- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Charlie Casey Nicholson photographed a black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, in a manzanita patch at 3:10 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 14 in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden to claim the honor. The site is near Old Davis Road.
He noted this was his seventh observation field trip to look for the first bumble bee of the year. He had searched six previous times (three 10-minute observations on the manzanita on each of two other days, Jan. 6 and 7).
The contest seeks a photograph--not a specimen--of the year's first bumble bee within the two-county area of Yolo and Solano, said coordinator Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology.
As the winner, Nicholson will receive a special Bohart bumble bee coffee cup and a face mask, said Kimsey.
Nicholson, a researcher in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology labs of Professor Neal Williams, a pollination ecologist, and Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, is a 2015 alumnus of The Bee Course, where Robbin Thorp, a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology, taught from 2002 through 2018. The nine-day intensive workshop, geared for conservation biologists and pollination ecologists and considered the world's premiere native bee biology and taxonomic course, takes place annually in Portal, Ariz., at the Southwestern Research Station, part of the American Museum of Natural History, N.Y.
"It is truly an honor to win the contest," said Nicholson. "I was a student of Robbin's during the 17th annual Bee Course in Portal, Ariz. I will never forget him wielding his canopy net."
"The first night (8/17/2015) he gave the opening seminar--a whirlwind tour of what makes a bee. It was so exciting to be at this research station surrounded by people whose names you've read all the time.”
“Robbin helped me learn to pay close attention to the arolia of Anthidiini. As we moved into identifying bees, Robbin was a great teacher as we worked through the dichotomous keys in The Bee Genera of North and Central America: Hymenoptera Apoidea. He always had some morphological signpost that wouldn't give away the 'answer' but would certainly guide you in the right direction."
Charlie holds a bachelor of arts degree in biology (evolution, ecology and behavior), 2010, cum laude, from Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York. He received his doctorate in natural resources in 2018 from the University of Vermont, where he was a Gund Institute for Environment graduate fellow. In his dissertation, he examined how landscape and farm management affect the multiple benefits provided by wild bees.
Nicholson joined UC Davis as a postdoctoral scholar in the spring of 2019, and receives funding support from the USDA Invasive Species and Pollinator Health Unit. He recently co-authored a paper, “Natural Hazard Threats to Pollinators and Pollination,” published in the journal Global Change Biology, that analyzed 117 published research papers on natural hazards that threaten pollinators and pollination.
His other interests include multiple dimensions of biodiversity, conservation planning, agricultural management, ecosystem services, and community and landscape ecology.
Thorp, a member of the UC Davis entomology faculty for 30 years, from 1964-1994, died June 7, 2019 at his Davis home at age 85. A tireless advocate of pollinator species protection and conservation, Thorp was known for his expertise, dedication and passion in protecting native pollinators, especially bumble bees, and for his teaching, research and public service. He was an authority on pollination ecology, ecology and systematics of honey bees, bumble bees, vernal pool bees, conservation of bees, native bees and crop pollination, and bees of urban gardens and agricultural landscapes.
He achieved emeritus status in 1994 but continued to engage in research, teaching and public service until a few weeks before his death. In 2014, he co-authored two books Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide (Princeton University, 2014) and California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday, 2014).
Every summer from 2002 to 2018, Thorp volunteered his time and expertise to be one of the instructors in The Bee Course. In a 2013 interview with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Thorp said he loved teaching at The Bee Course and praised the co-instructors and students. "Ron McGinley who got his undergraduate degree at UC Davis does most of the initial student contact and scheduling for the course. Steve Buchmann, who got his PhD at UC Davis in 1978, is one of the instructors. There are usually about eight instructors and 22 participants for the course. Most of the time is spent in the lab identifying bees to genus. At least three days are spent in the field so students can see various bees doing their thing, collect them and bring them back to the lab to identify them. It is a great experience for students to interact with instructors and especially with their peers from around the world. Instructors all donate their time to teach in the course, but benefit from the chance to get together with colleagues and a new cohort of interesting students each year. Every class is different (that is, it takes on its own personality) and each student brings something new and different to the mix."
Highly honored by his peers, Thorp was named a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco in 1986; recipient of the Edward A. Dickson Emeriti Professorship of UC Davis in 2010; and recipient of the UC Davis campuswide Distinguished Emeritus Award in 2015. Other honors included: member of the UC Davis Bee Team that won the 2013 Team Award from the Pacific Branch, Entomological Society of America. In addition, he served as a past president (2010-2011) of the Davis Botanical Society, and chair (1992-2011) of the Advisory Committee for the Jepson Prairie Reserve, UC Davis/Natural Reserve System.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Two scientists—lead author Charlie Nicholson, a UC Davis postdoctoral scholar formerly with the University of Vermont (UVM), and senior author Paul Egan, a senior researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences--analyzed 117 published research papers on natural hazards that threaten pollinators and pollination.
Their paper, “Natural Hazard Threats to Pollinators and Pollination,” published in the journal Global Change Biology, sounds the alarm to scientists and policy makers to place the impacts of natural hazards at the center of future research in order to emphasize conservation and reduce disaster risks.
Previous research on threats to pollinators primarily focuses on direct human impacts, but scientific knowledge of natural hazard impacts has not been synthesized yet, they said.
“The frequency and intensity of many natural hazards, such as floods and storms, are set to increase under climate change, so bringing together the evidence of these impacts is really timely,” said Nicholson, who joined the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, earlier this year.
“Research was not evenly distributed across pollinator groups, with many impacts recorded for bees, Lepidoptera, flies. wasps, birds, beetles, and bats,” they wrote. “Studies tended to report impacts to pollinators in terms of abundance (41 percent of responses), species richness (19 percent), and various population-level effects (19 percent), whereas impacts to plants were measured in terms of reproductive success (39 percent), floral traits (27 percent), and species richness (11 percent).”
Scrutinizing the scientific literature involved “poring over many accounts of the powerful destructive force of nature, but also searching for some pretty unexpected hazards such as solar flares, or the Earth's electromagnetic effect on pollinators,” Nicholson said.
The work also highlights disparities in the burden of evidence. Said Egan: “We see that this type of pollination research is strongly biased toward economically developed regions, whereas it is smallholder farmers and developing countries that will bear the largest impacts. Their existing vulnerabilities and dependence on crop pollinators tend to be higher.”
Nicholson and Egan identified several future research priorities, including the need to understand impacts to yields through impacted pollination services and to better characterize and contextualise the nature of exposure to natural hazards.
“Taken together, our findings show that the response of pollinators and pollination to natural hazards depends on the type of disturbance and level of biological organization observed and that different pollinator taxa can respond very differently to the same hazard,” they wrote.
Formas, a Swedish government research council for sustainable development, funded the research.
Nicholson holds a doctorate in natural resources (2018) from UVM. Egan received his doctorate in plant animal interactions from Trinity College Dublin in Ireland in 2015.