Bronwyn H. Bleakley
Assistant Professor of Biology
B.S., 1997, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona.
Ph.D., 2007 Biology (program in Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior), Indiana University.
Area Certificate in Animal Behavior, 2007, Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior, Indiana University.
Phone: (508) 565-1590
Office: Shields Science Center, 106
Lab: Shields Science Center, 120
Bleakley comes to Stonehill from Smith College where she served as a lecturer in genetics (2009-10). Prior to that, she was a National Science Foundation (NSF) international research fellow based jointly at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at University of Exeter, Cornwall and Northern Arizona University. Her teaching appointments have included stints at the University of Virginia, Indiana University, and the University of Arizona.
In 2007, Bleakley received the William J. Rowland Mentor of the Year and Outstanding Associate Instructor of the Year Awards at Indiana University. Bleakley’s research focuses on the evolutionary genetics of social behavior. She uses inbred and wild lines of guppies to explore how the genetic component of the social environment influences antipredator behavior and cooperation. She also uses invertebrates to understand the genetics of cannibalism and how social selection acts on cannibalism. She is planning projects exploring how genetic variation interacts with social organization to influence behavior. These projects were supported by the National Science Foundation and Animal Behavior Society.
Indirect genetic effects (IGEs), the impacts on an individual’s phenotype by genes carried in its social partners, provide a powerful framework for understanding how interacting traits may be generated and evolve. While selection acts on individuals, if IGEs impact an individual’s phenotype, how the individual experiences selection is also a function of genes carried in social partners. Predicting the outcome of selection operating on interacting phenotypes therefore requires information about the composition of the social group in which an individual is behaving.
My work to date has focused on quantifying where the relevant genetic variation underlying guppy antipredator and social behavior resides: in the individual or its social group. I have utilized a variety of empirical techniques including classical quantitative genetics, behavioral studies, genotyping using microsatellite markers, and field work to do so. Guppies respond strongly to the specific social context they are placed in (Bleakley et al. J. Evol. Bio. 2007). Using inbred lines I developed (Bleakley et al. Behav. Gen. 2006, Zebrafish 2008), I demonstrated that guppies significantly alter their behavior in response to the genetic composition of their social group, providing some of the first empirical measurements of the strength of such genetic interactions between individuals and generating a hypothesis for how reciprocal cooperation may evolve in unrelated individuals (Bleakley and Brodie Evol. 2009).