Trevor Sless

PhD Student

My research focuses on the evolutionary origins and current dynamics of brood parasitism (also called cleptoparasitism) in bees.  These species, colloquially referred to as “cuckoo bees”, do not build nests or collect food for their own young, instead invading the nests of other solitary bees and laying their own eggs.  I am working to sequence the genomes of several brood parasitic species, with the goal of identifying genomic characteristics that differ between these bees and other, non-parasitic species.  This will aid in identifying the genetic sources of a variety of traits that are highly specialized adaptations to this life history.  I also study the population genetics of brood parasites and their host species.  These parasites appear to be at a disadvantage to their hosts in an evolutionary arms race scenario, and part of the explanation for their continued persistence may lie in their patterns of population structure and dispersal.  Finally, I study the evolutionary history of brood parasitism across multiple lineages within bees, with the goal of further ascertaining to what extent this life history impacts diversification and species richness.

I have been broadly interested in many aspects of evolutionary biology for most of my life.  I completed my BSc at the University of Toronto, where I participated in research on vertebrate opsin evolution, the ecology of leaf shape in morning glories, and genetic analysis of virulence pathways in pathogenic yeasts.  I am currently a Ph. D. candidate in Cornell’s department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, co-advised by Dr. Bryan Danforth and Dr. Jeremy Searle.

Research Interests

brood parasitism, evolution, genomics, population genetics