Dr. Robert J. Gegear
Dr. Gegear joins WPI after holding appointments as Research Fellow and Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He also previously held a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Zoology at the University of Toronto. Dr. Gegear's research focuses on the evolutionary ecology of brain-behavior relationships, with particular emphasis on the ecological factors that shape the adaptive evolution of brain plasticity (learning, memory, and decision making processes) in pollinating insects, and role of such plasticity in the evolution of floral signal complexity in plants. He addresses research questions using a variety of animal models (social and solitary bees, monarch butterfly, hummingbirds, and fruit flies) and experimental approaches (e.g. behavioral experiments, genetic analysis, computer modeling, and confocal microscopy). Among his discoveries, Dr. Gegear has demonstrated that floral specialization in pollinating insects, which is an ecologically and economically important type of foraging behavior, is related to their ability to integrate variation in multimodal sensory information among flowers, and shown that biochemical reactions involving the photoreceptor cryptochrome enable animals to detect the Earth’s magnetic field.
February 1, 2012