Ysabel Giraldo

Research interests

I am fascinated by insect behavior and seek to understand its underlying neural mechanisms with a neuroethological approach. In other words, I believe that analyzing behavior considering the animal’s ecology and evolutionary history can lead to insights into how nervous systems have evolved.  My research focuses on navigation behavior in Drosophila, as this presents a rich system to explore a complex behavior and identify underlying neural mechanisms.

Navigation is essential for animals to move through their environment as they look for food, mates, and suitable habitats.  It is also complex – involving multimodal sensory integration and in some cases memory of a home site or migratory location.  Decades of interest in insect navigation, highlighted by some charismatic animals such as monarch butterflies and honey bees, have taught us a great deal about how insects use environmental cues, particularly celestial cues such as the position of the sun or polarization pattern of skylight, as well as identified neurons involved that allow these animals to navigate.


Warren, T.M., Giraldo, Y.M., and M. H. Dickinson. 2018. Celestial navigation in Drosophila. Journal of Experimental Biology. Accepted.

Giraldo, Y.M., Leitch, K. J., Ros, I. G., Warren, T. L., Weir, P. T., and M. H. Dickinson. 2018. Sun navigation requires compass neurons in Drosophila. Current Biology. 28 (17): P2845-2852.E4.

Giraldo, Y.M., Rusakov, A., Diloreto, A., Kordek, A., and J. F. A. Traniello. 2016. Age, worksite location, neuromodulators, and task performance in the ant Pheidole dentata. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 70 (9): 1441–1455.

Giraldo, Y.M., Kamhi, J.F., Fourcassie, V., Moreau, M., Robson, S.K.A., Rusakov, A., Wimberly, L., Diloreto, A., Kordek, A., and J.F.A. Traniello. 2016. Lifespan behavioral and neural resilience in a social insect. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 283 (1822): 20152603.

Giraldo, Y.M. and J.F.A. Traniello. 2014. Worker senescence and the sociobiology of aging in ants. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 68 (12): 1901-1919.

Giraldo, Y.M., Patel, E., Gronenberg, W., and J.F.A. Traniello. 2013. Division of labor and structural plasticity in an extrinsic serotonergic mushroom body neuron in the ant Pheidole dentata. Neuroscience Letters. 534: 107-111.

Russell, J.A., Funaro, C.F., Giraldo, Y.M., Goldman-Huertas, B., Suh, D., Kronauer, D.J.C., Moreau, C.S. and N. E. Pierce. 2012. A veritable menagerie of heritable bacteria from ants, moths, butterflies and beyond. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51027.

Milton, Y. and Kaspari, M. 2007. Bottom-up and top-down regulation of decomposition in a tropical forest. Oecologia 153: 163-172.


Ph.D. in Biology, 2014, Boston University

B.S. in Zoology, 2005, University of Oklahoma



ygiraldo (at) caltech.edu