portrait melanie bey

PhD student

Department for Ecology and Evolution
Institute of Biology I (Zoology)
Room 1039
Hauptstraße 1
D-79104 Freiburg

Phone: +49 761 203 2578
Fax: +49 761 203 2544

As a doctoral candidate supervised by Dr. Volker Nehring, I use molecular and behavioral analyses to study ant template encoding processes. This fascinating topic came to me when I first explored the subtleties of chemical recognition among ants. Now, I want to understand how they acquire such olfactory discrimination abilities.Recognition enables ants to build cohesive societies. With this research, I seek to shed light on the proximate mechanisms that make eusociality a stable evolutionary strategy.

Current Project

Social insects cooperate with their nestmates and attack intruders. Based on odours carried by individuals on their cuticles, ants decide whether to collaborate or fight. How can ants know what their nestmates smell like? Are there one or several categories of recognition template? In other words: what is going on in those tiny brains?

In order to study the ontogeny of recognition template acquisition, I examine several species with different social complexity, from leaf-cutting to european ants; using behavioral experiments, pharmacological treatments, transcriptomic and chemical analyses.


  • Since January 2020 – Doctoral candidate – University of Freiburg
  • 2019-2020 – Research Volunteer, Inkavu Vervet Project, South Africa
  • 2016-2018 – MScEthology – University of Paris XIII, France


Trapanese, C., Bey, M., Tonachella, G., Meunier, H., Masi, S., 2019: Prolonged care and cannibalism of infant corpse from relatives in semi-free ranging capuchins. Primates, DOI 10.1007/s10329-019-00747-8

Scientific Presentations

  • “Ontogeny of rescue behaviour in Cataglyphis ursor ants” M.Bey, J.L Durand, E. Nowbahari; International Student Courses in Behavioural Biology, Paris, France, September 2019
  • “Are ant males able to detect gynes?” M.Bey, P.Devienne, F.Savarit; UIEIS, International Union for Socials Insects Studding, Colloquium Paris, France, August, 2017.

Scientific Mediation

  • International science festival Summer Science Factory, Split, Croatia, July, 2018. Organizer: CRI, Paris Descartes university and SSF.
  • Creation and animation of a seven-days workshop “Society, how does it work?” in collaboration with Lena Coutrot, specialized in social psychology.