Faculty Directory

Contact Information

Office:
Life Sciences & Bioengineering Center, 4016
Phone: +1-508-831-5472
Fax: +1-508-831-5936
rgegear@wpi.edu

Robert J. Gegear

Our laboratory investigates brain-behavior relationships in pollinating insects, with particular focus on the cognitive processes and brain structures that underlie foraging and the role of such processes in the evolution and maintenance of floral complexity. We address research questions using a wide variety of experimental approaches, including controlled behavioral experiments, genetic analysis, computer modeling, and confocal microscopy. 

Insect pollinators, especially the bumblebee and monarch butterfly, are an excellent model to study brain-behavior relationships within a larger ecological and evolutionary framework. Because they effectively manage an incredible amount of sensory information under natural conditions, their behavioral decisions have significant ecological and evolutionary consequences for flowering plants; they are amenable to controlled laboratory- and field experiments. Notably, many insect pollinators also play a vital role in agro-ecosystems (e.g., bees pollinate two-thirds of crop species worldwide and have an estimated economic value of $3 billion per year in the United States alone), making our research on their brain processes and behavior of tremendous economic and social importance. Our research falls into four general areas:

  • Mechanistic and functional analysis of multimodal sensory integration
  • Examination of adaptive variation in brain plasticity and behavior
  • Role of animal cognition in the evolutionary diversification of flowers
  • Pollinator ecology and conservation

Click here for my Lab Web Site.

Research Interests

  • Mechanistic and functional analysis of multimodal sensory integration
  • Examination of adaptive variation in brain plasticity and behavior
  • Role of animal cognition in the evolutionary diversification of flowers
  • Pollinator ecology and conservation

Education

  • Ph.D.,  University of Western Ontario, 2002
  • Postdoc, University of Toronto, 2005
  • Postdoc, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 2009

Featured Publications

  • Gegear, R.J., Zhu, H., Casselman, A., Kanginakudru, S., and S.M. Reppert. 2009.  Defining behavioral and molecular differences between summer and migratory monarch butterflies.  BMC Biology 7:14.
  • Merlin, C., Gegear, R.J., and S.M. Reppert. 2009.  Antennal circadian clocks coordinate sun compass orientation in migratory monarch butterflies.  Science 325: 1700-1704.
  • Biernaskie, J.M., Walker, S.C., and R. J. Gegear. 2009 Bumble bees learn to forage like Bayesians.  The American Naturalist 174: 413-423.
  • Gegear, R.J., Casselman, A., Waddell, S., and S.M. Reppert.  2008.  CRYPTOCHROME mediates light-dependent magnetosensitivity in Drosophila.  Nature 454: 1014-1018.
  • Gegear, R.J., and J.G. Burns.  2007.  The birds, the bees and the virtual flowers:  Can pollinator behavior drive ecological speciation in flowering plants?  The American Naturalist 170: 551-566.
 
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