Graduate profile

Nadine Chapman

Nicole Mealing

Nadine graduated with a Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Arts, with Honours in biology.

I studied at the University of Sydney from my undergraduate years through to my PhD. Biology was with me all the way. I flirted briefly with the world of microbiology but ulitmately couldn't resist the lure of behavioural genetics.

I studied worker reproductive parasitism in bees during my PhD - normally the queen lays the eggs deep in a hive, but when a hive has no queen, the worker bees will lay unfertilised eggs which will become males. Sometimes bees from other colonies will try to enter a hive - and when successful, they manage to lay more eggs than the local bees. Where do these foreign bees come from? How do the local bees guard their colony? To answer these questions I colour coded bees to track their movements and used genetics to identify the parents of new offspring.

This project took me to Thailand and India. I've had local communities become involved in my research, offering to cut down hives from the top of trees. I've been caught out in monsoonal rains that quickly changed woodlands into lakes. Every day in the field is an adventure.

I love social insects. It's a puzzle to discover how they organise complex behaviour in a hive. We can take what we learn from the activity of social insects and extrapolate to mathematical models of human behaviour or use what we know about their vision - how they navigate and how they land - to design unmanned aircraft. What more can we learn from these microcosms of our larger complex world?

Part of the great thing about biology is passing on what I have learnt to others. Conferences are always great fun. I also demonstrate in the labs for first, second and third year biology students - I find this rewarding and relish the opportunity to help someone understand a difficult or challenging topic.

I'm going on to Imperial University College London to study mate choice in stalk-eyed flies. This time I will investigate what features stalk-eyed flies find attractive in their mates, how this interacts with the environment and the genetics behind this behaviour. These flies are native to Africa so I'll have to wait and see if I'll be packing my bags and off to explore another continent.