Our Group

The Sumner lab seeks to understand how and why sociality and social behaviour evolves, from the genome to the phenotype, through the interplay of genes, behaviour and the environment. Our study organisms are wasps, bees, termites and antsSandra_tequila_tea_2020

Current Postdoc Fellows

Dr Emeline Favreau Molecular basis of Major Transitions

Dr. Alessandro Cini – Insect social parasites: behavioural genomics models for understanding the basis of phenotypic evolution

Dr Christopher Wyatt – Comparative genomics and social evolution


Current PhD Students

Sandra MorenoBehavioural genomics of Malaysian hover wasps. CONACyT (Mexico) studentship. Co-supervisors: Dr Andy Radford, University of Bristol.

Benjamin Taylor – The evolution and mechanisms of castes in Vespid wasps. NERC London DTP Studentship. Co-supervisors: Dr Max Reuter, University College London.

Owen Corbett – Mechanisms and Evolution of Post-Reproductive Lifespan. NERC London DTP Studentship. Co-supervisors: Dr Max Reuter, University College London.

Lewis RevelyThe evolutionary pathway and molecular mechanisms underpinning the evolution of social complexity in termites. NERC London DTP Studentship. Co-supervisors: Dr Paul Eggleton, Natural History Museum.





Trinidad 2015 team



Left May 2019: Dr Michael Bentley – now in Oxford Uni.

Left Feb 2015: Dr. Peter Graystock – now in Imperial College

Left July 2014: Dr. Ian Warren – now in Univ. Cambridge

Left Feb 2014: Dr Kate Ciborowski – now a lawyer!

Left August 2013: Dr Stephanie Dreier – Investigating the impact of habitat structure on queen and worker bumblebees in the field. FunderBBSRC/NERC

Left August 2012: Dr Solenn Patalano – Now an independent fellow in Greece

PhD Students


Completed Nov 2017 – Dr Adam Devenish –  Assessing current and future impacts of invasive ants on ecosystem services. NERC CASE Studentship. Co-supervisors: Dr Jon Bridle, University of Bristol; Dr Rose Newton, Kew Gardens, UK. Now a postdocs at Imperial College.

Compelted Sept 2018 – Dr Patrick Kennedy – Social evolution in tropical paper-wasps. University of Bristol Scholarship. Co-supervisor: Dr Andy Radford, University of Bristol. Now postdoc in Univ. Bristol.

Completed Sept 2018 – Dr Sam Duckerin – How pesticide ‘hang-overs’ affect social insect networks. BBSRC studentship. Co-Supervisors: Dr Dick James, University of Bath; Dr Heather Whitney, University of Bristol. Now in the film industry (but still loves bees…we hope!)

Completed Sept 2017. Dr Robin Southon, PhD Student – Adaptive value of males in primitively eusocial insect societies. Co-supervisor: Andy Radford, University of Bristol. NERC Studentship.

Completed Sept 2016. Emily Bell – Phenotypic plasticity and the evolution of castes in eusocial insects. Co-supervisor: Andy Radford,  University of Bristol. NERC Studentship. Now a senior teaching fellow, Univ. Bristol

Completed Sept 2014. Dr Henry Ferguson-Gow, PhD Student – The evolution of social traits and biodiversity in the ants. Funder: NERC CASE Studentship. Co-superviors Prof Andrew Bourke, University of East Anglia, UK & Prof Kate Jones, University College London, UK. NERC CASE Studentship. Now a postdoc in UCL.

Completed Oct 2013 Dr. Thibault Lengronne, PhD Student – Social Dynamics in Paper Wasps: The case of nest-drifting in Polistes canadensis. Co-supervisor Prof Laurent Keller, Lausanne University, Switzerland. Funder: Lausanne University. Now in education.

Completed Sept 2013. Dr Claire Asher, PhD Student – The  Dynamics of Reproductive Dominance in Dinosaur Ants,  Dinoponera quadriceps. Co-supervisor Prof William Hughes, University of Sussex, UK. Funder: NERC CASE Studentship. Now a free-lance science writer.

Masters Students

Sam Morris Genomics of simple social insect societies. Co-supervisor: Dr Andy Radford, University of Bristol. Now a PhD student in UCL.

Ryan Brock – Comparative genomics of social evolution. Co-supervisor: Dr Davide Pisani, University of Bristol. Now a PhD student in UEA<


Research Assistants

Trinidad 2015: Mr Liam Crowley & Mr Sam Morris.- Behavioural genomics of Metapolybia wasps. NERC.

Trinidad 2014: Mr. Joshua Valverde –  Adaptive Value of Males in Primitively Eusocial Insect Societies & Queen Succession Behaviour. NERC & Genetics Society Summer Studentship.

Left Sept 2014: Mr. Chris Wyatt – Evolution of caste social systems using transcriptomics and proteomics. NERC

Panama 2013: Mr. Daniel Fabbro – Phenotypic plasticity and the evolution of castes in eusocial insects. NERC & STRI.

Panama 2012: Dr. Lawrence Bellamy- Phenotypic plasticity and the evolution of castes in eusocial insects. NERC.

Left July 2010: Dr George Busby – Gene expression in castes of primitively eusocial wasps. Funder: L’Oreal for Women in Science

Panama, pre 2010: Dr Daniel Fanelli; Dr Eric Lucas; Dr Hans Kelsrup

Panama 2010: Mr Javier How – Nest drifting in eusocial wasps.

Panama 2010: Dr Roberto Lomabado – Nest drifting in eusocial wasps.