Dr. Casey Delphia on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Casey Delphia is a Research Scientist at Montana State University and Associate Curator of Apoidea in the Montana Entomology Collection (MTEC) where she conducts research on managed solitary bees and wild native bees in agricultural and wildland ecosystems. Projects include evaluating the use of wildflower strips for supporting bees and pollination services on farmlands and, most recently, documenting the wild bees of Montana. Towards building a comprehensive bee species list for the state, Casey co-authored the Bumble Bees of Montana as well as two recent checklists. In her spare time, Casey enjoys collecting bees in the desert southwest, the tropics of Belize, and the many interesting habitats found throughout Montana.

Listen in to learn about Dr. Delphia’s bee atlas projects, why Montana is a “black hole” of bee data, and where to find the coolest native bees of Montana.

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“It’s really great to be working on bees in Montana and it’s also not so great. It’s great because there are so many things to discover and it’s also not so great because there are so many things to discover.” – Dr. Casey Delphia

Show Notes:

  • Where to find the coolest native bees of Montana
  • What Dr. Delphia is hoping to accomplish in her recent bumblebee atlas project
  • Why Montana is a “black hole” of bee data
  • The challenges of bumblebee identification
  • Dr. Delphia’s upcoming project documenting the native bees of Montana
  • How Dr. Delphia collects specimens for her research
  • Dr. Delphia’s go-to tools for the field and the lab

“When somebody starts working with bumblebees and then they tell me it’s easy, then I realize they’re really not paying attention and they don’t know what they’re doing. The more you learn, the more you question what you know.” – Dr. Casey Delphia

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Briana Ezray on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Briana Ezray received her BA in biology from Willamette University and worked for the Oregon Department of Agriculture on a survey of native bees pollinating crops. She began her PhD in 
Entomology at the Pennsylvania State University in Dr. Heather Hines Lab. Overall, her research involves topics such as bumble bee biogeography and mimicry, bee community disease ecology, and conservation biology. Specifically, her research examines two different directions which allow her to understand spatial, historical, and seasonal dynamics in bumble bees. First, she is working to better describe and understand the evolutionary and ecological processes driving why bumble bees mimic or match each other’s color patterns in certain geographic regions. Second, she is exploring seasonal patterns of disease prevalence and transmission in bee communities.

Listen in to this episode to learn more about Mullerian mimicry, it’s role in the evolution of bumblebees, and why it is the subject of Briana’s research.

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“Species that have some sort of poison or danger like a sting will mimic each other so that it’s a kind of group defense.“ – Briana Ezray

Show Notes:

  • What bumblebees are usually doing right after hibernation
  • What gives the bumblebees their color
  • How to identify the most common types of bumblebees in Western Oregon
  • What is Mullerian mimicry and how it affects how similar some bumblebees look
  • Why certain visual traits are localized to certain areas
  • What the “standard hybrid zone” is and how it affects the coloring of bumblebee species
  • What Briana is trying to accomplish in researching these coloring complexities
  • How Briana was able to study the evolution of the bee coloring
  • When a bee would avoid Mullerian mimicry to stand out from other species

“Oregon is one of those places that has a lot of species [of bumblebee] that look like each other.“ – Briana Ezray

Links Mentioned:

Sarah Johnson is the lead biologist for Wildlife Preservation Canada’s Native Pollinator Initiative. WPC is a nation-wide organization focusing on hands-on recovery initiatives for critically endangered species, and the pollinator initiative supports Canadian bumble bee recovery through a diverse set of programs. As WPC’s lead pollinator biologist, Sarah has overseen a variety of citizen science training programs, runs multiple field-based research and monitoring projects, and leads the development of a captive breeding program for the at-risk yellow-banded bumble bee. Prior to her current position with WPC, Sarah received a BSc in Natural Sciences from the University of Calgary – during which she published on a project investigating how wing wear affects bumble bee’s weight lifting ability – as well as an MSc in Ecology, examining how clearcut logging impacts bee-pollinated wildflower reproduction in the foothills of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Sarah was also involved in the initiation of a long-term research program exploring how the agricultural landscape in southern Alberta affects pollinator diversity. As evidenced through her work, Sarah’s passion lies in the furriest (and most charming) of the pollinators: the bumble bee. However, she is also interested in conservation education, public engagement, and answering broader questions on what factors shape ecological communities.

Listen in as we talk about the bee population of Canada, her new captive breeding project, and how citizen science positively impacts her research.

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“We’re seeing sightings in areas where we didn’t know species extended to, and this is because of submissions by citizen scientists.” – Sarah Johnson

Show Notes:

  • What is happening in the bumblebee populations of Canada
  • How the Bumblebee Recovery Initiative is helping pollinators
  • What their new captive breeding project is hoping to accomplish
  • What qualities Sarah is looking for in the queen bumblebees they are breeding
  • How Wildlife Preservation Canada uses citizen science
  • Why Bumblebee Watch is such an invaluable resource to conservation researchers
  • How one citizen scientist made a breakthrough discovery
  • How Sarah’s organization trains citizen scientists
  • What makes a good bumblebee picture for submission
  • What Sarah recommends to help raise public awareness of pollinators and their involvement

[Wilson et al.] surveyed a wide variety of people, and the vast majority of them think bees are important but nobody really knows what a bee is versus what a fly is.“ – Sarah Johnson

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