Research

Wild bee response to prairie restoration

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 (PhD candidate, Ecology and Evolution Program at Rutgers University), 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!

In summer 2017 I also started a landscape genetics project examining the effects of large-scale habitat restoration on the genetic diversity and connectivity of prairie bee populations. This work is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Margarita Lopez-Uribe (Assistant Professor at Penn State, Department of Entomology).

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

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

Effects of habitat corridors on bee populations

As part of my PhD thesis, I study how habitat connectivity affects wild bee populations. To do this I use 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 the effects of habitat corridors on bee colonization of  experiment of wood-nesting bees to study how corridors affect bee colonization of newly available habitat.

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

Response of bees and associated flowering plants to climate change

In collaboration with Dr. Becky Irwin (Associate Professor, Applied Ecology Department at NCSU), Dr. Jane Ogilvie (Post-Doctoral Researcher, Rocky Mountain Biological Lab) and Gabriella Pardee (PhD candidate, Zoology Graduate Program at NCSU), I am studying how global climate change may affect bees and flowers in the Rocky Mountains. Over the last 8 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.