Helms/Helms Cahan Research Laboratory at the University of Vermont

Welcome to the Helms-Cahan laboratory website!


In our lab, we investigate the origins, evolution, and mechanisms underlying social behaviors in the social Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps). This group displays a surprising array of social structures, from simple, temporary groups to large, perennial colonies with complex morphological and behavioral specialization. Our research integrates field ecology with molecular tools, which allow us to reconstruct historical patterns and processes as well as to link individual and colony phenotypes to the genes and molecular pathways that underlie their expression. While we make extensive use of modern techniques from fields such as molecular genetics, genomics, phylogeography, and geographic information systems, our research is grounded in the importance of understanding the natural history of species in their environment.


Undergraduate Research


Headshot photo Kit Leferve is a senior at the University of Vermont who is studying the effects of Juvenile Hormone on foraging behavior in Harvester ants. Furthermore, he is woking to quantify expression of foraging genes post Juvenile Hormone treatment versus a control group. Click here to read Kits abstract and learn more about his goals for the future.


Graduate and Undergraduate Research

We have an active, diverse lab of post-docs, graduate students and undergraduates. Our students have worked on a broad array of evolutionary and ecological projects, including chemical communication, host-pathogen coevolution, body size evolution, biogeography, systematics, and molecular evolution.