76 Dr. Chelsea Cook – Honey Bee Scouting and the Virtues of Being Easily Distracted


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Dr. Chelsea Cook is a postdoctoral researcher, funded by the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellowship, at Arizona State University. Chelsea’s focus is using behavior, neurophysiology, and genetics to understand how social insects organize, especially to accomplish critical tasks. As you will hear in this episode, she is currently working on how an individual honey bee learns may influence foraging behavior, and the genetics and physiology underlying learning and foraging. During her PhD, Chelsea studied the social organization of the thermoregulatory fanning behavior in honey bees at the University of Colorado with Mike Breed. She told us that she has “a general interest in the organization of anything ‘social’, from neurons to bacteria to cancer to humans.” In addition to her academic research, she is also a co-founder of a small start-up company focused on improving honey bee health, and she is passionate about increasing access to science, especially bringing biology to underrepresented and marginalized groups.

Listen in to learn how different bees divide up the responsibilities of finding and gathering food, and why they developed this method of foraging.

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“I can only imagine if in my neighborhood, every couple of days the grocery store closed and popped up somewhere else. How would you deal with that?” – Dr. Chelsea Cook

Show Notes:

  • The daily difficulties pollinators face in finding their food
  • What different factors go into a pollinator choosing their food source
  • The division of labor with bees in gathering food
  • Chelsea’s hypothesis on these bees and their roles
  • How she ran her experiment
  • The role of the neurotransmitter tyramine in bees
  • How social colonies culturally share information
  • Why Chelsea develops many of her own tools for studies

“It may be more beneficial for a whole society to divide that labor rather than have one individual doing both the exploration and the exploitation [of resources].” – Dr. Chelsea Cook

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