group in October 2021 is now open for applications. The project is entitled 'The ageing bee: how does sociality affect ageing in social animals?' Using the bumble bee Bombus terrestris, the student will employ experimental and genetic methods to test whether, in social organisms, longevity and ageing depend primarily on properties of the individual or group. Applicants will be competitively selected for funding of the studentship by the ARIES NERC Doctoral Training Partnership.
View further details of the project (BOURKE_UBIO21ARIES) and instructions on how to apply.
Closing date for applications: Tuesday 12 January 2021
UNUSUAL GASTROPOD FOSSIL FROM THE UK CHALK: As well as conducting research, I enjoy pursuing interests in all kinds of natural history, including bird watching, observing and recording insects (see here), rock-pooling, appreciating wild flowers and fossil collecting. We are lucky to have, nearby on the Norfolk coast, several sites that are well known for their Cretaceous (Chalk) and/or Pleistocene fossils (e.g. see here, here and here). While on a family fossil hunt on the beach at Overstrand (north-east Norfolk) a couple of years ago, one of my sons found a large gastropod preserved as an internal mould in Chalk (see left). The fossil turned out to be, unusually for the UK, a large Pleurotomariid from the Lower Maastrichtian stage of the Chalk (late Cretaceous). With the kind help of palaeontology and earth sciences professionals, including UEA colleagues Julian Andrews and Alina Marca of the School of Environmental Sciences, we recently published a short note about this find in Bulletin of the Geological Society of Norfolk.
For full details, see our note: Bourke WJ, Marca A, Andrews JE, Bourke AFG (2020) Scientific note on a large gastropod (Pleurotomariidae) from Upper Cretaceous Chalk at Overstrand, Norfolk, UK. Bulletin of the Geological Society of Norfolk 70: 67-71; available from the Geological Society of Norfolk here.
CONFLICT OVER RESOURCE INHERITANCE: In a paper in American Naturalist, we develop a model of queen-worker conflict over nest inheritance and test it in the bumble bee Bombus terrestris. As the model predicts, we show that workers harass queens with simulated fecundity loss and that aggressive workers are more likely to become egg-layers. This is consistent with workers monitoring queen fecundity to weigh up the relative benefits of reproducing in the nest after the queen's death versus continuing to keep the queen alive as a source of siblings. These findings provide new support for kin-selected conflict over resource inheritance being a key process in social animals.
The paper is: Almond EJ, Huggins TJ, Crowther LP, Parker JD, Bourke AFG (2019) Queen longevity and fecundity affect conflict with workers over resource inheritance in a social insect. American Naturalist 193: 256-266.
SPATIAL ECOLOGY OF THE TREE BUMBLE BEE: In a paper in Ecology and Evolution, we use genetic tools to investigate whether specific features of the spatial ecology of the Tree Bumble Bee Bombus hypnorum are associated with its recent rapid range expansion in the UK. Our findings suggest that this range expansion is associated with the UK B. hypnorum population being able (1) to meet its foraging needs over short foraging distances, so reducing the workers' energetic costs of foraging, and (2) to achieve high nest densities, so potentially allowing it to export many queens to new areas.
The paper is: Crowther LP, Wright DJ, Richardson DS, Carvell C, Bourke AFG (2019) Spatial ecology of a range-expanding bumble bee pollinator. Ecology and Evolution 9:986-997.