In the last decade, scientists have reported sharp declines in bee populations. While computer models can predict theoretical scenarios of the impact, for ecologists at Emory University and the University of California, Santa Cruz, there's nothing like a little field work. Hear more in this Discovery Files podcast.
Credit: NSF/Karson Productions
With support from NSF, anthropologists Sarah Mathew and Robert Boyd studied warfare among a society of pastoral nomads in East Africa and found that fear of punishment played an important role in sustaining cooperation in risky group activities. The finding breaks with previous theories that suggest large groups work together because early bureaucracies produced organization. Find out more in this discovery feature.
Credit: Dr. Chapman Family, Turkana Missionaries 1977-2005
The Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) in the NSF Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) supports research to develop and advance scientific knowledge on human cognition, language, social behavior and culture, as well as research on the interactions between human societies and the physical environment.
In order to understand the evolution of complex societies, researchers are sequencing the genomes of social insects. Recent data come from several species of ants, including the red harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus.
June 2, 2014
No leader? Now what?
Beehives contribute to multidisciplinary study about how leaderless complex systems manage to get things done
When we refer to someone as the "queen bee," we are suggesting the individual might be in charge of the situation. But, in fact, actual queen bees are not in charge of anything. Their job is to lay eggs, not to rule the hive.
With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), entomologist Gene Robinson and mechanical engineer Harry Dankowicz at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign have teamed up with psychologist Whitney Tabor at the University of Connecticut to study how coordination emerges in leaderless complex societies, such as a bee hive.
The researchers have also designed controlled situations to study how groups of humans manage to coordinate efforts and get things done, even in challenging situations in which there is no leader.
Ultimately, the research may contribute to solving challenges, such as the collapse of pollinating bee colonies or destructive behavior among groups of humans.
The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #124920, INSPIRE: Asynchronous communication, self-organization, and differentiation in human and insect networks. INSPIRE stands for Integrated NSF Support Promoting Interdisciplinary Research and Education.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.