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 the topic that doctoral candidate and pollination ecologist Maureen Page of the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will explore when she addresses the Davis Botanical Society meeting, “How I Spent My Field Season” on Thursday Nov. 14.
The event takes place from 5 to 6 p.m. in Room 1022 of the Life Sciences Addition, corner of Hutchison and Kleiber Hall drives. Page, of the Entomology Graduate Group, and fellow speaker Emily Brodie of the Ecology Graduate Group, are recipients of Davis Botanical Society grants. Brodie, seeking her master's degree, will speak on “Patterns of Post-Fire Diversity and Regeneration in Subalpine Forests of California."
The wildflower that Page studies is a perennial herb, native to Western America. It's commonly called camas, small camas, or quamash.
In her abstract, Page writes: "While many bee species are declining, managed species, such as honey bees, have been introduced into novel ecosystems across the globe. Many studies support the claim that introduced honey bees compete with native bees. However, less is known about how honey bee introductions will affect native plant populations. Increased pressure from beekeepers to place hives in National Parks and Forests combined with the potentially huge but poorly understood impacts that non-native honey bees have on native plant populations makes exploring impacts of honey bee introductions on native plant pollination of pressing concern.”
The impact of honey bee introductions on the pollination and reproduction of the Sierra wildflower? “A preliminary data analysis suggests that honey bee introductions lead to increased visitation by honey bees and decreased visitation by native bees," Page says. "Preliminary results also suggest that honey bees are ineffective pollinators of Camassia quamash and the replacement of native bee visits by honey bee visits leads to reduced seed set. This research demonstrates that species introductions can have negative effects on plant pollination when they lead to an over-representation of visits by ineffective pollinators."
Page focuses her research on pollination ecology and bee conservation in natural and agricultural landscapes. As part of her dissertation research, she studies the impacts of honey bee introductions on plant-pollinator interactions and the pollination of native plants. She is also working to optimize wildflower plantings to simultaneously enhance honey bee nutrition and maximize support of diverse bee communities while minimizing competition between native and managed pollinators.
Last year Page received a prestigious three-year fellowship, a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship, for her research proposal, “Promoting Food Security by Optimizing Wildflower Plantings to Support Wild and Managed Bees.” This highly competitive fellowship, funded by the Department of Defense, drew more than 3600 applicants. Maureen was one of 69 awardees.
The Nov. 14th event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Teri Barry or Jennifer Poore at the UC Davis Center for Plant Diversity (530) 752-1091 or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
He's a newly selected Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, a group of world-class scientists known for their scientific impact or outstanding contributions.
Candidates are nominated by Fellows. Williams was nominated by James R. Carey, distinguished professor of entomology, and seconded by Claire Kremen of the University of British Columbia, formerly of UC Berkeley.
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.”
Williams is one of 13 Fellows in the Class of 2019, which also includes UC Davis physician Emanual Maverakis of the UC Davis School of Medicine's Department of Dermatology, nominated by Walter Leal, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology and former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. The Fellows will be inducted at the organization's annual meeting and gathering on Oct. 15. The academy, a scientific and educational institution based in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, is dedicated to exploring, explaining, and sustaining life on earth. The Fellows extend the academy's impact on research, public engagement, and education.
Williams' research spans the ecology and evolution of bees and other pollinating insects and their interactions with flowering plants. “He has become a leading voice for pollinator diversity and conservation in the California and The West,” wrote Carey. “One focus of his work has been in understanding the responses of bees to different environmental drivers and developing practical, scientifically grounded actions to support resilient pollinator communities. These efforts are particularly timely given concern over the global decline in bees and other pollinators.”
The UC Davis professor serves as co-chair (with Extension apiclturist Elina Lastro Niño) of the seventh annual International Pollinator Conference, a four-day conference focusing on pollinator biology health and policy. It is set from Wednesday, July 17 through Saturday, July 20 in the UC Davis Conference Center. Themed “Multidimensional Solutions to Current and Future Threats to Pollinator Health,” will cover a wide range of topics in pollinator research: from genomics to ecology and their application to land use and management; to breeding of managed bees; and to monitoring of global pollinator populations. (Yes, there's still time to register!)
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 (https://calibombus.com/), 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 many. 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.
Williams also holds a three-year visiting professorship to the Swedish Agricultural University in Uppsala. The award is to lead work in sustainable agriculture, focusing in integrating multiple ecosystem services.
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
- Frank Zalom, distinguished professor of entomology and a past president of the Entomological Society of America
- Robert E. Page Jr., distinguished emeritus professor, former chair of the department and provost emeritus of Arizona State University
- Walter Leal, distinguished professor and a former chair of the entomology department (he is now with the UC Davis Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology) 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.