Wild bee response to prairie restoration

Effects of long-term restoration management

Since 2013, I have studied wild bee communities of a tallgrass prairie preserve managed by the Nature Conservancy in north-central Illinois, the Nachusa Grasslands. The ultimate goals of my research at the Nachusa Grasslands include assessing restoration success for pollinator conservation and identifying methods of restoration that can encourage healthy, diverse bee communities.

In collaboration with Bethanne Bruninga-Socolar (Postdoc at the University of Minnesota), I monitor bees and their floral resources in both restored and remnant habitat across the preserve to determine how restoration methods such as burning, restoration age, and presence of bison affect bee community and population dynamics. We currently have 5 years of bee community data and 3 years of floral data, so please contact me if you are interested in using our data or getting involved!

Nachusa Grasslands in the fall. Photo credit: Bethanne Bruninga-Socolar.

Nachusa Grasslands in the fall. Photo credit: Bethanne Bruninga-Socolar.

Bee movement and dispersal

Effects of habitat fragmentation on bee populations

Much of my PhD research examined how habitat connectivity affects populations of wild bees and wasps. For this work, I used a 25 year old landscape-scale experiment run by my advisor, Dr. Nick Haddad, at Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina. Within the expanse of pine forest at SRS, corridors of open habitat have been arranged between artificially created patches of meadow habitat in order to experimentally test habitat corridors as a conservation tool for a diversity of plants and animals.

In spring 2017, I conducted an experiment in which I released large numbers of wood-nesting bees within these landscapes and followed their occupation of nest boxes to study how corridors affect bee colonization of newly available habitat.

In collaboration with Lindsey Kemmerling (PhD Student, Haddad Lab) I am also studying how habitat corridors and habitat configuration affect bee communities at the SRS Corridor sites. Using trap-nest specimens collected in 2014, I am also collaborating with Victoria Amaral (Field Technician, Haddad Lab) to study the effect of habitat corridors on wasp movement, prey capture, and morphometrics.

View looking down a corridor at the Savannah River Site habitat corridor experiment in South Carolina

View looking down a corridor at the Savannah River Site habitat corridor experiment in South Carolina

Bee dispersal and colonization across agricultural landscapes

Bee nests within the KBS LTER

To examine the effects of habitat structure and resource availability on bee dispersal and colonization patterns across agricultural landscapes, in 2018 I used two existing landscape-scale experiments at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station in MI: the Long Term Ecological Research project and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center project. As with my project in South Carolina, I released ~15,000 wood-nesting M. rotundata bees within each landscape and tracked their dispersal and colonization of nest boxes placed in the experimental habitat patches. At night, I counted the number of bees building nests in each habitat patch, and used fluorescent dye-marking methods to follow bee movement across the landscape. 

I visited nest boxes at night to count sleeping bees. Photo credit: Blaire Bohlen

Response of bees and flowers to climate change

In collaboration with Dr. Becky Irwin (Associate Professor, Applied Ecology Department at NCSU), Dr. Jane Ogilvie (Rocky Mountain Biological Lab), and Dr. Gabriella Pardee (Postdoctoral researcher, UT Austin), I am studying how global climate change may affect bees and flowers in the Rocky Mountains. Over the last 10 years, Dr. Irwin has monitored wild bee communities and their floral resources throughout each growing season at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab in Gothic, Colorado, to build an enormous long term dataset. Using this dataset, my collaborators and I are currently examining a number of topics including the population dynamics of bumble bees in response to fluctuations in floral availability and climatic variability, long term changes in bee phenology under projected climatic shifts, and the role of bee traits in determining species-level responses to climate.

Incredible flower diversity at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab.

Incredible flower diversity at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab.