- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The Hellman Family Foundation contributes funds to support and encourage the research of promising assistant professors who exhibit potential for great distinction in their research. The fellowship is designed to support research and creative activities that will promote career advancement.
Vannette's project, “Characterizing the Structure and Function of Pollinator Microbiomes,” will investigate the communities of bacteria and fungi in flowers and pollinators including bees and hummingbirds. “Our work to date suggests that microbes in flowers are common and influence pollinator behavior,” says Vannette. The current funding will allow her to link microbial communities in flowers with their influence on pollinators by examining microbial modification of nectar and pollen chemistry, and examine how microbial effects vary among plant and pollinator species, and with environmental variation.
The 11 assistant professors will receive a total of $244,000 in grants for research in a wide range of disciplines. Since 2008, UC Davis has received nearly $3 million in Hellman grants, awarded to 136 early-career faculty members. The Hellman Fund provides grant monies to early career faculty on all 10 UC campuses, as well as to four private institutions.
Vannette is one of two recipients from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The other is Frances Moore, an assistant professor, Environmental Science and Policy. Her project title: "Quantifying the Costs of Ecosystem Damages from Climate Change for Improved Climate Policy Analysis.”
The community ecologist joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2015 after serving as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University's biology department, where she was a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow from 2011 to 2015 and examined the role of nectar chemistry in community assembly of yeasts and plant-pollinator interactions.
Vannette received her bachelor of science degree, summa cum laude, in 2006 from Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich., and her doctorate from the University of Michigan's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Ann Arbor, in 2011. Her thesis: “Whose Phenotype Is It Anyway? The Complex Role of Species Interactions and Resource Availability in Determining the Expression of Plant Defense Phenotype and Community Consequences.”
(Editor's Note: See UC Davis Dateline story on 11 recipients)