Career Opportunity / 

PhD - Sensory ecology of vespine wasps

a technology-led solution to understanding the honeybees of the wasp world

London - United Kingdom

NERC DTP PhD supervised by Seirian Sumner at UCL People + Nature Lab and Duncan Wilson at UCL Connected Environments Lab. Get in touch with either if you are interested. 

For millennia, humans have been amazed by the incredible societies of honeybees. Scientists have worked out how to decode the communication systems of bees, how individuals perceive in their environment, and the role of memory and information processing in regulating their daily activities. There’s no doubt, the social lives of honeybees are incredible.

There are other, equally awe-inspiring social insects, which live in societies just as impressively complex societies as honeybees, but that we have little idea of how they function, how they perceive and process information about the world or how they communicate amongst themselves. These are the yellowjacket wasps – Vespula spp – the bothersome insects that ruin your picnics at the end of summer. They are the honeybees of the wasp world – their societies are as large, complex, coordinated and cooperative as those of the honeybee. Despite this, we know very little about how wasp colonies function.

The student will conduct pioneering work into the sensory and communication systems of yellowjacket wasps. They will benefit from new tech-facilities and expertise at the People & Nature Lab in UCL East, where wasp nests can be rigged up to an array of automated monitoring equipment which will reveal a side to the wasps that has never been recorded before. You will be trained in handling the wasps safely, and develop skills in behavioural monitoring using a wide range of cutting-edge methods in ecology, to monitor sound, vibrations, movement and interactions within the colony, and analyses tools including machine learning and AI to interpret the data.