Joseph Gillson

Research Interests

My pronouns are he/him

Bumblebees are an important group of insects and pollinate plants as they forage for nectar and pollen, contributing to the reproductive success of plants. Whilst foraging, bees learn to associate specific floral cues with the foragable rewards offered by the plant which helps them forage efficiently on the most rewarding plants, whilst disregarding those which are less rewarding. This requires significant cognitive investment into learning and memory; however, we know relatively little about the ways in which the composition of nectar rewards interact to drive these cognitive processes. My DPhil project aims to investigate the influence that nectar sugar composition has on the ability of bumblebees to learn and remember floral cues, as well as looking into the impacts that nectar additives which elicit post-ingestive effects have on bumblebee learning (post-ingestive: compounds which the bees cannot detect by taste, only after consumption, but which are thought to influence behaviour). It will also expand existing methodologies into species of wild bumblebee (Bombus sp.), which is an under-researched area and could yield fruitful insights into how learning occurs across this important genus.

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