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Dr. Jessica Purcell

I am fascinated by the evolution of many diverse and unique social systems in a wide range of organisms. In my research, I take advantage of natural variation in social behavior in order to try to understand the selective pressures that favor different social strategies. These differences may occur along altitudinal and latitudinal gradients, as in the social and subsocial Anelosimus spiders that I studied as a PhD student, or they may occur within a single habitat or even within a single population, as in the socially polymorphic Formica selysi ants that I am currently investigating during my postdoc. In particular, I have identified and manipulated ecological factors that may influence social structure in both organisms. These factors include rainfall and predator abundance in the tropical Anelosimus species, and the frequency of floods and susceptibility to pathogens in the temperate Formica ants.

2010 Postdoc
Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne.
Advisor: Michel Chapuisat

2009 Postdoc and Lecturer
Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia.
Advisor: Leticia Avilés

2004-2009 Ph.D.
Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia.
Advisor: Leticia Avilés
Dissertation: “Ecological influences and the biogeographic distribution of sociality in Anelosimus spiders”

2003-2004 Research Intern
Theoretical Ecology Department, Lund University.
Advisor: Anders Brodin

2002-2003 Fulbright Research Fellow in Bolivia.
1998-2002 B.A. cum laude, with honours in Biology
Biology and History, Williams College.

2015 |  2014 |  2013 |  2012 |  2011 |  2008 |  2007 |  2004 | 

Purcell J., Pellissier L., Chapuisat M., 2015. Social structure varies with elevation in an Alpine ant. Molecular Ecology 24(2) pp. 498-507. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Kocher S.D., Pellissier L., Veller C., Purcell J., Nowak M.A., Chapuisat M., Pierce N.E., 2014. Transitions in social complexity along elevational gradients reveal a combined impact of season length and development time on social evolution. Proceedings of the Royal Society. B Biological Sciences 281(1787) p. 20140627. [embargo 01/06/2015] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Purcell J., Avril A., Jaffuel G., Bates S., Chapuisat M., 2014. Ant brood function as life preservers during floods. PLoS One 9(2) pp. e89211. [Document] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Purcell J., Brelsford A., Wurm Y., Perrin N., Chapuisat M., 2014. Convergent genetic architecture underlies social organization in ants. Current Biology 24(22) pp. 2728-2732. [embargo 01/11/2015] [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Purcell J., Chapuisat M., 2014. Foster carers influence brood pathogen resistance in ants. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences 281(1792) p. 20141338. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Rasmann S., Buri A., Gallot-Lavallée M., Joaquim J., Purcell J., Pellissier L., 2014. Differential allocation and deployment of direct and indirect defences by Vicia sepium along elevation gradients. Journal of Ecology 102(4) pp. 930-938. [DOI] [Web of Science]
Purcell J., Chapuisat M., 2013. Bidirectional shifts in colony queen number in a socially polymorphic ant population. Evolution 67(4) pp. 1169-1180. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Reymond A., Purcell J., Cherix D., Guisan A., Pellissier L., 2013. Functional diversity decreases with temperature in high elevation ant fauna. Ecological Entomology 38(4) pp. 364-373. [DOI] [Web of Science]
Avilés L., Purcell J., 2012. The evolution of inbred social systems in spiders and other organisms: from short-term gains to long-term evolutionary dead-ends? pp. 99-133 in Brockmann H.J., Roper T.J., Naguib M., Mitani J.C., Simmons L.W. (eds.) Advances in the Study of Behavior. Elsevier. [DOI] [Web of Science]
Purcell J., Brelsford A., Avilés L., 2012. Co-evolution between sociality and dispersal: The role of synergistic cooperative benefits. Journal of Theoretical Biology 312C pp. 44-54. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Purcell J., Brütsch T., Chapuisat M., 2012. Effects of the social environment on the survival and fungal resistance of ant brood. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 66(3) pp. 467-474. [DOI] [Web of Science]
Purcell J., Vasconcellos-Neto J., Gonzaga M.O., Fletcher J.A., Avilés L., 2012. Spatio-temporal differentiation and sociality in spiders. PLoS One 7(4) pp. e34592. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Avilés L, Purcell J, 2011. Anelosimus oritoyacu, a cloud forest social spider with only slightly female-biased primary sex ratios. Journal of Arachnology 39 pp. 178-182. [DOI]
Purcell J., 2011. Geographic patterns in the distribution of social systems in terrestrial arthropods. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 86(2) pp. 475-491. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Reber A., Purcell J., Buechel S.D., Buri P., Chapuisat M., 2011. The expression and impact of antifungal grooming in ants. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24(5) pp. 954-964. [DOI] [Web of Science] [Pubmed]
Avilés L., Agnarsson I., Salazar P., Purcell J., Iturralde G., Yip E., Powers K.S., 2007. Altitudinal patterns of spider sociality and the biology of a new mid-elevation social Anelosimus species in Ecuador. American Naturalist 170 pp. 783-792.
Purcell J, Brodin A, 2007. Factors influencing route choice by avian migrants: A dynamic programming model of Pacific brant migration. Journal of Theoretical Biology 249 pp. 804-816.
Purcell J., Avilés L., 2007. Smaller colonies and more solitary living mark higher elevation populations of a social spider. Journal of Animal Ecology 76 pp. 783-792.
Purcell J., Brelsford A., 2004. Reassessing the causes of decline of Polylepis, a tropical subalpine woodland. Ecotropica 10 pp. 155-158.
Purcell J., Brelsford A., Kessler M., 2004. The world's highest forest. American Scientist 92 pp. 454-464.


Office room: 3206.1
Phone.: +4121 692 4206
Fax: +4121 692 4165

Member of Chapuisat group

Biophore - CH-1015 Lausanne  - Switzerland  -  Tel. +41 21 692 41 60  -  Fax +41 21 692 41 65
Swiss University