Sarah Kincaid on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Sarah Kincaid is an entomologist and pollinator specialist in the Insect, Pest, Prevention, and Management Program (IPPM) with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). Sarah is a founder and ODA IPPM project lead for the Oregon Bee Project. The Oregon Bee Project brings together state agencies, farmers, and conservationists to protect and promote Oregon bee species vital the state’s agricultural and native landscapes. The Project aims to provide resources and networking opportunities in areas affecting bee health and to highlight pollinator projects underway with in the state and also has funded research examining the role non-Apis pollinators play in the pollination of several specialty crops. Sarah is also the author of an identification guide to Common Bee Pollinators of Oregon crops based on data from native bee surveys in 24 specialty crop systems. The guide is designed to provide the growers, the general public and natural resources professionals with basic information about agriculturally relevant bee genera. The guide serves an area of the country were few native bee identification resources are available. In this episode, Sarah talks about an initiative in the Oregon Bee Project called the Flagship Farm Program.

Listen in to learn how Sarah and the Flagship Farms program work with farmers to create sustainable ecosystems for pollinators, and how you can participate.

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“We’re a specialty crop state and many of those depend on pollination, and if they depend on pollination, that means they provide a resource for the bees themselves.” – Sarah Kincaid

Show Notes:

  • What makes Flagship Farms unique among pollinator programs
  • Why Oregon has a higher diversity of bees in agriculture than many other states
  • Why the Flagship Farms program was created and what Sarah is hoping to accomplish with it
  • What kinds of farms and farmers Sarah is hoping will join the program
  • What Sarah has seen so far in the participating farms
  • The unique properties that different crop farms offer for pollinators
  • How the Flagship Farms program has built a community of conservancy minded farms
  • What resources Sarah and her program offer the Flagship Farms

“Given that there’s a narrative that paints agriculture in a really negative light when it comes to insect biodiversity, we came up with the idea that there is a positive story that we can tell here.” – Sarah Kincaid

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Dr. Valerie Peters on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Valerie Peters is an Assistant Professor in Biological Sciences at Eastern Kentucky University. Valerie is an ecologist interested in the conservation of biodiversity, with research projects both in Kentucky but also Costa Rica, and she studies how global stressors such as land use change, invasive species, and climate change impact biodiversity and use ecosystem services, such as pollination, as a tool to place value on species, such as pollinators and biodiversity. By giving species a value, such as the pollination of commercial coffee, she hopes to interest more people in conservation. Dr. Peters also is involved in the Earth Watch Institute’s wild bee conservation projects in Costa Rica that provides citizen scientists with an opportunity to work with tropical bees.

Listen in to learn the intersection between changing tropical climates, pollinator habitats, and the coffee crop, and the impact of mines on pollinators.

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“For a lot of species, we don’t know if they’ll be able to successfully move fast enough northward, so the other potential could be that we would just see loss of species in a particular location or maybe declining pollinator population numbers.” – Dr. Valerie Peters

Show Notes:

  • How climate change can affect pollinator populations
  • What other parts of the ecosystem will change and indirectly affect pollinators
  • How different regions’ weather patterns will change
  • Coffee’s life cycle and it’s role in the pollination ecosystem
  • The research Valerie is doing on coffee and it’s pollination cycles
  • The ways the effects of climate change are shifting the patterns of coffee plants
  • How Valerie has worked with Earth Watch in Costa Rica to protect pollinators
  • The role of citizen scientists in Valerie’s research
  • The mine reclamation process and how the spaces are rehabilitated
  • How pollinator compositions in areas are affected by the presence of mines

“From that moment, I was addicted to how interesting it is to invite these [citizen scientists] to come out in the field and see who is going to come out and how you can get them inspired.” – Dr. Valerie Peters

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Christina Mogren on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Mogren is an assistant researcher of pollinator ecology at University of Hawaii Manoa, with a research program focused on how nutrition can be used to increase pollinator health to mitigate stress caused by pesticides, parasites, and disease. After receiving her PhD in Entomology from UC Riverside, she went on to two postdoctoral positions with the USDA-ARS in Brookings, SD and the LSU AgCenter in Baton Rouge, LA. She currently serves the beekeeping community of Hawaii with a 60% research and 40% extension appointment.

Listen in to learn the relationship of pollinators with native flora and fauna of Hawaii, and what is being done to aid local agriculture and beekeeping.

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“A lot of the plants [in Hawaii] evolved with bird and beetle pollinators, there’s only one native genus of bee.” – Dr. Christina Mogren

Show Notes:

  • What kinds of pollinators are native to Hawaii
  • How their isolation on the island has affected the evolution of Hawaii’s only native bee
  • Why Hawaii is one of the leading places to grow queens
  • What makes Hawaii’s relationship with varroa unique
  • How Christina is developing educational resources for Hawaiian residents interested in beekeeping
  • How the volcanic activity affects pollinators
  • Some of the unique crops that Hawaii hosts
  • How having pollinators present influences the crop yield
  • The problems that some of the local crop present that could be solved with other bee species

“We have a lot of seismic activity, and when you have those, it turns into sting central. Bees don’t like volcanoes either.” – Dr. Christina Mogren

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Robyn Shephard on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Oregon is one of the biggest vegetable seed producing states in the US. In this episode, we catch up with Robyn Shephard, an agronomist with Lakeside Ag-Ventures, in a red radish seed field to learn how hybrid systems work and the steps vegetable seed growers are taking to keep bees healthy during pollination.

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“In a hybrid system you have a male line and a female line, that cross and create the next variety that a farmer will plant to create something like a fresh market radish.” – Robyn Shephard

Show Notes:

  • The science behind the hybrid radish system
  • Why hybridize these specific radish plants
  • What types of radish are desired around the world
  • The role bees play in this industry
  • What diseases there are that can affect this crop
  • What can be done to control pests and help the bees

“During bloom you can have serious diseases of radish, like white rust, which would result in severe loss in seed yield even if flowers were properly pollinated.” – Robyn Shephard

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Emily Erickson on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Emily is a PhD student in entomology at Pennsylvania State University. Her work focuses on the plant-pollinator interactions, with a focus to supporting pollinators and biodiversity in urban environments. Emily did her undergraduate work at UC Davis where she studied International Agricultural Development and minored in Entomology, which honed her interest in how humans interact with the natural world and set her on the path to studying bees and their role in man-made environments. In today’s episode she talks about the role of garden plants in bee conservation and dives deep into how plant breeding may be changing the attractiveness of garden plants to bees.

Emily Erickson talks about the role of garden plants in bee conservation and how plant breeding may be changing the attractiveness of garden plants to bees.

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“Studying ornamental plants allows me to isolate floral traits in the context of the whole flower. So I can keep everything else consistent and then ask, ‘what if the flower was red instead of orange? Does that matter?’.” – Emily Erickson

Show Notes:

  • The issues Emily found in building pollinator friendly gardens, and how she is hoping to solve it
  • What makes studying ornamental plant varieties so unique and interesting
  • How these ornamental garden plants affect the population of pollinator visitors
  • What makes a plant pollinator friendly
  • How Emily and her team have been studying these effects
  • How a different cultivar can make a difference in pollinator populations
  • Why this research is unique among other studies of it’s kind
  • What other research Emily is doing on this subject

“There is no one flower to rule them all. That is the really cool thing about plant pollinator communities, but also it’s not what people want to hear.” – Emily Erickson

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David Cantlin on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

David Cantlin is the Facility and Operations Manager for the City of Fife in Washington State, where he is implementing his Bee Clover project. His goal is to educate the people of Fife of the wonderful benefits that clover provides, as well as using public lands to create stronger habitats for pollinators, as well as a more enriched ecosystem. In this episode we hear about the City of Fife’s initiative to increase the amount of blooming clover available to bees on their city properties.

In this episode, we hear about the City of Fife’s initiative to increase the amount of blooming clover available to bees on their city properties.

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“Clover attracts bees and other pollinators, so it benefits the ecology of the area.” – David Cantlin

Show Notes:

  • Why people in David’s position often remove clover from their land
  • What changed David’s mind about clover
  • How David experimented with using clover on his land
  • David’s goals with his project
  • How clover can help improve an ecosystem for plants as well as pollinators
  • What the process was in establishing clover in Fife
  • The symbiotic relationship between clover and turf grass
  • How the different clover varieties have worked in David’s project
  • How the people of Fife have received the abundance of clover
  • What’s next for the Bee Clover project

“This program, if it takes off and we can expand, may be a revival for the bees.” – David Cantlin

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Dr. Chelsea Cook on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Chelsea Cook is a postdoctoral researcher, funded by the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellowship, at Arizona State University. Chelsea’s focus is using behavior, neurophysiology, and genetics to understand how social insects organize, especially to accomplish critical tasks. As you will hear in this episode, she is currently working on how an individual honey bee learns may influence foraging behavior, and the genetics and physiology underlying learning and foraging. During her PhD, Chelsea studied the social organization of the thermoregulatory fanning behavior in honey bees at the University of Colorado with Mike Breed. She told us that she has “a general interest in the organization of anything ‘social’, from neurons to bacteria to cancer to humans.” In addition to her academic research, she is also a co-founder of a small start-up company focused on improving honey bee health, and she is passionate about increasing access to science, especially bringing biology to underrepresented and marginalized groups.

Listen in to learn how different bees divide up the responsibilities of finding and gathering food, and why they developed this method of foraging.

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“I can only imagine if in my neighborhood, every couple of days the grocery store closed and popped up somewhere else. How would you deal with that?” – Dr. Chelsea Cook

Show Notes:

  • The daily difficulties pollinators face in finding their food
  • What different factors go into a pollinator choosing their food source
  • The division of labor with bees in gathering food
  • Chelsea’s hypothesis on these bees and their roles
  • How she ran her experiment
  • The role of the neurotransmitter tyramine in bees
  • How social colonies culturally share information
  • Why Chelsea develops many of her own tools for studies

“It may be more beneficial for a whole society to divide that labor rather than have one individual doing both the exploration and the exploitation [of resources].” – Dr. Chelsea Cook

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Amy Cox on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

How can we ask not what greenspaces can do for us but what greenspaces can do for the environment? Portland-based Pro Time Lawn Seed was one of the first businesses to tackle this question, with the founder of the company developing low-maintenance and low-input lawn seed mixes, and the new owners expanding the mission to promote pollinator habitat, species diversity and soil health. PolliNation wanted to learn more, so in this episode, I visit an eco-lawn in a Portland backyard with Pro Time owner Amy Cox (on the left, also in the picture are co-owners Josh Middleton and Dawn Griffin). We look over a lawn seeded with Fleur de Lawn, a mix developed in conjunction with Dr. Tom Cook at Oregon State University, who began working on lawn alternatives in 1985. We talk about the benefits of using eco-lawns, how they work, and to establish them, and then walk across the lawns looking for bees. Pro Time has seventeen new eco-lawn, meadow, wildflower and native seed mixes in their selection.

Listen in to learn more about eco-lawns, what brought Amy into this business, and what makes eco-lawns ideal for all different kinds of home owners.

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“I think I’ve always wanted to something that helped other people, and that’s turned into something that can not only help people, but animals, insects, and the environment.” – Amy Cox

Show Notes:

  • How Amy got into the eco-lawn business
  • What still inspires Amy about this business
  • The benefits of having and keeping an eco-lawn
  • How easy it is to maintain an eco-lawn
  • What makes eco-lawns easier to maintain than regular lawns
  • The different types of eco-lawns and where they are best suited
  • Why Pro Time Lawn Seed began working on the eco-lawn
  • Why the Pacific Northwest is the ideal place for this kind of business to thrive
  • How Pro Time Lawn Seed bridges the gap between them and science and education
  • What separates Amy’s company from others in the seed business
  • What is in Pro Time Lawn Seed’s seed mixes

“Probably all that’s required [in maintaining an eco-lawn] is a little bit of patience, maybe following a bit of instruction, but it’s not difficult.” – Amy Cox

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Lila Westreich on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Lila Westreich is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, in the Department of Environment and Forest Sciences. She has a B.S. in Plant Breeding and Genetics from the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on the effect of varying landscape composition on the solitary mason bee, Osmia lignaria. Lila is currently working on the analysis of nutrition in pollen as well as the genetic sequencing of plant pollen to connect native solitary bees with the landscape around them.

Listen in to learn more about what drew Lila to Osmia lignaria, and how she is finding the effect of these bees on their landscape, and vice versa.

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“Orchard mason bees are really easy to work with, they’re easy to buy, which is rare for a native bee, and they’re really easy to place in different places, so it was easier for me to use than bumblebees.” – Lila Westreich

Show Notes:

  • Why Lila was so drawn to the orchard mason bee – Osmia lignaria
  • How Osmia lignaria‘s select flowers in different landscapes
  • How the solitary mason bee cares for it’s larvae
  • The pollen collection method that has left Lila with “vats of pollen” to study
  • What mason bees are looking for when they are collecting pollen
  • What Lila is hoping to learn by putting mason bees out early and late in the season
  • How climate change is affecting mason bees
  • The “special mud” of the mason bee

“What we found was really interesting. We found that bees were collecting pollen with the same concentration of protein at every site we studied. This was in spite of the fact that there were totally different plants at the different sites. What this tells us is that the bees are specifically choosing pollen from the landscape with higher protein levels and they only work with that pollen.” – Lila Westreich

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Research Retinue on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

The OSU Research Retinue goes into depth on research papers that have been recently featured in the news. We convened Retinue this week to review a paper that got a fair amount of press over the past few months. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicides in the world and is regarded as relatively non-toxic to bees and other pollinating insects. A study by Erick Motta and his colleagues from the University of Hawaii at Manoa demonstrate an indirect link between glyphosate and honey bee health in a laboratory study, namely a link to bacteria found in honey bee guts that helps fend off diseases.
This week’s retinue consists of OSU undergraduates Addison DeBoer (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), Lacey Jane (Zoology), Isabella Messer (Horticulture) and Umayyah Wright (Geography).

Learn more about the recent research studying the effects of glyphosate on honeybees, and how glyphosate can indirectly affect their gut homogenate.

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“Those lactobacillus bacteria are supposed to not be sensitive to the glyphosate, so it’s weird that the single dose would affect them, but when there’s a double dose, there seems to be no change.” – Addison DeBoer

Show Notes:

  • What makes up the microbiome of a honeybee
  • How glyphosate works as an herbicide
  • Why glyphosate indirectly affects bees health
  • How the study was conducted
  • The two different kinds of significant bacteria found in the honeybee gut
  • What could have improved the study
  • How the timing and frequency of applying glyphosate affects honeybees
  • The different ways that science and news outlets are reporting this story

“The bees that had none of the gut homogenate and the bees that have the gut homogenate and glyphosate were affected almost exactly the same, which shows that the effect of glyphosate basically counteracts all of the positive effects of the gut homogenate.” – Addison DeBoer

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