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Events Calendar

First Annual RCN meeting
February 9, 2014
Galveston, TX

XVth European Society for Evolutionary Biology
August 10th-14th 2015
Lausanne, Switzerland
The meeting will include a symposium on "Emerging Models in Evolutionary and Ecological Neurobiology"

Second Annual RCN Meeting
February 6-8, 2015
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX

Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Neuroscience
October 16, 2015, Chicago Illinois
Hyatt Regency Chicago (Downtown)

Third Annual RCN Meeting
May 6, 2016
Atlanta, GA
Held in conjunction with the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience Symposium


Greg Ball, PhD
Professor of Psychology and Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences
Johns Hopkins University
Faculty website:

Alison Bell, PhD
Associate Professor of Animal Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Research in the Bell lab is focused on understanding why individual animals behave differently from each other. Even an individual fish, for example, behaves differently from other fish, through time and across situations. We study the proximate mechanisms underlying personality and the ultimate (evolutionary) consequences of personality using threespined stickleback fish (mostly) as a model system. We are interested in the non-genetic contribution of parents to variation in behavior, the selective factors that maintain variation in wild populations and the neurogenomic causes and correlates of variation.

Lab website:

Laura L. Carruth, PhD
Associate Professor, Neuroscience Institute and Dept. of Biology, Georgia State University

My lab investigates the molecular and hormonal mechanisms that influence the development of song learning and singing behavior in songbirds following two avenues of research. First, we are examining the mechanisms that influence sexual differentiation of the neural circuit for song and male and female singing behavior in adulthood.  Second, we are exploring the effects of early life stress or experience on development of the song control system using biologically relevant stressors such as cold stress. The development of the song control system is sensitive to early life stress, and exposure to chronic stress or elevated stress hormones can result in neuronal atrophy and cognitive deficits. My lab is investigating the epigenetic and hormonal mechanisms through which early stress acts on the songbird brain leading to changes in the brain that can be examined across the lifespan or across generations.

David F. Clayton, PhD
Professor of Neuroscience, Queen Mary University of London

Work in my lab focuses on the links between gene regulation and brain function, especially in the context of social communication.  We use songbirds as instructive examples for study, as they communicate through vocalizations they learn through social tutoring during juvenile life, and the neural systems for both production and perception of these vocalizations are unusually well understood.

Lab website:

Home university page:

Scott Edwards, PhD
Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University

My lab studies the evolution of birds through the lenses of genomics, population genetics and comparative biology.  Many of our questions are motivated by behavioral observations.  For example, we have a long-standing interest in the evolution of cooperative breeding and have studied this in Australian babblers, fairy wrens and other species from a comparative perspective.  We recently found a novel mechanism for sweet taste perception in hummingbirds involving transformation of the ancestral umami taste receptor.  One of our major goals is to find signatures of natural selection in the genome and to link these in real-time with their likely causes, such as disease or human-aided species introductions.

Lab website:

Russ Fernald, PhD
Benjamin Scott Crocker Professor of Human Biology, Stanford University

Lab website:

Michael A. D. Goodisman, PhD
Associate Professor of Biology, Georgia Tech

I am interested in understanding how evolutionary processes affect social systems and how sociality, in turn, affects the course of evolution.  The main subjects of my research are the social insects, which display the most advanced levels of sociality and dominate ecological communities because of their sophisticated group behaviors.  My research explores the molecular basis underlying sociality, the nature of selection in social systems, the breeding biology of social animals, the process of self-organization in social groups, and the course of development in social species.

Lab website:

Christina M. Grozinger, PhD
Professor of Entomology, Director of Center for Pollinator Research, Penn State University

My research program consists of two main areas of study, which examine the mechanisms underlying social behavior and health in honey bees and related species.  Our studies on social behavior seek to elucidate the proximate and ultimate mechanisms that regulate complex chemical communication systems in insect societies.  Our studies on honey bee and bumble bee health examine how biotic and abiotic stressors impact the individual at the molecular, physiological and behavioral level, how these individual effects lead to colony-level changes, and how responses to these stressors can be modulated by social and environmental contexts.  We use a highly trans-disciplinary approach encompassing genomics, physiology, neurobiology, behavior, chemical ecology, and population genomics.

Lab Website:

Hopi Hoekstra, PhD
Alexander Agassiz Professor, Departments of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology and Molecular & Cellular Biology, and Center for Brain Science; Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Harvard University

The Hoekstra Lab is focused on understanding the genetic basis of adaptation. While the lab continues to work on morphological and reproductive evolution, in recent years we have been focusing on the genetics of behavior -- from burrowing to climbing to social and cooperative behaviors. To this end, we work in the lab, in experimental facilities and in the field, and integrate approaches from molecular biology, quantitative and population genetics, neurobiology, ecology and evolution.

Lab website:

Hans A. Hofmann, PhD
Associate Professor in Integrative Biology, The University of Texas at Austin
Director, Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics

Research in Dr. Hofmann's laboratory of evolutionary neuroethology seeks to understand the molecular and hormonal mechanisms that underlie social behavior and its evolution. All animals continuously integrate their internal physiological state with environmental events and subsequently choose one action over another to increase their chances of survival and reproduction. These decisions are about obtaining and defending resources (such as food, shelter or mates) or evading danger (such as predator avoidance), and they often take place in a social context, such as dominance hierarchies, mate choice, and/or offspring care. Even though the survival value and evolution of behavioral decisions have been examined in great detail, we are just now beginning to understand the neural and molecular mechanisms underlying these decision-making processes. Our work uses a broad spectrum of approaches, ranging from field studies to functional genomics. We also employ hormonal perturbations, neuroanatomical techniques and advanced microscopy, and advanced statistics and bioinformatics tools. Our work has established an experimental and conceptual framework for understanding the molecular and neural basis of social behavior – and its evolution – in a naturalistic and organismal context.

Lab website:

Kim Hoke, PhD
Assistant Professor of Biology, Colorado State University

Current research in the Hoke lab examines the evolution of developmental and molecular influences on the structure and function of the nervous system and of ears, and the consequences of these changes for behavior. The lab investigates the neural mechanisms of decision making in frogs to understand how modulation of sensorimotor integration generates the subtle context dependence that matches the behavior to an animal’s needs and its external environment. We attempt to explain the repeated loss and regain of outer and middle ear structures in bufonid toads by examining the molecular, developmental, and morphological mechanisms underlying the evolution of ear structure and hearing. A separate line of research disentangles genetic and environmental influences on functional neural circuits and behavior in guppies to characterize the interplay between developmental and functional constraints, phenotypic plasticity, and adaptive evolution of social and antipredator behaviors.

Lab website:

Duane Jackson, PhD
Professor of Psychology, Morehouse College

Duane Jackson is an animal behaviorist that specializes in insect behavior.  He received his B.A. from Morehouse with a major in psychology, minor in philosophy, grounded in a strong science background. He received his M.A. from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana with a Major in Biological Psychology and minor in Zoology and his Ph.D. also from the University of Illinois in Comparative Psychology/Behavior Genetics, with minor concentrations in Zoology, Entomology and Experimental Psychology. He is Professor of Psychology at Morehouse and has previously severed twice as chair of the Department of Psychology.  He is a Research Scientist and Vice Chair on the Board of Directors at Zoo Atlanta.  He has published papers on a variety of subjects -- insect behavior & physiology, behavior-genetic analysis, undergraduate research, racism in science, and human & non-human behavior in a zoo setting. He has also written articles for children in the area of insect behavior. His research over the past several years has focused on aggression in termites and he is also collaborating with a chemistry professor at Morehouse studying the ability of termites to convert cellulose into sugar.  He has received teaching awards from University of Illinois, Clark College (now Clark/Atlanta University), The Conference on the Teaching of Psychology and Progressive National Baptist Convention.  He has received grant awards from the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institute.  He has appeared locally on CBS, state wide on PBS, regionally on ABC, nationally on A & E and internationally on CNN.  He has also appeared in Ebony, Jet, Black Enterprise, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Chicago Defender.

Erich Jarvis, PhD
Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Department of Neurobiology, Duke University School of Medicine

Lab website:

Darcy B. Kelley, PhD
Harold Weintraub Professor of Biological Sciences, Columbia University

I am interested in the neurobiology, genetics and evolution of vocal communication. Our research focuses on African clawed frogs in the genus Xenopus in which underwater songs are the predominant mode of social communication.  We have outlined the auditory circuits that analyze vocal signals as well as the vocal elements that produce a socially appropriate response. How vocal patterns switch to produce an appropriate response to the call of another frog is a current research focus. Each species of Xenopus produces a distinctive and heritable male advertisement song. The genus thus provides an opportunity to unravel the genetics that underlie the evolution of social communication.

Lab website:

Edward A. Kravitz, PhD
George Packer Berry Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School

Our laboratory studies aggression using a fruit fly model system.  Male and female flies fight in same sex pairing but only males establish hierarchical relationships.  Serotonin and other amines are involved in aggression, and current studies using intersectional genetics techniques allows us to examine the function of these neurons and the circuitry involving them at single identified neuron levels.  More recent studies focus on hyperaggressive flies that are generated by inbreeding winners for many generations and on identifying the developmental roots of this phenotype. The powerful genetic techniques available for studies in Drosophila make this an extremely powerful model organism for studies of complex behavior.

Lab Website:

Joel Levine, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Biology, University of Toronto at Mississauga

The Levine lab studies the genetic basis of group dynamics in Drosophila melanogaster. Recent studies have shown that flies form social interaction networks (SINs). The ability to form SINs is innate and current studies are underway to identify genetic pathways that contribute to such reproducible strain specific patterns of social interaction. Other projects include investigations into the role of biological pathways in social interactions with an emphasis of the temporal control of pheromonal signaling.

Lisa A. McGraw, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, North Carolina State University

Research in the McGraw laboratory combines approaches derived from molecular biology, genetics, genomics, and neuroscience rooted in an evolutionary biology framework to uncover functional links between genes, the brain and complex behaviors. Our research utilizes a unique model organism, the prairie vole. These hamster-sized rodents differ from more traditional laboratory animals in that they are highly social and socially monogamous. We employ comparative studies between prairie voles and other closely related, but asocial, promiscuous vole species to explore the neurogenomic architecture of both social and reproductive behaviors.

Catherine Peichel, PhD
Member, Division of Human Biology and Basic Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

What are the genetic changes that underlie differences in behavior? How do these genetic changes influence the neural circuitry underlying behavior? How has the genetic and neural circuitry that underlies complex behaviors evolved? To address these questions, my laboratory is using the threespine stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus) as a model genetic system. Stickleback behaviors have been incredibly well studied, both in the field and in the laboratory. Furthermore, there is a great deal of morphological and behavioral diversity in freshwater populations of sticklebacks that have evolved within the last 10,000 years. This provides us with a large source of natural behavioral variants that will allow us to identify genes that directly affect behavior without pleiotropic effects that would be incompatible with life in the wild. A major goal of my research is to use the genetic and genomic tools that we have developed for sticklebacks to dissect the genetic components of behaviors. We are currently focusing on differences in schooling behavior among stickleback populations. In addition to providing a powerful model for the genetic analysis of natural variants in behavior, sticklebacks are also amenable to anatomical and physiological approaches to characterize the functional neuronal circuits that underlie these behaviors. The long-term goal of my work is to begin to understand the neural and physiological connections between the genes we identify from our genetic studies and the behaviors that we observe in the wild.

Lab webpage:

Steve Phelps, PhD
Associate Professor of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin

Social cognition is among the most complex of all phenotypes. It changes over time, is shaped by developmental environments, and is influenced by the behavior of other individuals. Decades of work in game theory and behavioral ecology suggest that developmental and genetic variation in social behavior should be common. Similarly, variation in social cognition contributes to major dimensions of human diversity, ranging from personality differences to profound issues in mental health. Despite its conceptual and practical importance, we know surprisingly little about what constitutes normal variation in the social brain. Our lab focuses on the social behavior of exotic rodent species. These species allow us to use biomedical advances in neurobiology and molecular genetics to understand individual, population and species differences in social cognition. We study two main groups of rodents: the singing mice of Central America, and the monogamous prairie voles of North America. The singing mice provide us with unique opportunities to examine how brains process vocal signals, and how this changes with ecological conditions and individual experience. The prairie voles enable insights into the complex mechanisms of social attachment, memory and sexual fidelity. By combining genomic and neuroscience perspectives with fieldwork, we hope to get a more complete understanding of how evolutionary forces shape genetic and environmental contributions to neural and behavioral diversity.
Lab website:

Emilie F. Rissman PhD
Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, University of Virginia

In my laboratory we are examining sex differences from the perspective of sex chromosome genes and steroid hormones interactions. Our candidate sex chromosome genes and steroid hormone receptors both act at the level of histone modification. In addition, we study transgenerational actions of the hypothemethylation, Bisphenol A, and its actions on social behaviors. Thus we are trying to understand how and when these processes act, and when, to elaborate sex differences.

Lab website:

Gene E. Robinson, PhD
Director, Institute for Genomic Biology and Swanlund Chair of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Dr. Robinson’s research group uses genomics and systems biology to study the mechanisms and evolution of social life, using the Western honey bee, Apis mellifera, as the principal model system along with other species of bees. The research is integrative, involving perspectives from evolutionary biology, behavior, neuroscience, molecular biology, and genomics. The goal is to explain the function and evolution of behavioral mechanisms that integrate the activity of individuals in a society, neural and neuroendocrine mechanisms that regulate behavior within the brain of the individual, and the genes that influence social behavior. Research focuses on division of labor, aggression, and the famous dance language, a system of symbolic communication.

Lab website:

Marla B. Sokolowski PhD, FRSC
University Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto.

We study gene-environment interplay in behavior primarily in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Our main focus is the foraging gene which influences naturally occurring behavioral variation including the rover/sitter polymorphism. This gene plays a role in behavior in many organisms including social insects and mammals. We currently use foraging and its interactors as a model to study pleiotropy, how a gene accomplishes its multiple and varied functions.

Lab webpage:

Amy Toth, PhD
Assistant Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, and Department of Entomology, Iowa State University

My lab focuses on social behavior in the eusocial bees and wasps, blending many approaches including comparative genomics, epigenetics, physiology, experimental manipulations of gene expression, and lab and field-based behavioral assays.  The overarching goals of my research are to:  1)gain insight into how complex social behavior can evolve from solitary behavior, 2)understand the roles of conservation and convergence in the molecular basis of complex phenotypes, 3)test ideas about the evolution of sociality using new genomic tools.

Lab website:

Walter Wilczynski, PhD
Professor of Neuroscience, Georgia State University

Work in my laboratory is in the area of neuroethology, the study of the neural basis of natural behavior and its evolution. We focus on the neural and endocrine systems underlying animal communication and the role of communication signals in aggression and reproduction. In addition to behavioral, neuroendocrinological, and neurophysiological approaches, recent work in my lab is examining how social experience interacts with endocrine state to regulate patterns of gene expression in the nervous system.

University website:

Mariana F. Wolfner, PhD
Goldwin Smith Professor of Molecular Biology & Genetics and Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow, Cornell University

Our lab is interested in how molecules from males and females interact to facilitate fertility, including reproductive behaviors. Most of our studies use the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model system, and focus on how males’ seminal fluid proteins trigger post-mating changes in females’ behavior and physiology. Seminal protein production can be affected by the social environment, and seminal proteins’ action can modulate the neuroendocrine system of the mated female. Thus, these proteins provide precise molecular tools with which to dissect the social and behavioral interactions between the sexes.

University website:

Lab website:

Larry Young, PhD
Professor of Psychiatry and Director, Center for Translational Social Neuroscience, Emory University and Yerkes National Primate Center

My laboratory explores the genetic and neurobiological bases of social behavior in rodents, nonhuman primates and humans.  Much of our research focuses on the role of neuropeptides such as oxytocin and CRF on pair bond formation in monogamous prairie voles, which then guides our studies in other species.   We are particularly interested in the genetic mechanisms that give rise to diversity in social behavior, with a particular focus on the oxytocin and vasopressin receptor genes.

Lab website:

CTSN Website: