The Jandt Lab at the University of Otago is comprised of students at the University of Otago as well as students and colleagues working with me on projects throughout the U.S. If you're interested in studying social insects in New Zealand, check out the Current Research and Potential Postgraduate Projects and contact me. The University of Otago has a number of funding opportunities for post-graduate studies and research.
Emma Curtin is a PhD student in Zoology, studying introduced dung beetles. She is investigating the success of dung beetle introductions to Southland, and measuring the effects of these dung beetles on earthworms, the cattle nematode life cycle, and soil structure and permeability.
Mateus Detoni is a PhD student in Zoology. His main interest is the aggression behavior in invasive Vespula populations in New Zealand, and the molecular, environmental and behavioural elements that influence it. I'm also interested in the study of foraging and nesting behavior and behavioural syndromes in vespines and paper wasps (Polistinae).
Gemma McLaughlin is a PhD student in Biochemistry. She is looking at genetic management of invasive wasps in New Zealand, hopefully using tools such as CRISPR and RNA interference. She is also interested in the life cycle of this holometabolous insect, and keen to investigate more about their life stages.
Melita Busch is a Master's student in Zoology. She became interested in becoming part of the social insect lab after doing an undergrad experiment looking at cockroach behaviour. Her current main interest is now looking at behaviour in Vespula wasps.
Jessica Chen is a Master's student in Zoology, with a love for all living creatures, even the creepy ones! She is currently looking into the invertebrate biodiversity of the Orokonui Ecosanctuary for her Masters project, in particular the functional biodiversity of soil invertebrates and how they link to the carrying capacity of Kiwi within the sanctuary.
James Crofts-Bennett is a Master's student in Botany, having a background in both Botany and Zoology. Ever since a young age he desired to be an arachnologist, which is exactly what he became. While the opening and closing chapters were simple enough, the actual journey was a little more complex, currently resulting in an arachnologist primarily based in the OU Botany department. “Don’t worry about it” he jests “spiders like plants more than animals anyways!” with a lot of his work exploring the relationships between spiders and plant structural complexity. “It’s great fun, you go to Orokonui and tell the kids about how spiders shoot lightning out of their feet to fly, because plants tell them to! Kids love it but the parents really get a kick out of that one, sounds like an absurd joke until you describe it in detail”. Currently James is field testing his own live capture trap for spiders; the ‘Sanctum Aranae’, a bucket of tubes and wire (glorious to be sure).
Nick Kelly is a Masters student in Wildlife Management, with a background in Economics and Zoology. He is interested in behavioral economics: why people (or animals) behave rationally. He was first attracted to the Jandt lab through his interest in how eusociality evolved, as at first glance, aspects of eusociality contradicts rational behavour. He now finds himself working on a Masters thesis aiming to find patterns in the foraging economics (or optimal foraging theory) in Vespula wasps.
As an Undergraduate at the University of Otago, Jake Tully majored in Zoology. A mini research project on the flower colour preference of honey bees (Apis mellifera) at the Dunedin Botanical gardens, sparked his interest in pollinator foraging behaviour, specifically flower constancy. His Masters' project aims to investigate why this behaviour arises in Bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) and to determine whether/how this behaviour may have been important in the sympatric speciation of plants.
Rachel Terlinden finished her Master's thesis (Zoology) in 2019 on bumble bee diurnal foraging patterns, and whether they remain consistent for individual bees over time, with a particular interest in how individual characteristics can influence this, such as body size. She also has an interest in how these individual characteristics play out at the colony level, and how the environment influences this.
Georgia McCombe graduated with her Bachelor's in 2017, and worked as a research assistant on bumble bees in 2018.
Colby Behrens is studying personality in Polistes fuscatus wasps. He is using a variety of techniques to quantify behavioral differences among individuals and among colonies. Colby is currently working on his PhD with Alison Bell at the University of Illinois.
Kate Hunter (left) is interested in how larvae that receive different levels of nutrition during development behave when they are adults. She is using a combination of behavioral assays and physiology to determine the extent to which paper wasp behaviors are consistent over time and whether behaviors correlate. She is currently working on her PhD with Karen Kapheim at Utah State University.
Phil Lester (left, Victoria University of Wellington), Kevin Loope (right, University of California, Riverside) and I are interested in the behavioural ecology and ecological repercussions of the invasive German and common wasps (Vespula germanica and Vespula vulgaris). These wasps can be found throughout the New Zealand, particularly in the beech forests of the South Island, where they can reach exceptionally high densities (>30 colonies/ha).
Bob Jeanne (left, University of Wisconsin-Madison), Amy Toth (right, Iowa State University), and I are interested in how antennal drumming behavior by Polistes fuscatus queens influences the expression of genes related to reproductive caste (queens v workers) in developing larvae. Amy and I are also working together to understand personality differences in Polistes individuals and colonies (with help from Colby Behrens and Kate Hunter, see above).
Sarah Bengston (University of Rochester) and I are broadly interested in how personalities manifest themselves in social insects. How do colonies develop personalities? Are there similarities between colony personality and individual personality? What are the ecological and environmental factors associated with colony personalities? Sarah and I attempt to bridge literature from social insect biology and behavioral ecology as we develop theories on this subject across social insect taxa.
Anna Dornhaus (University of Arizona) and I are studying a variety of questions related to mechanisms of organization in social insects, specifically bumble bees. We are finishing up a project that looks at how spatial organization and division of labor is affected when certain bees are removed from the nest or when the nest itself is rearranged. Also, in collaboration with Dan Papaj (University of Arizona), we are looking at how multiple signals can affect aggressive reaction.