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Dr Stephan Wolf


Postdoctoral Researcher

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 6106
Room Number: 2.16, Fogg building


Research Interests:

I'm interested in behavioural ecology and its evolutionary underpinning. More specifically I developed a keen interest in animal movement, the factors that govern it and the consequences it may have focussing on both bumblebees and honeybees as model systems. Using a combination of classical field and laboratory methods and molecular tools have worked on the spatial scale of movement of both foraging workers (Wolf & Moritz 2008) bumblebees and male bumblebees (Kraus, Wolf & Moritz 2009, Wolf et al. 2012). My work demonstrated a markedly increased flight range of male bumblebees over the foraging range of workers. This has implications for bumblebee populations not only because males facilitate gene-flow between subpopulations, thus counteracting the deleterious effects of genetic deprivation and inbreeding, but also because males may play an important role in pollination (Wolf & Moritz, under review). 

I was also involved in work on bee pathology potentially affecting the flight behaviour, movement patterns and learning performance of bees. At Rothamsted Research I investigated the impact of emergent bee diseases (Nosema ceranae and Varroa-associated Viruses) on the flight performance and orientation ability of free-foraging honeybees and its consequences for bee populations. Employing a range of modern techniques including, among others, harmonic radar tracking allowed us to study homing flights of free-flying foragers in high resolution (Wolf et al. subm.) as well as running detailed analyses of the initial orientation flights of bees with various pathogen loads (Wolf et al. in prep.). This elegantly fuses behavioural ecology and pathology of pollinators into a fascinating and ecologically and economically highly relevant project. 

In addition to this I was also involved in studies on host-parasite evolutionary dynamics in bumblebees and their parasite Crithidia bombi (Erler et al. 2012) and on genetic diversity and pathology of pollinator groups on landscape scale in Mexico (Moritz et al. 2012). My work on both the effects of diseases on bee behaviour and on bumblebee males, facing fundamentally different challenges as compared to the workers, has sired new research ideas addressing how sex (male and female mating strategies), physiology (hunger, mating motivation, pathogen-load) and behavioural requirements shape the cognitive abilities, limitations and trade-offs on animals.

At QMUL I use bumblebee males and queens as a model system to assess how, if at all, various, conflicting tasks can be mastered optimally in short succession ultimately allowing for an optimized allocation of resources and time.

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