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Research Fellows Directory

Lars Chittka

Professor Lars Chittka FLS, FSB, FRES

Research Fellow


Queen Mary, University of London

Research summary

Work in the Chittka lab is poised at the intersection between sensory physiology and learning psychology on the one hand, and evolutionary ecology on the other. Why do animals have the sensory systems they do? How do they use them in their natural foraging environment? How do cognitive-behavioural processes function in the economy of nature? Pollinator-plant interactions have been used as a model system to study these questions. Bees have been the organisms of choice in most of these studies, because their colonies can be easily kept, their experience can be readily controlled, they have a rich behavioural repertoire and amazing learning capacities. Members of the team have been particularly interested in mutual evolutionary and ecological influences of insect colour vision and flower colour signals, and insect learning and flower advertising. In addition, they have studied bee navigation, including the question of how bees use spatial memory to navigate among several rewarded sites. Chittka has recently been awarded a five-year grant from the European Research Council (ERC) to explore how bees interface resource exploration with exploitation, using harmonic radar tracking. This builds on Chittka's long-standing interest in insect orientation and navigation between multiple feeding destinations. The Chittka lab also explores the evolution of cognitive capacities and communication, and the pollination biology of invasive species. Work in the Chittka lab has made use of field studies, as well as experimental studies with computer-controlled behavioural tests, computer simulations, and phylogenetic analyses. Many of Chittka’s former PhD students and postdocs have moved on to become P.I.s at prestigious academic institutions.

Grants awarded

Radar-tracking the spatial movement patterns of key pollinators

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: May 2014 - Apr 2019

Value: £50,000

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