“Neal has a dynamic research program on the ecological impacts of native bees and he brings a new perspective to the campus,” said Lynn Kimsey, professor and chair of the Department of Entomology and director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology. “We are very lucky to have him here as part of our reinvigorated bee biology program.”
Williams, an assistant professor at UC Davis, and a former assistant professor with the Department of Biology, Bryn Mawr College, researches pollination ecology, spanning the disciplines of conservation biology, behavioral ecology and evolution. Especially interested in sustainable pollination strategies for agriculture, Williams explores the role of native bees as crop pollinators and the effects of landscape composition and local habitat quality on their persistence.
Williams has researched agro-ecosystems in California's Central Valley and in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Among his research colleagues: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis; and conservation biologist Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley, a UC Davis Department of Entomology affiliate and a 2007 MacArthur Foundation Fellow.
“One of my continuing goals,” Williams said, “is to provide practical information that can be used for pollinator conservation and management strategies.”
In addition, he is studying how habitat restoration affects insect pollinator communities and pollination function. He has worked with the Nature Conservancy's Sacramento River Project “to determine whether these non-target species and the function they provide are restored along with targeted structural vegetation.”
Williams' pollinator conservation research in the East helped form the basis for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services' planting guidelines to enhance pollinators.
Apart from his work on pollinator conservation, he explores how specialist and generalist floral visitors differ in their contributions to pollination of their host plants. This project involves field sites in the deserts of the northernwestern Mexico and in the woodlands of northeastern United States.
A native of Madison, Wisc., Williams studied botany, history and philosophy of science in 1990-91 at Edinburgh University, Scotland, before receiving his bachelor of science degrees in botany and zoology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1992. He earned his doctorate in ecology and evolution in 1999 from the State University of New York, Stony Brook (SUNY-Stony Brook), and then served as the I. W. Killam Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada for a year.
Before joining the Bryn Mawr College faculty, Williams served as a postdoctoral researcher in 2001-2003 in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton, where he was a D.H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow.
Williams won the 1997 President's Award for Outstanding Teaching at SUNY-Stony Brook, and was awarded the 2008 Linback Award for Excellence in Teaching at Bryn Mawr College.
The recipient of numerous grants, Williams received a three-year grant in 2007 from the USDA-CSREES (Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service) Sustainable Agriculture Research an Education to research “Promoting Sustainable Crop Pollination by Wild Bees through Farmer Outreach and Education.”
He earlier won grants from the National Science Foundation, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the National Fish and Wildlife and Foundation and Nature Conservancy, and the American Museum of Natural History, among others.
He has just received new funding from the National Science Foundation and from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to continue his research in California.
Williams' work has been published in a number of journals, including the Annals of Botany, American Naturalist, Ecological Applications, Ecology Letters, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Download PDF of Native Bee Benefits: How to Increase Native Bee Pollination on Your Farm in Several Simple Steps, By Neal Williams, then of Bryn Mawr College, and Rachel Winfree, Rutgers.