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Personal profile

Administrative Posts

  • Module organiser, Social Evolution (BIO-6011B) (2008 - 2023)
  • Director of Research, BIO (2017 - 2022)
  • Member, BIO Executive (2017 - 2022)
  • Member, BIO Promotions Committee (2017 - 2022)
  • Deputy Head of School, BIO (2014 - 2017)
  • Coordinator, BIO Open Lectures (2012 - 2017)


My research interests lie in the study of social evolution and in the conservation ecology and genetics of social insects. I obtained my B.A. in Zoology from the University of Cambridge in 1983 and my Ph.D. from the University of Bath in 1987. After a Junior Fellowship at the University of Cambridge, I moved to the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, in 1992. At the Institute of Zoology, I was first a Research Fellow, then a Senior Research Fellow, then (from 2003) a Reader. In 2006, I came to UEA as Professor of Evolutionary Biology. I was an Editor, then Editor-in-Chief, of the journal 'Behavioral Ecology' from 2000 to 2006. As well as research papers, review articles and book chapters, I have authored or coauthored two books, 'Social Evolution in Ants' (with Nigel Franks, 1995, Princeton University Press) and 'Principles of Social Evolution' (2011, Oxford University Press).

Website: http://www.andrewbourke.org



  • 2023 - present: Emeritus Professor, School of Biological Sciences, UEA
  • 2006 - 2023: Professor of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, UEA
  • 2003 - 2006: Reader, Institute of Zoology (IoZ), Zoological Society of London (ZSL)
  • 1992 - 2002: Research Fellow then Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Zoology, ZSL
  • 1988 - 1991: Junior Research Fellow (Jesus College), Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge
  • 1983 - 1987: Ph.D., School of Biological Sciences, University of Bath
  • 1980 - 1983: B.A. (Hons) Zoology, University of Cambridge





Key Research Interests

I am an evolutionary biologist and behavioural ecologist interested in the evolutionary, ecological and genetic basis of social behaviour and in the conservation biology of social insects. Particular research areas and activities include:

  • Empirical studies to test hypotheses from inclusive fitness (kin selection) theory using (primarily) bumble bees
  • Conceptual, synthetic and empirical studies that apply insights from the study of social evolution to related domains, examples being the evolution of ageing and the major transitions in evolution
  • Developing genetic methods for censusing wild populations of bees with a view to aiding conservation initiatives for these threatened pollinators
  • Assessment of agri-environment schemes for bumble bees and the conservation genetics of scarce or declining social insects

We conduct a mixture of laboratory work and field work in the group. For the laboratory work, we either rear our own bumble bee colonies from wild-caught queens or buy in colonies from commercial suppliers, all of which are then maintained under controlled conditions in BIO's Controlled Environment Facility. Our study methods include direct observation and filming to investigate within-nest behaviour and the monitoring of wild-reared bumble bee nests placed outside to look at behaviour in a field setting. They also include microsatellite genotyping to measure within-colony relatedness or to investigate space use by free-flying bees, and qRT-PCR and RNA-Seq to measure gene expression levels. Field techniques include scoring bee biodiversity as a function of landscape features and detailed studies of plant-bee interactions.

We also benefit from the lively and supportive research environment provided by the Organisms and Environment Research Theme, CEEC and BIO as a whole, as well as the wider Norwich Research Park. Each of these organizations runs seminar programs and social events. Everyone in the group is encouraged to attend and present at national and international conferences such as meetings of ASAB, BES, ESEB, ISBE and IUSSI.

Areas of Expertise

Animal behaviour; evolution; ecology; conservation; social insects; ants; bees.

Teaching Interests

My teaching interests include evolutionary biology, behavioural ecology, social evolution and conservation genetics, as well as mathematics and mathematical modelling.

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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