John M. Townsend-Mehler

Department of Zoology


Ecology, Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Program


Specialization in Cognitive Science




John M. Townsend-Mehler

Department of Zoology, 203 Natural Science Building

Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1115

(517) 355-4640 w




                 Ph.D. in Zoology                                                                                                        May 2010

                 Major:  Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior

                 Specialization:  Cognitive Science                   

Successfully defended dissertation                                                                         Dec. 2009             

Dissertation Title:  Decision-Making in a Changing Environment:  Foraging behavior in bees as they respond to shifts in resource distribution

                 Advisor:  Dr. Fred Dyer

                 Michigan State University


                 B.S. Biology

                 Montana State University                                                                                         May 2001


                 B.A. Sociology/Anthropology

                 Earlham College                                                                                                           May 1992




                 Doctoral Research                                                                                                      2002-2010

Michigan State University                                                                                                                                        

My research examines foraging behavior in both bumblebees and honeybees, and focuses on how individual foragers respond to shifts in resource availability and how these individual level responses are likely to have been shaped by colony-level characteristics.  To complete this research I

Worked independently gathering, analyzing, and interpreting data

Gained extensive experience with both statistical (SPSS and R) behavioral analysis software (JWatcher)

Became proficient at managing bees (both Apis mellifera and Bombus impatiens)

Developed a strong knowledge of how to implement rigorous scientific methodology

Consistently managed a group of undergraduate field assistants and helped to oversee their training in both data collection and hive maintenance


Field Assistant,

Montana State University                                                                                         1999-2001

Graduate Student Supervisor:  Lee VanWychen

This research focused on weed ecology of dry-land farming in Montana.  During this time I

Collected and analyzed plant specimens from multiple field sites

Compiled and organized data

Maintained and operated lab equipment




                 College of Natural Science Summer Support Fellowship                              2008

                 EEBB Summer Fellowship                                                                                  2008

                 NSF IGERT Fellowship in Cognitive Science                                                  2007 - 08

                 NSF IGERT Fellowship in Cognitive Science                                                  2002 - 04

                 Graduated with highest honors from Montana State University  2000



Townsend-Mehler, J.M. & Dyer, F.C., An integrated look at the decision-making of bees in their search for food, (submitted to Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Feb 2010).

Townsend-Mehler, J.M., Dyer, F.C., Maida, K.B., Downshifts in reward and the subsequent transition from exploitation to exploration in bumblebees and honeybees, (in prep)

Townsend-Mehler, J.M. & Dyer, F.C., A functional account of negative incentive contrast effects in honeybees, (in prep).



                 Meeting of the Animal Behavior Society, Burlington VT                                 2007

         Title: Patch departure in a wider behavioral context: A comparison of individual foraging decisions in bumblebees and honeybees.


IUSSI, Washington D.C.                                                                                          2006

         Title:  Bumblebees and Honeybees: A Comparison of Individual Foraging Decisions in a Changing Environment


         Conference on Comparative Cognition, Melbourne Beach, FL                        2006

         Title:  Incentive contrast in honeybees and bumblebees.



                 Brain and Behavior Group (Michigan State)                                                        2009

                 Cognitive Forum (Michigan State)                                                                        2008       

Behavioral Ecology course lecture (Michigan State)                                          2008

Brain and Behavior Group (Michigan State)                                                         2007

Introduction to Animal Behavior course lecture (Michigan State)                   2007




                 Teaching Assistant

Integrative studies in Biology (Michigan State)                                  Spring 2010

Invertebrate Zoology (Michigan State)                                                   Fall    2009

                 Integrative Studies in Biology (Michigan State)                                              2007-09

                 Evolution (Michigan State)                                                                       Fall    2006

Introduction to Biological Science (Michigan State)               Spring & Fall 2004

Introduction to Physics (Montana State)                                 Spring & Fall  2001




Since the summer of 2002, I have trained and mentored over 20 undergraduate field assistants.



                 Comparative Cognition Society

                 Animal Behavior Society



                 Graduate Employee Union, Zoology Dept. Steward                                       2007-08

Dean’s Student Advisory Committee                                                                2009

Excellence in Teaching Citations Committee                                                    2009




                 Dr. Fred C. Dyer (Advisor)

                 Zoology Department Chair

                 Michigan State University


                 (517) 353-9864


                 Dr. Rufus Isaacs (Graduate Committee Member)

                 Associate Professor

                 Entomology Department

                 Michigan State University


                 (517) 355-6619


                 Dr. Erik Altmann (Graduate Committee Member)

                 Associate Professor

                 Department of Psychology

                 Michigan State University