Krista Ingram - Biology Faculty at Colgate University

Colgate Directory

Krista Ingram

Krista Ingram

Associate Professor of Biology; Chair, Department of Biology
Biology, 213 Olin Hall
p 315-228-7797


BA, Dartmouth College, 1994; PhD, Harvard University, 2000


Research interests include social behavior, molecular ecology, tropical conservation genetics, and comparative sociogenomics.

Teaching interests include animal behavior, evolutionary biology, molecular ecology and the evolution of social behavior.

My Research

Project #1: Task Specific Gene Expression: Development and Behavior of Social Insects
The main research focus of my laboratory is to use ant colonies as model systems to study one of the central questions concerning the integration of complex biological systems, i.e. how do individuals organize local information and alter behavior in response? The advent of genomic technology and its application to non-model organisms has opened exciting research opportunities in behavioral genetics, particularly in comparative sociogenomics. We study the molecular basis of task allocation in ant colonies by assaying gene expression between workers exhibiting different task behaviors. This gene expression project has two main goals:
  1. Identify target genes differentially expressed in ant workers exhibiting different task behaviors.
  2. Design experiments to study modulation of task-specific gene expression using target genes via manipulation of environmental or social cues.Currently, we are focusing on two target genes, outlined below.
Currently, we are focusing on two target genes, outlined below.

We are currently using the target gene approach to study the unique task-specific expression of a gene called foraging (for) in harvester ants. We are exploring explanations for this unique expression pattern by studying workers of different ages (developmental differences) and tasks (behavioral differences). Foraging is a protein kinase gene associated with foraging behavior in D. melanogaster and the honey bee. We are exploring expression patterns of this gene by studying workers of different ages (developmental differences) and tasks (behavioral differences).

We have also characterized the circadian rhythm gene called period (per), in harvester ants. The behavior of harvester ant colonies is regulated by daily behavioral patterns of workers. Tasks that occur outside the nest are regulated by day length and temperature, but inside tasks are not. Because so much is known about the circadian clock regulation pathway in insects, this gene has exciting prospects for experimental studies of ant behavior. Regulation of the circadian clock can be affected by the expression of per, by the rate of decay of per mRNA, or (for some insects) by changes in the ratio of different per types. Our data from laboratory and field colonies show that workers within the nest have different daily patterns of per expression than workers with outside tasks (Ingram, K. K., M. LeRoux, S. Krummey, 2011). Thus, the period gene and the circadian clock mechanism play a role in evolution of task allocation in ants. The finding that ants and bees show a similar developmental pattern of the onset of circadian rhythms suggests that there has been conservation in the molecular mechanisms regulating the evolution of division of labor and social organization across eusocial insects.

We recently characterized the other major genes (cryptochrome and clock) in the circadian pathway of ants to determine that ants (which evolved eusociality independently of bees) also have a mammalian-like clock. We aim to use the expression pattern of these clock genes in experimental studies to determine how ecological factors in the environment (such as food availability, day length) may provide cues for the regulation of behavioral genes.

Project #2: Timing is Everything:The influence of circadian rhythms and gene by environment interactions on test performance and risk-taking in humans
In collaboration with Neil Bearden (INSEAD, Singapore), Allan Filipowicz (Johnson School of Business, Cornell University) and Kriti Jain (IE Business School, Madrid), we will investigate the influence of circadian rhythms and gene by environment interactions on human task performance and risky decision-making. Circadian rhythms are one of the major drivers of human behaviors. Even small disruptions in circadian timing (jetlag or daylight savings time changes) can lead to declines in performance (e.g. traffic accidents or lower stock market returns), yet little is known about whether the associations found in human performance and circadian rhythms have a genetic basis, are influenced by the environment, or both (gene by environment interaction). The research team will integrate genetic analyses with psychological measures and behavioral tasks to investigate how an individual’s cognitive performance (as assessed by graduate school exams) and risk preferences (as assessed by risky decision-making tasks) are related to the time the task is performed and their chronotype, genotype and expression profile. This interdisciplinary endeavor explores a novel, exciting area of study in human sociogenomics, the molecular basis for human performance and risky decision-making.

Selected Publications

*undergraduate student co-author
  • Ingram, K. K. A. Ay, S. B. Kwon*, K. Woods, S. Escobar*, M. Gordon*, I. H Smith, N. Bearden, A. Filipowicz, K. Jain. (2016) Molecular insights into chronotype and time of day effects on decision-making. Sci. Rep. 6, 29392; doi: 10.1038/srep29392
  • Silberman, R*., Gordon, D*, K. K. Ingram. (2016) Nutrient stores predict task behaviors in ants. Insectes Sociaux. 63(2):299-307. Doi: 10.1007/s00040-016-0469-z
  • Ferrante, A*., D. Gellerman*, K.P. Woods, A. Filipowicz, K. Jain, N. Bearden, K. K. Ingram (2015) Diurnal preference predicts phase differences in expression of human peripheral circadian clock genes. Journal of Circadian Rhythms. 13, p.Art. 4. DOI:
  • Ingram, K.K., A.Pilko, J. Heer , D. M. Gordon. (2013) Colony life history and lifetime reproductive success of red harvester ant colonies. Journal of Animal Ecology 82(3):1365-2656
  • Ingram, K.K., A. Kuotowi, Y. Wurm, D. Shoemaker, R. Meier, G. Bloch. (2012) The
    molecular clockwork of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta. PLoS ONE. 7(11): e45715. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045715
  • Wurm, Y., J. Wang, R, O. Riba-Grognuz, M. Corona, K.K. Ingram, et al. (2011) The
    genome of the fire ant, Solenopsis invicta. Proceedings of the National Academy USA. Apr 5;108(14):5679-84. Epub 2011 Jan 31. PMID: 21282665



Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute: co-PI on grant to study 'Timing is Everything: The influence of circadian rhythms and gene by environment interactions on test performance and risk-taking in humans' Colgate University


Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute:  co-PI on collaborative grant entitled, 'Sociogenomics of circadian rhythms and task behavior in ants', Colgate University $78,476)


NSF-DBI – Major Research Instrumentation:  co-PI on grant for the acquisition of a laser-scanning confocal microscope for multi-disciplinary research at Colgate University  ($487,262)


National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation: PI on grant awarded to establish a genomics center at Colgate University ($118,519)


Singapore Ministry of Education: Member of collaborative conservation research grant with the National University of Singapore to study speciation patterns in Southeast Asia. ($678,911)