They matter in the role of bee conservation efforts, as more than 80 percent of bees nest below ground.
So says pollination ecologist Alexandra Harmon-Threatt, an associate professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who will speak on "Beyond Flowers; Examining the Role of Soils in Bee Conservation Efforts" at the next UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar.
The online seminar, the last of the spring quarter, is set for 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, June 2. Host is pollination ecologist and professor Neal Williams. Access the Zoom link here.
In noting that more than 80 percent of bees nest below ground, Harmon-Threatt points out that most univoltine species spend more than 90 percent of their life cycle in contact with soils. (A univoltine species is a species that has one brood of offspring per year.)
"Yet most conservation efforts ignore soils and few research studies consider these critical life stages and possible exposures that occur during them, she says in her abstract. "In a series of studies, our lab has begun to explore how much soils matter and whether ignoring them is to the detriment of conservation."
In her research, Harmon-Threatt zeroes in on understanding the patterns and processes that govern plant-pollinator interactions for conservation. "Pollinators play a vital role in plant reproduction, food production and ecosystem stability but are believed to be declining globally," she says. Her work focuses on identifying and understanding patterns in natural environments to help conserve and restore pollinator diversity. With a particular focus on bees, she investigates how a number of factors at both the local and landscape scale, including plant diversity, isolation and bee characteristics, effect bee diversity in local communities.
Harmon-Threatt received her doctorate from UC Berkeley, where she worked on bumble bee preferences and phylogenetic patterns. She completed a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship in biology at Washington University in St. Louis.
She was recently featured on the podcast, People Behind the Science. Any change in pollinator populations, she told her audience, can have significant effects on natural and agricultural communities. Recent declines in bee populations, in particular, indicate how "little we know about these important insects in their natural environments, she told her audience."
That's a crucial question, especially with California's history and future of disastrous wildfires. Last year was the state's worst fire season ever: 9,639 fires burned 4.3 million acres or more than 4 percent of the state's roughly 100 million acres of land, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Enter bee biologist Lauren Ponisio, a native of California's Central Valley who is now an assistant professor at the University of Oregon, Eugene. She will address a webinar hosted from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Friday, May 28 by the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD).
Also billed are Anne-Marie Bentz of the California California Native Plant Society, who will present information on how to create fire-wise, pollinator-friendly gardens, and Don Hankins, professor of geography and planning at California State University, Chico, who will discuss traditional burning and pollinators. Hankins, UC Davis-educated, holds a bachelor's degree in wildlife, fish and conservation biology and a doctorate in geography from UC Davis.
"Fire has a major impact on the structure and function of many ecosystems globally," according to Ponisio and her colleagues in their 2016 published research, "Pyrodiversity Begets Plant-Pollinator Community Diversity in Global Change Biology.
"Pyrodiversity, the diversity of fires within a region (where diversity is based on fire characteristics such as extent, severity, and frequency), has been hypothesized to promote biodiversity, but changing climate and land management practices have eroded pyrodiversity," they wrote in their abstract. "To assess whether changes in pyrodiversity will have impacts on ecological communities, we must first understand the mechanisms that might enable pyrodiversity to sustain biodiversity, and how such changes might interact with other disturbances such as drought."
"Focusing on plant–pollinator communities in mixed-conifer forest with frequent fire in Yosemite National Park, California, we examine how pyrodiversity, combined with drought intensity, influences those communities. We find that pyrodiversity is positively related to the richness of the pollinators, flowering plants, and plant–pollinator interactions. On average, a 5% increase in pyrodiversity led to the gain of approximately one pollinator and one flowering plant species and nearly two interactions."
Ponisio holds two degrees from Stanford University: her bachelor's degree in biology with honors in ecology and evolution, 2010, and her master's in biology in 2011. She received her doctorate in 2016 from the Department of Environmental Science Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. Ponisio served as a Moore/Sloan Data Science Postdoctoral Fellow at the Berkeley Institute of Science from 2016 to 2017, before joining the UC Riverside Department of Entomology as an assistant professor in 2017. She accepted her current position with the University of Oregon's Department of Biology in 2020.
Ponisio was featured July 20, 2020 in People Behind the Science Podcast, Working to Preserrve and Restore Populations of Bees and Other Pollinators: "The United States is home to thousands of different species of native bees that are important for agriculture and natural ecosystems. Lauren's research revolves around preserving and restoring bee populations in agricultural areas and other natural habitats. She is interested in understanding the distribution and health of different populations of native bees."
The May 28 Zoom webinar connection: https://bit.ly/3y6th18.
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Webinar ID: 850 1440 2893
So said conservation and plant-pollinator biologist Shalene Jha of the University of Texas, Austin, when she discussed "The Secret Life of Tiny Bees" with Science Friday host Ira Flatow of National Public Radio on Nov. 10, 2017.
Most solitary bees live underground, she told him. "So they nest under the soil. We also have a lot of bees that nest in stems of trees or in rotting logs. So there's a lot of diversity in where these bees live, and also the kind of social versus solitary lifestyle they maintain."
Fast-forward to Wednesday, Feb. 3 when Jha will speak on "Plant-Insect Interactions and Ecosystem Services in the Context of Global Change" at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's virtual seminar. The hour-long seminar begins at 4:10 p.m. Access this Google form to connect to Zoom.
"I'll be presenting an overview of work that integrates community ecology, foraging biology, and populationgenomics to understand ecosystem function, with an emphasis on mutualistic interactions between plants and pollinators," said Jha, an associate professor in the UT's Department of Integrative Biology. "I'll also explore the impacts of human land use on these species interactions and their connection to a variety of ecosystem services."
Jha investigates "ecological and evolutionary processes from genes to landscapes, to quantify global change impacts on plant-animal interactions, movement ecology, and the provisioning of ecosystem services." Specializing in the fields of landscape genetics, population ecology, and foraging ecology, she examines how landscape composition influences gene flow processes, foraging patterns, and population viability for plants and animals. (See Jha lab)
"Our work," she writes on her website, "has provided insight into the environmental drivers of pollinator diversity, has revealed the complex and dynamic nature of wild pollinator foraging, and has exposed critical urbanization and elevation barriers to plant and pollinator gene flow across historic and contemporary time periods."
Jha joined the University of Texas faculty in 2011. She previously served at UC Berkeley as a UC President's Postdoctoral Fellow, Environmental Science, Policy and Management, from 2009 to 2011. Prior, she worked as a graduate research and teaching assistant in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.Shalene Jha
Jha holds a bachelor of science degree in biology from Rice University, magna cum laude, 2004. She obtained her doctorate from the University of Michigan in 2009, where she focused on ecology and evolutionary biology. Postdoctoral work in ecology and population genetics followed at UC Berkeley.
Agricultural Extension specialist Ian Grettenberg, seminar host, coordinates the department's winter seminars. For technical information on the virtual seminar, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are some of the solitary bees, many of which go unnoticed? Here's a sampling.
The highly respected California Academy of Sciences greeted its 2019 Class of Fellows on Oct. 15, and one of them is a pollination ecologist from the University of California, Davis.
Professor Neal Williams of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology was inducted into the scientific organization at the annual Bay Area gathering of the Fellows. The group includes more than 450 distinguished scientists who have made notable contributions to science.
Fellows nominate others for the high honor, and then the California Academy of Sciences' Board of Trustees votes on the nominees. James R. Carey, distinguished professor of entomology, nominated Williams, with Claire Kremen of the University of British Columbia, formerly of UC Berkeley, seconding the nomination. Maverakis was nominated by Walter Leal, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a former chair of the entomology department.
In his letter of nomination, Carey wrote that Williams is “widely known and respected for his excellence in research, extension, outreach, teaching and leadership” and “is not only one of the stars of our campus, and the UC system, but is an internationally recognized leader in pollination and bee biology and strong voice in the development of collaborative research on insect ecology. He has organized national and international conferences, leads scores of working groups, and guides reviews of impacts of land use and other global change drivers on insects and the ecosystem services they provide.”
The UC Davis professor served as co-chair (with Extension apiclturist Elina Lastro Niño) of the seventh annual International Pollinator Conference, a four-day conference held July 17-20 on the UC Davis campus. The global conference focused on pollinator biology health and policy.
In his work--a labor of love--Williams seeks and finds found common solutions for sustaining both wild and managed bees and communicates that information to the public and stakeholder groups. Said Carey: “This is a critical perspective in natural and agricultural lands, but also in urban landscapes in northern and southern California.”
Each year the UC Davis professor speaks to multiple beekeeper, farmer and gardener groups, and provides guidance to governing bodies, including the state legislature, and environmental groups. He and his lab are involved in a newly initiated California Bombus assessment project, which is using both museum and citizen scientist records to understand past, current and future distributions and habitat use by bumble bees. This program will host a series of workshops this spring and summer open to practitioners and the public.
Williams received his doctorate in ecology and evolution in 1999 from the State University of New York, Stony Brook and served as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Bryn Mawr (Penn.) College from 2004 to 2009. He joined the UC Davis faculty in 2009, advancing to full professor in 2017.
His honors and awards are numerous. Williams was part of the UC Davis Bee Team that won the Team Research Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America (PBESA) in 2013. In 2015, he was named a five-year Chancellor's Fellow, receiving $25,000 to support his research, teaching and public service activities. And then earlier this year, Williams received PBESA's Plant-Insect Ecosystems Award, presented annually for outstanding accomplishments in the study of insect interrelationships with plants.
In addition to Carey, five others affiliated with UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology are Fellows of the California Academy of Sciences:
- Professor Phil Ward, ant specialist
- Frank Zalom, integrated pest management specialist and distinguished professor of entomology. He is a past president of the Entomological Society of America
- Robert E. Page Jr., bee scientist and UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor. He is a former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and provost emeritus of Arizona State University
- Walter Leal, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and a former chair of the entomology department; and
- Visiting scientist Catherine Tauber, formerly of Cornell University.
Former Fellows from the UC Davis entomology department include Robbin Thorp (1933-2019), distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, and visiting scientist Maurice Tauber (1931-2014), formerly of Cornell University.
It's a party.
It's a pollinator party.
It's the Bay Area Bee Fair in Berkeley.
And it's the place to be on Sunday, Oct. 13 at the Berkeley Flea Market, located at Ashby BART.
The second annual event, free and family friendly, is set from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will feature a presentation on "How to Save the Bees" by UC Berkeley professor Gordon Frankie; educational and entertainment opportunities, kids' art activities, pollinator-themed art, and plant, book and bee condo sales, as well as honey and bee products, according to organizers Jackie Dragon and Mary Lynn Morales, who describe themselves as "Bee Fair dreamers."
The Bay Area Bee Fair is a time to "celebrate, educate and motivate the community about bees and other pollinators," they said. "Their health is vital to our health."
- 10 a.m.: Opening and welcome
- 11 a.m.: "How to Make a Pollinator-Friendly Garden Presentation" by Andrea Hurd, of Mariposa Gardening
- Noon: "How to Save the Bees" by bee scientist Gordon Frankie, UC Berkeley professor and co-author of California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists.
- 2:30 p.m.: Giant Puppets Pollinator Parade
- 3 p.m.: Closing
For more information, access: