Wild bees are critical for the healthy functioning of natural and agricultural ecosystems because of their role as pollinators. The nutrient rich provision mass of pollen and nectar that provides the base of all larval bee nutrition also acts as a substrate for an incredible diversity of microbes, i.e. bacteria and fungi, which play largely unknown roles. Recent work has focused on the effects of pathogens as a major source of colony mortality for managed bees in agricultural settings. We know comparably little about the microbial communities inhabiting solitary bee nests. Likewise, there is increasing evidence that some bees benefit from mutualistic microbes that inhabit their pollen/nectar provisions.
My current work in this area focuses on studying the community ecology of microbes associated with bee nests, particularly how they vary across space and time, and how the community is impacted by various landscape factors.
My current work in this area focuses on the hoary squash bee Peponapis pruinosa in New York state. This bee is an ideal study species as nests can be easily excavated and the pollen/nectar provisions collected and screened for the presence of pathogenic and mutualistic bacteria and fungi.
In the Spring of 2017,
I was a finalist in Cornell University's 3-Minute Thesis Competition. Watch the video here!