- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Take the nectar of the sticky monkeyflower, Mimulus auranticus.
UC Davis community ecologist Rachel Vannette and colleague Tadashi Fukami of Stanford University decided to examine microbial communities inhabiting the nectar of the sticky monkeyflower at the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve in California's Santa Cruz Mountains.
Their paper, "Dispersal Enchances Beta Diversity in Nectar Microbes," published in Ecology Letters, revealed that contrary to popular assumption, “increased dispersal among habitats can actually increase biodiversity rather than decrease it."
The flower, in the family Phrymacease, is a native shrub common in chaparral and coastal scrub habitats of California and Oregon. It is primarily pollinated by Anna's hummingbird. Other common pollinators include bumble bees, carpenter bees, and thrips.
Dispersal is considered a key driver of beta diversity, which is “the variation in species composition among local communities,” Vannette said.
They are the first to publish work showing that increased dispersal can increase biodiversity.
In their experiment, they reduced natural rates of dispersal by eliminating multiple modes of microbial dispersal. “Specifically we focused in nectar-inhabiting bacteria and yeasts that are dispersed among flowers by wind, insects and birds,” they said. “We imposed dispersal limitation on individual flowers and quantified microbial abundance, species composition and microbial effects on nectar chemistry.”
This work has direct implications for conservation of many organisms in addition to bacteria and yeast, suggesting that preserving routes of dispersal among habitat patches may be important in the maintenance of biodiversity. In contrast to previous work showing that dispersal can homogenize communities or make them more similar, the published work demonstrates that dispersal can in some cases generate communities that are more different from each other. The authors hypothesize that this could be driven by priority effects, where early arriving species change the species that can establish within that habitat.
More broadly, “Studying the role of microbes in the environment addresses one of the biggest mysteries in science,” Vannette says. In her current work, she and her lab are investigating how microbial communities form, change, and function in their interactions with insects and plants. They are also researching how microorganisms affect plant defense against herbivores and plant attraction to pollinators.
Vannette, a former postdoctoral fellow at Stanford, joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty as an assistant professor in 2015.
Vannette's research was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through the Life Sciences Research Fellowship. Stanford also funded the research through grants from the National Science Foundation, the Terman Fellowship, and the Department of Biology at Stanford University.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The event, open to the public, is set from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 7 in the UC Davis Conference Center on Alumni Lane. It will be hosted by the Honey and Pollination Center of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Keynoting the symposium will be Yves Le Conte, director, French National Bee Lab, Avignon, France; and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership.
Among the highlights:
9 a.m. Amina Harris, director of the Honey and Pollination Center, and Neal Williams, associate professor of the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the center's co-faculty director, will welcome the crowd and introduce the speakers.
9:15 a.m. Yves Le Conte will speak on "Honey Bees that Survive Varroa Mite in the World: What Can We Learn from the French Bees"
10:15: Rachel Vannette will discuss "How Microbial Communities in Floral Nectar Influence Pollinator Preference and Foraging"
11:15: Claire Kremen will cover "Rediversifying Intensive Agricultural Landscapes to Promote Native Pollinators."
1:30 p.m.: Dennis van Engelsdorp will speak on "Reducing Colony Losses: Does It Take a Village?"
2:15 p.m.: Lightning Round Talks: Six-minute presentations about many different programs in the world of beekeeping
3:30 p.m.: Brian Johnson will discuss "The Importance of Division of Labor for Understanding Colony Health."
4 p.m.: Quinn McFrederick will speak on "The Bee Microblome."
In addition, a graduate student poster display and competition will take place, with the winners announced at 4:30 p.m. First place is $1000; second, $750; third, $500, and fourth, $250. A closing reception follows at 4:45 in the Good Life Garden at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science on Old Davis Road.
Harris promises a rewarding and educational symposium. Comments from last year's symposium included:
- "As a new beehive owner I thought the information presented was fascinating and presented in a very efficient manner. I loved every aspect of the presentations!"
- "Nice to get science, there is a lot of fuzzy thinking out there."
- "Thank you for a well-organized, thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking day."
The UC Davis Conference Center is located across from the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.