About Sarah Kocher's Work
I want to understand the genetic and neurobiological mechanisms that have enabled social living. My research takes advantage of naturally occurring behavioral variation in sweat bees, where some species live and reproduce alone while others reproduce as a social unit. Throughout evolution, these bees repeatedly gained and lost sociality, ultimately resulting in many closely related yet behaviorally variable species. Through this comparative lens, we can examine the genetic factors that shape variation in social behavior within and among species and link these genetic changes with neurobiological and behavioral traits. My work traverses different levels of biological complexity, from genes to brains to behavior to gain a comprehensive understanding of the factors that shape the evolution of the ‘social brain’. It can generate major inroads into our understanding of the factors that influence the emergence and breakdown of social living in many species, from insects to vertebrates.