Plenary speakers

We are pleased to announce a great selection of plenary speakers for the european IUSSI 2024!!

Bonnie Blaimer

Talk title: Social insect diversity patterns: insights from the Hymenoptera

Bonnie Blaimer is an evolutionary biologist and entomologist who enjoys a combination of field work, collection-based research, as well as molecular genomics. Her research explores questions in evolutionary biology, community ecology, biogeography, and systematics, particularly in ants and other Hymenoptera. Projects in her research group focus on advancing understanding of the historical and contemporary evolutionary processes and patterns that have shaped insect diversity and distributions, and on improving insect systematics through integrative approaches that combine molecular, morphological, and ecological data. Ultimately, her goal is to better understand the processes that have contributed to insect diversity in both form and function

Image credit: “Bennett Raglin/ Ap Images for HHMI”

Daniel Kronauer

Talk title: The Evolution of Ant Societies

Daniel Kronauer, Ph.D., is the Stanley S. and Sydney R. Shuman Associate Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Social Evolution and Behavior at The Rockefeller University. He studies how evolution operates in the rich context of insect societies, focusing on different levels of organization, from the gene and neural circuits, to the individual and the society as a whole. In his lab, Dr. Kronauer works primarily with the clonal raider ant Ooceraea biroi to analyze complex social and collective behaviors such as alloparental care and foraging. His lab has sequenced and annotated the species’ genome and transcriptome, and established the first protocols for genome editing in an ant, which now allows them to create and maintain stable knockout and transgenic lines. He has used these and many other methods to begin unravelling the mysteries of how these ants communicate to engage in cooperative behavior, and to determine how genetically identical ants differentiate into different castes and behavioral types to serve various roles in ant societies. Dr. Kronauer received a diploma in biology from the University of Würzburg, in Germany, followed by a Ph.D., in 2007, from the University of Copenhagen. He was elected to the Harvard Society of Fellows, as a junior fellow, in 2008. Since joining Rockefeller in 2011, he has been named a Pew Scholar, a Searle Scholar, a Sinsheimer Scholar, and a Klingenstein Simons Fellow in Neuroscience, and he has received a Director’s New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health. In 2021, he became a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

Lars Chittka

Talk title: Social insects – ancient civilisations? 

Lars Chittka is the author of the book The Mind of a Bee and Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology at Queen Mary University of London.  He is also the founder of the Research Centre for Psychology at Queen Mary.  He is known for his work on the evolution of sensory systems and cognition using insect-flower interactions as a model system.  Chittka has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of animal cognition and its impact on evolutionary fitness studying bumblebees and honeybees.

Patrizia d’Ettorre

Talk title: The Mentality of Ants

Patrizia d’Ettorre is a behavioural biologist interested in communication and cognition in social insects, ants in particular. She did her PhD at the University of Parma (Italy) on the social parasite Polyergus rufescens. Then, she investigated the mechanisms underlying recognition of identity at different levels in several ant species. More recently, she became interested in ant cognitive abilities, such as learning and memory, quantitative cognition and tool use, and their relationship with individual personality. Since 2009, she is professor of ethology at the University Sorbonne Paris Nord (France).

Susanne Foitzik

Talk title: (Co)Evolution and Molecular Regulation of Ant Behaviour, Chemical and Life History Traits

Susanne Foitzik is currently Professor of Behavioural Ecology and Social Evolution, Head of the Institute for Organismal and Molecular Evolution and Vice Dean for Research at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. She studied at the University of Würzburg and received her doctorate under Bert Hölldobler and Jürgen Heinze in 1998. After a two-year postdoc at Colorado State University in the laboratory of Joan Herbers, she became a research assistant at the University of Regensburg. In 2004 she moved to LMU Munich as an associate professor before accepting a chair position at the JGU Mainz in 2010.
She is interested in the evolution, genomics and ecology of ant behaviour and sociality. Her research has provided particular insight into co-evolution between dulotic social parasites and their hosts, and into the molecular regulation of the division of labour. Other research areas include the evolution of ageing and its molecular underpinnings, as well as parasitic manipulations. She is interested in how the complex behaviour of ants is controlled, from perception and production of chemical signals to genetic influences and the social environment.