Michael L. Smith
Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Collective Behavior
Max Planck Institute of Ornithology / University of Konstanz

I'm interested in how organisms detect that they've reached the developmental stage where it becomes adaptive to invest in not only survival and growth, but also in reproduction.  We commonly think of this process as puberty, the first reproductive investment that an organism makes.  An organism going through puberty cannot yet reproduce, but it has begun to invest its resources in reproduction.  How an organism detects its developmental state, and then shifts resources accordingly, is relevant at any level of biological organization, whether its a unicellular yeast, a multicellular plant, or a superorganism honey bee colony.  

In a superorganism like a honey bee colony, puberty occurs when the number of workers in the colony surpasses a reproductive threshold.  Once the colony has enough workers, the workers begin building special cells of beeswax comb to rear male reproductives, drones.  This drone comb is built when the colony has over 4000 individuals, which raises an interesting question: how does a worker detect the number of other bees in her colony?  

I have just completed my Ph.D. at Cornell University, and will be beginning my postdoctoral research with Iain Couzin in the Department of Collective Behavior at the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology / University of Konstanz.  

It's going to be lots of work with observation hives: 

Please contact me via email if you would like to discuss any aspect of my research, or would like PDF's of any of my publications.  I also welcome all types of requests for collaboration and outreach, whether academic or not.  

Postdoctoral Advisor:
Department of Collective Behavior
Max Planck Institute of Ornithology / University of Konstanz

Ph.D. Thesis Advisor:
Department of Neurobiology and Behavior
Cornell University

Undergraduate Advisors:
Department of Molecular Biology
Princeton University

Department of Biological Sciences
Wellesley College 

Beekeeping Mentor:
Chris Adam
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