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Faculty Profile

Blaine ColeBlaine Cole

Professor
Department of Biology and Biochemistry

Office: Science & Research 2, 321G
Contact: bcole@uh.edu - (713) 743-2679

Education: Ph.D., Princeton University

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Dr. Blaine Cole’s research interests are at the interface of evolution, ecology and behavior. One of the major problems in evolutionary biology concerns the evolution of social groups. Cole’s research is in several areas involving the evolution of social behavior including the behavioral and genetic prerequisites for group living and the functional consequences of living in groups. The organisms that he uses for studies of social behavior are the social insects, particularly the ants. Ants provide thousands of social species, many of which can be kept under controlled laboratory conditions, and manipulated to answer questions about social behavior.

Evolutionary Ecology of Harvester Ants

Cole, in collaboration with Diane Wiernasz, studies the population biology of a desert harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex occidentalis. They are combining a long-term ecological study of this population with detailed analysis of the ecology, genetics, and reproductive biology. Their long-term goal is to provide one of the most complete pictures of the population biology of an ant species. These studies of harvester ants fall into several broad areas involved with measuring the components of fitness and quantifying selection in this natural population. For example the problem of reproductive allocation is influenced by the effects of body size on fitness, sex ratios and the relative values of growth and survival in colonies. In one current project they are studying how the genetic makeup of colonies generates a link between the timing of activity and foraging success, colony growth and ultimately colony fitness. They combine field experiments with longitudinal field studies, laboratory behavioral observations and genetic analyses to gain a complete picture of this species.