Bee declines are of enormous societal relevance given the central role of bees as pollinators in both natural ecosystems and in human agricultural enterprise. Our work addresses topics such as the effects of land-use change on bee communities, the impacts of bee species losses on plant pollination in diverse natural communities, the conservation and landscape genetics of bees, and understanding and managing disease threats in bees
Pollinator Diversity and Foraging Specialization
With funding from the NSF, we are studying changes in bee foraging behavior driven by pollinator species losses and the impacts of such changes on native plant pollination. Our manipulative field experiments are based at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab, and we also conduct controlled foraging experiments in the lab. Honorary lab member Heather Briggs (UC-Santa Cruz) is a collaborator on this work.
Carolyn Ayers is conducting controlled foraging trials in the lab which focus on the effects of field-realistic sub-lethal pesticide exposure on bee foraging behavior.
Landscape Ecology of Bees in Fragmented Habitats
With funding from the USDA, we are working in partnership with the University of Florida on a multi-year study which assesses the impact of pine plantation management for biofuels production in the American southeast.
We are also surveying bees in community gardens of Atlanta and on the Atlanta Beltline to assess the land-use impact of these projects and their accompanying pollinator plantings.
Much of our past work has focuses on the effects of landscape management on bee diversity, abundance, and community composition in a heavily deforested but heterogenously managed landscape in Costa Rica surrounding the Las Cruces Biological Station. Work continues using the large dataset and several thousand strong specimen collection generated from these studies.
Bee Disease Ecology
With funding from the US Department of Agriculture, we are investigating the evolutionary drivers of virulence in the most important honey bee parasite worldwide, the mite Varroa destructor, in collaboration with Keith Delaplane (University of Georgia) and Jaap De Roode (Emory University).
DNA Barcoding of Pollen
With funding from the Army Research office, we are developing methodology for DNA barcoding of pollen. Dr. Karen Bell is leading this project.