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

Links Mentioned:

Dr. Sarah Lawson on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

We are starting a new series to help expand our understanding of the amazing diversity in the bee genera of the Pacific Northwest. This week, we are focusing on the small carpenter bee from the genus Ceratina with Dr. Sarah Lawson, who is a lecturer in the Department of Biology at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. Dr. Lawson talks about research she did in the Sandra Rehan lab at the University of New Hampshire on the evolution of social behavior in bees using Ceratina as a model. In this episode, we learn all about the life cycle of Ceratina, and its peculiar strategy of turning the firstborn female into underfed dwarf female who acts as a nursemaid to the other bees in the nest (i.e., a Cinderella daughter).

You can Subscribe and Listen to PolliNation on Apple Podcasts.

And be sure to leave us a Rating and Review!

“Ceratina is a bee on the brink of sociality.” – Dr. Sarah Lawson

Show Notes:

  • What kinds of bees are part of the genus Ceratina
  • What separates the carpenter ants from these carpenter bees
  • The regular life-cycle of the Ceratina carpenter bee
  • What makes certain bees sociable and others not as sociable
  • What separates Ceratina from other solitary bees
  • Why the mother makes a “Cinderella daughter” for the nest
  • How different female bees work alongside each other in the nest
  • What Sarah and other researchers have learned from studying the larval food of Ceratina bees
  • How nutrition and the way it is dispersed affects the roles the Ceratina bees play
  • What opportunities unexplored bee species give us in researching them

“The mother is able to coerce the dwarf eldest daughter into doing all the cleaning, sometimes she’ll forage, sometimes she’ll guard the nest. We kind of think of her as the Cinderella daughter for the nest.” – Dr. Sarah Lawson

Links Mentioned: