Dr. Gabriel Villar
Post doctoral scholar
I earned my B.S. in Entomology at Cornell University, where I began to pursue research in neuroethology and sensory biology in the Hoy Lab (https://hoylab.wordpress.com), by tracing the neural targets of auditory mechanoreceptors in a jumping spider. After graduating, I served as the Project Manager of the Animal Models research division at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University (http://cii.columbia.edu). There, my team and I pursued studies to identify immune pathways that allow viruses to damage the nervous system and which we showed to ultimately adversely impact the emergence of social behavior using mouse models of neuropsychiatric disorders. I subsequently earned my doctoral degree in Entomology in the Grozinger Lab (http://grozingerlab.com) at Pennsylvania State University, as a dual fellow (USDA Predoctoral Fellow, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow), where I merged studies in chemical ecology and neuroethology to further characterize the pheromone-mediated mechanisms underlying social organization in the honey bee. My dissertation and postdoctoral research is rooted in the premise that behavior is orchestrated by the integration of sensory, processing, and motor pathways, and that distinct behaviors may arise and be regulated as a result of the modification or modulation of these pathways. My investigations focus on identifying the proximate mechanisms mediating social organization and reproductive odor-mediated behavior in the honey bee, the imported fire ant, bumble bees, and other species by employing a variety of molecular, neurophysiological, analytical chemistry, and behavioral techniques and paradigms.
Ongoing Research: Evolution of Dufour’s Gland Social Signals in Bees
My work in the Amsalem Lab aims to understand how social chemical signals in Bombus impatiens (the common eastern bumble bee) evolved from their rudimentary, non-communicative functions in their solitary relatives/ancestors. Currently, I’m using the Dufour’s gland and its associated chemistry as my study system due to its well-established diversity of function across multiple bee taxa, which coincidentally also display a broad range of social organization (from solitary to advanced sociality). Currently, we are implementing molecular, behavioral, physiological and analytical techniques to identify the proximate mechanisms that may be responsible for mediating and supporting evolutionary transitions, from functional to communicative, of Dufour’s gland compounds in bees.