“Honeybee Democracy” scholar to deliver G.R.E.A.T. Day keynote address

Thomas Seeley, professor of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University, will deliver the keynote address for Geneseo's fifth annual G.R.E.A.T. Day on April 12.

His address, titled "Honeybee Democracy," will be this year's Jack and Carol Kramer Endowed Lectureship.

The address will focus on the ways in which honeybee hives make decisions collectively and democratically and specifically how they seek out, build and move to a new nesting site. Seeley will describe how bees evaluate potential nesting sites, choose a final location and navigate there as a group. The address will also touch upon what honeybees can teach humans about group decision-making, specifically about the qualities that are essential for a group to be successful.

Seeley began studying honeybee colonies as a high school student in Ithaca, N.Y. He attended Dartmouth College starting in 1970, but continued his bee studies during summer breaks while working at the Dyce Laboratory for Honey Bee Studies at Cornell University. Seeley went on to graduate school at Harvard University where he continued to research bees, earning his Ph.D. in 1978. After teaching at Yale for six years, he moved back to Ithaca in 1986 to teach at Cornell University.

Seeley has written three books on the internal organization of honeybee colonies; his latest book Honeybee Democracy was published in 2010. He is a recipient of the Senior Scientist Prize of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was elected to be a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

George Briggs, chair of the biology department at Geneseo, recommended Seeley for the address.

"He's really brilliant … He really knows his stuff," Briggs said. "I thought he was a great choice. He's in an area that I think has interest to a wide range. It's not just biology, it overlaps with psychology."

Briggs and Seeley worked together at Cranberry Lake Biological Station, run by the State University of New York Environmental Sciences and Forestry School where Briggs was a teacher and Seeley was conducting research.

"One of the reasons why he knows so much is he's a great listener," Briggs said. "He thinks about stuff."

Seeley's address will begin at 1:45 p.m. in Wadsworth Auditorium.