Sarah Kocher
Assistant Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics

Areas of Research: Evolutionary genomics & adaptation; the genetic and ecological factors that shape social behavior
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics
327 Moffett Laboratory

Faculty Assistant:
Sandy Cominski

Research Focus

It has long been accepted that both genetic and environmental factors influence behavior, but a clear understanding of how these factors interact to produce the vast array of complex behaviors we observe continues to elude us.  In my lab, we study groups of closely-related species with extensive natural variation in social behavior.  We combine genetic studies with field and laboratory observations to dissect the molecular and physiological mechanisms that underlie this variation as well as to uncover the ecological and evolutionary forces that shape the evolution of this trait.  This integrative approach is a powerful one: genetic and genomic studies within and across species can help to elucidate some of the underlying molecular mechanisms, while controlled environmental manipulations and behavioral studies can help identify key environmental factors that influence this variation.

One major area of research in my group is characterizing the molecular mechanisms and evolutionary processes that link genetic variation to variation in social behavior in halictid bees. Unlike honey bees and ants where all species are obligately eusocial, there have been multiple, independent gains and losses of social behavior within halictid bees, providing unprecedented comparative power to study the mechanisms and processes shaping social evolution. 

Selected Publications

  • Wittwer, B, Hefetz, A, Simon, T, Murphy, LEK, Elgar, ME, Pierce, NE, Kocher, SD. In press. Solitary bees reduce investment in communication compared to their social relatives. PNAS.
  • Galbraith, DA, Kocher, SD, Glenn, T, Albert, I, Hunt, GJ, Strassmann, JE, Queller, DC and Grozinger, CM, 2016. Testing the kinship theory of intragenomic conflict in honey bees (Apis mellifera). PNAS, 201516636. Pubmed
  • Kocher, SD, Tsuruda, JM, Gibson, JD, Emore, CM, Arechavaleta-Velasco, ME, Queller, DC, Strassmann, JE, Grozinger, CM, Gribskov, MR, San Miguel, P, and Westerman, R (2015). A search for parent-of-origin effects on honey bee gene expression. G3: Genes| Genomes| Genetics, 5(8), 1657-1662. Pubmed
  • Fu, F, Kocher, SD, Nowak, MA (2014). The risk-return tradeoff between solitary and eusocial reproduction. Ecology Letters, 18(1), 74-84. Pubmed
  • Kocher, SD*, Pellissier, L*, Veller, C, Purcell, J, Nowak, M, Chapuisat, M, and Pierce, NE. (2014). Transitions in social complexity along altitudinal gradients reveal a dual impact of climate on social evolution. Proc Roy Soc B. 281 (1787): 20140627. Pubmed
  • Kocher, SD and Paxton, RJ. (2014). Comparative methods offer powerful insights into social evolution. Invited review, Apidologie, 45(3): 289-305.
  • Kocher, SD*, Li, C*, Yang, W, Tan, H, Yi, SV, Yang, X, Hoekstra, HE, Zhang, G, Pierce, NE, Yu, DW. (2013). The genome of a socially polymorphic halictid bee, Lasioglossum albipes. Genome Biology 14(12):R142. Pubmed
  • Wang, Y., Kocher, SD, Linksvayer, TA, Grozinger, CM, Page, RE, and Amdam, GV. (2011). Regulation of behaviorally-associated gene networks in worker honey bee ovaries. Journal of Experimental Biology, 215(1): 124-134. Pubmed
  • Kocher, SD, Ayroles, JF, Stone, EA, and Grozinger, CM. (2010). Natural variation in pheromone response correlates with reproductive traits and brain gene expression in worker honey bees. PLoS ONE 5(2): e9116. Pubmed