Graham ThompsonWestern Science


Lab Photo 2016

The Social Biology Group @ Western 2018. L-R Anna Chernyshova, Graham Thompson, Anthony Gallo, Kristin Ransome, Christine Scharf, Julia Saraceni, Rahul Choorakkat, Kyrillos Faragalla. Missing: Alex Guoth, Vonica Flear

Graduate Students

Christine Scharf has a BSc Honours Specialization in Biology from Western University. She has progressed from a Research Volunteer (2015), to an Honours Research Student (2016) to a Research Assistant (2017) in the lab. She is now conducting her own research as an MSc student on the behaviour of crowds... using some small insects, like flies and termites, to test big ideas about inter-individual spacing and the weird and complicated relationships that form, or don't form, in crowded spaces.

Rahul Unnikrishnan, BSc Siddaganga Institute of Technology (India) and MSc Leicester University (UK), joined us as a Master's student in 2016. He is deploying his bioinformatics skills to unravel how genes for honey bee worker sterility opperate within larger gene regulatory networks.

Anthony Gallo, BSc in Honours Specialization Genetics from Western University, joined the Social Biology Group in January 2017. He is pioneering the use of gene knock-down technologies to test the role of individual genes, like fruitless, on the perception of ovary-inhibiting pheromone in worker honey bees. Ultimately, he studies the genetic basis of worker sterility.

Anna Chernyshova has an iBSc (International Specialized Honours in Biomedical Sciences) from York University (Canada). She started her MSc in Fall of 2017. Anna is expert in population genetic analysis of social insects. She is using bioinformatics and stats to test how genes under indirect (kin) selection evolve, compared to those under direct selection. Surprisingly, few people have studied this before, and Anna is doing so with a new big data set available from a local species of termite.

Vonica Flear, BSc Cape Breton University, has just started her MSc with us. Welcome Vonica! Vonica has a background in vertebrate palenotology, fisheries, phylogenetics and scientific ilustration ... and we are now corrupting her to work on the invasive biology of social insects :)

Undergraduate Students

Alex Guoth is an excellent beekeeper and budding bioinformatician. He is currently a Research Volunteer and we look forward to working with Alex in 2018, and beyond.

Kyrillos Faragella won an NSERC Undergraduate Summer Research Award to conduct his own research with us this summer (2017). 'Kiro' has taken on a leadership role within the lab and we are not letting him go anytime soon! Thanks Kiro.

Former Lab Members

Justin Croft, BSc MacEwan University, completed his MSc studies in 2017. He pioneered the use of a nuclear factor activated t-cell (NFAT) Drosophila fly line to map the neural circutry that underlies the fly's responce to pheromone... and compared this circuitry to the situation in honey bees. He also discoveded the honey bee pheromone can induce behavioural changes in male flies, comparable to the pheromone's normal effect on drones.

Supriya Behl completed her Honours Research project with us in 2017. She discovered cool things about how termite soldiers evolved by looking at the types of genes that this sterile caste can express. Soldiers, it turns out, are likely a source of genetic novelty in termites: this caste tends to use phylogenetically new genes in the expression of its bizarre phenotype. Yeah! Supriya won a Faculty of Science Pre-Thesis Award at Western and is now an MSc student at McGill University.

Tian Wu, BSc University of Ottawa, and ex-Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes (Ottawa), graduated with his MSc in 2017. Check out Tian's *cover paper* in Evolution and Development (first issue of 2018) to learn how termite transcriptomes relate to patterns of gene expression associated with castes, invasiveness and other qualities of termite sociality.

Jessica Empringham completed her undergraduate degree at McMaster University and joined us as a summer Western Science Undergraduate Pre-Thesis Award student (2015) and NSERC Undergraduate Research Award Student (2016). She contrinues to help us out! She used our Digital Droplet PCR machine to study micro-differences in gene expression as a function of immunity and social context in a termite. Jessica is now Class of 2020 in the School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University.

Mackenzie Kingston, BSc Western University, was a volunteer beekeeper who went on to study at the Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences in Toronto. Thanks Mackenzie!

Alison Camiletti, MSc McMaster University, defended her PhD in October 2015. Nice! She used Drosophila as a behavioural genetic model to reveal what genes are important for the regulation of reproductive self-sacrifice; a trait normally associated with eusocial insects. Alison accidentally discovered that honey bee queen pheromone can induce worker-like qualities in non-social flies, and she took it from there.

Onyka Gairey was an Undergradaute Research Volunteer in 2015. She studied the role of social communication and social context on the expression of sexual and helping behaviuour in insects. She was part of our team that is interested in genetic 'toolkits' that are repeatedly co-opted by natural selection to regulate behaviour.

Ta (Tom) Liu was an honours research student. He testing whether the regulatory machinery the controls female reproduction and male mating behaviour in insects is conserved between social and non-social insects. He won Best Student Talk as voted by his peers at the 2015 Honours Biolgy Day. Nice!

Julia Sobotka was an honours research student. She used her informatics skills to map genes for honey bee worker sterility onto a massive transcriptional regulatory network. Super cool. She revealed that genes for sterility evolved as a tighly regualted functional unit witihin a cluster of regulatory genes within the honey bee transcriptional regulatory network. She dubs this the 'social transcriptome' hypothesis :)

Zack Dloomy was a very helpful and skilled Western Volunteer who helped everybody in the lab during his final undergrad year. Thanks Zack! He was also an honours research student co-supervised with the Schulich School of Medicine and Denistry.

Vicki Simkovic was a MSc student studying environmental and genetics effects on termite kin recognition. Vicki continues to work with termites as it relates to invasiveness and the formation of supercolonies.

Catherine Qi Gao, MSc Liaoning Normal University, defended her PhD program in September 2014! She has published several papers on the genetics and behaviour of immunity in social insects.

Emma Mullen, BSc University of Western Ontario, completed her MSc in November 2013! She used bioinformatic tools to reconstruct the gene regulatory pathway that regulates egg-laying and reproductive division of labour in honey bee societies. Emma is now managing large-scale pollinator health projects in Ontario (at University of Guelph) and New York (at Cornell University). Nice work Emma!

Jamie Lee Martin was an Honours research student in the lab in 2014. Her project investigated the role of controversial pesticides on honey bee health. Her project used both behavioural and immune-genetic assays to test whether neonicotinoid pesticides adversely affected bee health, relative to more widely deployed pesticides.

Brandon Budhram held an NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) in 2013. He worked with senior grad students on projects related to the molecular evolution of reproductive pathways in insects. He was also responsible for a research project of his own that will help map genes important to reproductive control.

Nimalka Weerasuriya was a research assistant in 2013 who contributed to several projects in the lab, especially to the study of termites as invasive insects. Nemo helped to generate genetic and physiological data in the lab, and helped to collect insects from the field throughout southern Ontario.

David Scaduto was a research assistant who helped everybody in the lab and manages his own research project on the invasive biology of subterranean termites in southern Ontario. He has now completed his BSc Honours research thesis here at the University of Western Ontario, while also completing an internship at Parmalat Canada, Research and Development.

Dr Gordana Rasic , MSc University of Belgrade, was a postdoctoral fellow in the lab. Having completed her PhD here at Western, she deployed her expertise in population genetics to study invasive social insects in Ontario. Gordana is now a postdoctoral fellow the University of Melbourne. Way to go Gordana!

David Awde was an Honours research student in the lab. He was working with PhD student Alison Camiletti to measure the response that ‘rover’ and ‘sitter’ fruit flies have to novel reproductive cues, like honey bee pheromones. For his efforts, David won a coveted Student Choice Award for Best Presentation of his Honours work!

Matt Clarke was an Honours research student working jointly between two labs within the Department. He investigated the cold tolerance of subterranean termites from southern Ontario, and how this might relate to their invasiveness… now and under future climate change scenarios. Matt is now an MSc student at the University of Guelph.

Tosh Mizzau was an Honours research student working between two labs. Tosh is a fish guy who used sex-linked molecular markers to study life history constraints in developing salmonids. Tosh is off to teachers college. Way to go Tosh!

Jake Blanco was an Undergraduate Volunteer in the lab for 2011-2012. Jake was invaluable; he contributed to several graduate projects, took charge of lab Health and Safety, and kept the termites alive for a year. Thanks Jake, and good luck at med school.

Dr Shawn Garner, PhD University of Western Ontario, was a post doc in our lab (and also in another lab). He is a fish guy, but took to bees and other social insects admirably :) He used RT-qPCR to test the idea that certain genes are involved in regulating reproductive division of labour within honey bee colonies.

Alanna Backx, BSc University of Western Ontario, graduated from the MSc program in 2011. She used whole genome microarrays to study how gene expression underpins worker sterility in honey bees. She has two publications from her work, and is now a vet. Nice work Alanna!

Sarah Tancredi, BSc University of Western Ontario, was an Honours research student with us in 2010-2011. She discovered how gene expression at immune loci varies as a function of social context and disease.

Emma Leach, BSc University of Western Ontario. was an Honours research student in 2010-2011. She used microsatellite DNA markers to study how genes influence the expression of highly social traits, and how this influence varies with environmental context.

Stephanie Prezioso, BSc University of Western Ontario, was as Honours research student in 2009-2010. She used micriosatellite DNA to study the molecular basis of kin recognition in social insects.

Melissa Rafoul, MSc University of Western Ontario, was a summer research student in 2009. She studied the colonization of invasive termites in Canada’s Point Pelee National Park.

Imran Tayyab, MSc University of Western Ontario, was a research assistant in the summer of 2008. He then worked as a research technician in the Neurogenetics group here at Western.