Gene Robinson, Swanlund Chair of entomology and neuroscience and director of the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois, is the recipient of the Animal Behavior Society's 2013 Distinguished Animal Behaviorist award.
Robinson is best known for his studies of the mechanisms and evolution of social behavior in the Western honey bee. He has led the field in developing a paradigm that integrates behavioral studies, endocrinology, neuroscience, genomics and evolution to explore various types of social behavior including aggression, communication, and socially regulated behavioral maturation.
"More generally, my laboratory is interested in understanding the complex relationships between genes and social behavior, that is how do genes influence neural function to affect behavior, and in turn, how does the social environment "get under the skin" to affect the genome, the brain and the resulting behavior," Robinson said. "Genomics provides powerful resources for this endeavor, and we are careful to stay abreast of the latest developments so we can employ the best technologies to address these key questions."
During his career, Robinson has authored or co-authored more than 250 publications, and he led the effort to sequence the honey bee genome.
"Robinson is the very best kind of scientist. He asks and answers big questions in behavior. He brings to bear a broad variety of tools and levels of investigation. He mentors others carefully so they flourish after they leave his group," wrote Joan E. Strassmann, professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis and former president of the Animal Behavior Society in her nominating letter for Robinson. "What he has done is more than just create innovative structures for all to research bees. He has personally greatly advanced the field of behavior with his own research," Strassmann said.
As part of his award, on August 1, Robinson will present a plenary talk at the 50th Annual Conference of the Animal Behavior Society in Boulder, Colorado.
Robinson is a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society, and has previously been honored as a University Scholar, member of the Center for Advanced Study, Fulbright Fellow and a Guggenheim Fellow. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2005, and in 2009, he received the National Institutes of Health Pioneer Award.
The Animal Behavior Society was founded in 1964 to advocate for the study of animal behavior in both the field and the laboratory. The 50th Annual Conference of the Animal Behavior Society will take place from July 28 to August 1. The society has awarded the Distinguished Animal Behaviorist Award since 1992 in recognition of scientists' "outstanding lifetime achievement in research." Past winners include William D. Hamilton, Edward O. Wilson, and Richard Dawkins.