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Social Evolution
Provider: Faculty of Science

Activity no.: 5097-19-01-31There are no available seats 
Enrollment deadline: 31/08/2019
PlaceVenue Section for Ecology and Evolution
Kollokvierum 1, building 3, 1st floor, Universitetsparken 15, 2100 København Ø
Date and time04.11.2019, at: 09:00 - 08.11.2019, at: 16:00
Regular seats25
ECTS credits3.00
Contact personNicky Peter Maria Bos    E-mail address: nbos@bio.ku.dk
Enrolment Handling/Course OrganiserNicky Peter Maria Bos    E-mail address: nbos@bio.ku.dk
Written languageEnglish
Teaching languageEnglish
Exam formActive participation during the campus course
Exam detailsThe course will require active participation enforced through presentations by each student, which can readily be evaluated. Short presentations on the progress students have made in incorporating the topics covered to their own research questions will be required, so students have to be actively engaged during the week to be able to put this together.
Course workload
Course workload categoryHours
Class Seminar48.50
Preparation / Self-Study5.00


This PhD course will introduce the key concepts in social evolution, and the use of social insects as a model system to understand the evolution of sociality. Through this course, students will develop a firm platform on which to build their own knowledge and ideas. It will train students to critically address key literature, through questioning, debating and presenting research papers. Importantly, the course will provide students the opportunity to build connections with their peers and the invited scientists.

The following topics will be covered:
1. Evolution of Sociality: Why do social insects work together? How has group living evolved, and what were the selection pressures involved with this process?
2. Conflict and Cooperation: Social insects are famous for their cooperation, but their peculiar genetic structure gives rise to conflict within the colony as well. In this topic, the evolutionary forces which have formed both conflict and cooperation will be explored.
3. Communication: It is paramount for social insects to maintain their colony integrity, and to defend it against organisms wishing to exploit the abundance of resources in the colony. For this, an efficient communication system is required. 
4. Mutualisms and parasitism: As social insects are so numerous and successful, they are the target of numerous parasites wishing to exploit their resources. However, social insects themselves exploit or cooperate with other organisms as well in order to increase their own fitness. 
5. Social Immunity: Living together with many highly related individuals increases the risks of disease. Social insects have evolved numerous ways of working together in order to fight this elevated threat. 
6. Genetics and genomics of sociality: The success of social insects is due to their efficient distribution of tasks among the individuals. Interestingly, many morphological differences exist between the castes, even though the individuals are genetically identical.

Formel requirements
Course participants should be enrolled in a PhD with a strong focus on biology, and ideally working with a question related to social insects or evolutionary biology. However, the course will also be relevant for M.Sc. students considering a career in research.

Learning outcome
Knowledge on: - Ultimate and proximate mechanisms behind the social way of life, including, but not limited to: social evolution, social immunity and chemical communication. - Seminal papers which shaped social insect research over the years. - Our current understanding of the ecology and evolution of sociality in insects, as well as the current challenges faced in the field today. - Tools used to study different aspects of social insects. Skills to: - Review scientific work and present it to peers. - Identify new aspects and solutions to their PhD projects. Competences to: - Develop new ideas for projects of their own and of peers. - Critically evaluate published work - Build a network and develop collaborations

Background reading will be provided at least three weeks before the course. Background material will be presented in the form of older, seminal papers in the field. The students will be required to then expand on this topic by reading and learning how the field has advanced since the given paper, and present their findings.

Teaching and learning methods
Pre-course self study by reading provided materials. Preparation of presentation. The course will combine traditional lectures, discussions, and student presentations to uphold diverse approaches that satisfy different modes of learning. Preparations for the course will include reading a provided collection of seminal papers in the field. On the first day, students will give short presentations about their own work, which will not only allow them to disseminate their research, but also get more acquainted with their fellow students. All components will require active participation, as this is expected to facilitate deeper learning. To maximize teaching styles, student tasks will also be diverse, as they will work individually and in groups, train presentation skills, and be stimulated to critical thinking by sparring ideas.

Guest lecturer 1:
Prof. Asleigh Griffin
University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Guest lecturer 2:
Dr. Elli Leadbeater
Royal Holloway University of London, United Kingdom

Guest lecturer 3:
Dr. Nathalie Stroeymeyt
University of Fribourg, Switzerland

Guest lecturer 4:
Dr. Christopher Pull
Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom

Teacher 1 from UCPH-SCIENCE:
Associate Professor Michael Thomas-Poulsen, mpoulsen@bio.ku.dk

Teacher 2 from UCPH-SCIENCE:
Associate Professor David Richard Nash, drnash@bio.ku.dk


To apply for participation, please send an email to Nicky Peter Maria Bosnbos@bio.ku.dk

Evaluation An online evaluation form will be provided to students to evaluate the course outcome, and the students will be provided with contact information for each other and teachers to immediately expand their international research network.

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