Dr. Mia Park is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Biological Sciences Department at North Dakota State University, Fargo.

Dr. Park’s research asks, “Who are our wild pollinators? How are they impacted by anthropogenic disturbance? How can we manage landscapes in a manner that supports their abundance and health?”.

Current projects focus on benefits of pollinator planting in both urban and rural settings for pollinator health. Previously, Dr. Park taught in the Integrated Studies Program at University of North Dakota. She received her PhD in Entomology and MS in Natural Resources at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Dr. Park is passionate about insect conservation and has worked with non-profit organizations around the world.

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Links Mentioned:

Urban Woods Prairie Initiative (Audubon Dakota)

Dr. Park’s Book Recommendation: Honey Democracy (2010, T. D. Seeley) 

Go to tool: Bumble Bee Watch

Favorite Pollinator: Bombus ternarius (Orange-Belted Bumble Bee)

Note: Link to a study that explains where the orange comes from in one specific PNW bumble bee

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Aaron Anderson on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

In this episode, Aaron Anderson, a Ph.D. student in the OSU Department of Horticulture, talks about his research on gardening with native plants. Under the direction of Dr. Gail Langellotto, Aaron is researching native plants that support ecosystem services; that gardeners find attractive, and that they would want.

Currently, Aaron is running a large field trial at OSU’s North Willamette Research Center studying 23 native Willamette Valley wildflower species. Aaron monitors the floral bloom, performs timed pollinator observations, and samples the insect community on each plot. Additionally, he is currently asking gardeners to rank the aesthetics of these flowers via an online survey. From this research, Aaron plans on developing pollinator-friendly planting lists of PNW native wildflowers that are also attractive to home gardeners.

Listen in to learn what native plants are best for your garden, both for increasing the health of local pollinators and adding beauty to your garden.

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“There have been very few studies that have been done on the relative attractiveness of different plants to pollinators, especially in a garden-type setting.” – Aaron Anderson

Show Notes:

  • What makes a study like Aaron’s necessary, even with the abundance of free information online
  • Why there is no “superplant” for pollinator gardens
  • Why Aaron chose to study native plants in garden spaces for increasing the health of pollinators
  • How Aaron crafted his study, and what steered his decisions
  • Why the results of two similar studies on the most attractive plants to pollinators came out so different
  • Why native plants are so crucial in attracting honeybees
  • Which plants were found to be the top five for attracting pollinators to your garden
  • How Aaron sees less aesthetically desirable plants adding to the beauty of your garden
  • How the market is shifting from purely aesthetic decisions for gardens towards more functional ideas
  • What’s next for Aaron and his research
  • How you can tell a honeybee apart from other bees

“The nice thing about a lot of these annuals is that if you don’t like how they like after or right before they go to seed, you can really easily just pull them out.” – Aaron Anderson

Links Mentioned:

Dr. Priyadarshini Chakrabarti on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Chakrabarti is currently working as a post-doctoral researcher in Dr. Ramesh Sagili’s Honey Bee Lab at Oregon State University. Her chief focus lies in improving honey bee health by understanding honey bee nutrition and deciphering the effects of pesticides on pollinators. At the Sagili Honey Bee Lab, she is currently studying the key nutrients essential for improving honey bee health. She employs various techniques of molecular ecology, neuroethology, insect physiology, ecotoxicology and apicultural practices to address her research questions. She earned her PhD from the Department of Zoology and Centre for Pollination Studies at the University of Calcutta in India, where she studied the effects of pesticides on native wild Indian honey bees. She was the recipient of the prestigious Royal Society Newton International Fellowship. She also pursued research at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University, UK, being awarded the prominent Newton Bhaba PhD Placement Fellowship. She has published several peer reviewed scientific journals, books chapters and extension articles. Apart from mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, she also interacts at daylong seminars with schoolchildren to teach honey bee biology and spread environmental and pollinator awareness.

Listen in to learn the importance of sterols in honeybee health, why they are so important, and the research Dr. Priyadarshini Chakrabarti has done on them.

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“[Sterols] are building blocks of cellular membranes. That is why we are trying to focus on them, because without these sterols, you would basically have a dead bee.” – Dr. Priyadarshini Chakrabarti

Show Notes:

  • The key nutrients that are needed to make a bee
  • Why sterols are so important for bee nutrition, and where they get it from
  • How sterols are a honeybee’s first line of defense against pests and parasites
  • What intrigued Priyadarshini about sterols and the role they play with bees
  • How Priyadarshini tested the effects of sterols and the research it was based on
  • The results of her study and what beekeepers can learn from it
  • What sterols were found in all different kinds of bee food
  • What Priyadarshini and her team are hoping to learn by continuing their study into metabolites

“It’s not just one nutrient, it’s a combination of various factors. We are focusing on phytosterols for now, and we are hoping to also look at the various factors that go into it.” – Dr. Priyadarshini Chakrabarti

Links Mentioned:

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

Links Mentioned:

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

Links Mentioned:

Courtney MacInnis and Dr. Steve Pernal on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Courtney MacInnis received her MSc from the University of Alberta in 2017. As a MSc student, Courtney examined the viability and infectivity of Nosema ceranae spores in various substrates associated with honey bee colonies. Courtney is now a PhD student at the University of Alberta, supervised by Drs. Lien Luong and Steve Pernal. Her research aims to examine the pathological impacts of two emerging pathogens, N. ceranae and Lotmaria passim, on their honey bee host.  In her spare time, Courtney enjoys curling, barre, eating pastry, and curating an extensive collection of bee-themed items.

Dr. Steve Pernal has has been employed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada since 2001 as a Research Scientist in Beaverlodge, Alberta where he leads a national honey bee research program and also serves as Officer-in-Charge. Steve’s work has been diverse, and has included the detection, control and mitigation of residues associated with oxytetracycline-resistant American foulbrood disease and the development of food-grade therapies for chalkbrood disease. He was also involved in devising therapies and management strategies for the control of Nosema ceranae as well as other emerging parasites of honey bees. Steve has also been an integral member of three successive large-scale Genome Canada projects evaluating markers for resistance to AFB and Varroa. He was instrumental in the establishment of the National Bee Diagnostic Centre, also located in Beaverlodge, which has recently completed a 4-year national survey of honey bee pests and diseases in Canada.

Listen in to learn how the small fungus Nosema affects bee colonies, how and where it thrives, and what is being done to stop it in the research community.

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“Nosema is kind of a tough nut to crack. There have been many people besides ourselves that have worked on alternative treatments to Nosema over the years and have largely proved unsuccessful.” – Dr. Steve Pernal

Show Notes:

  • What causes Nosema disease
  • How Nosema ceranae has affected the wintering of bees
  • How Nosema causes so many problems in colonies
  • What happens inside a bee when infected with Nosema, and how it targets the mid-gut of the bee
  • The vulnerable stages of Nosema that can be taken advantage of
  • How different beekeepers try to mitigate spore production in their colonies and equipment
  • How Nosema ceranae often survive in unideal environments
  • The hardiness of these spores and why they are so hard to eradicate
  • What methods Steve and Courtney recommend in reducing Nosema spores
  • How to tell if your colony is infected by Nosema, and how to differentiate between Nosema ceranae and Nosema apis
  • How to test your colony for Nosema infection
  • What work is being done at Beaverlodge to fight Nosema’s effects on pollinators
  • Why fumagillin is not perfect in it’s treatment of Nosema and the side effects it has on colonies

“The only way to tell for sure if [your bees] have Nosema, if you don’t care about the species, would be microscopy. But if you’re curious whether you have a Nosema apis or ceranae infection, you have to use molecular techniques to differentiate between the two species.” – Courtney MacInnis

Links Mentioned:

Dr Sara Galbraith on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Sara Galbraith is a postdoctoral researcher in the Forest Animal Ecology Lab at Oregon State University in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. She has a B.A. in Biology from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Idaho and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center in Costa Rica. Her research focuses on understanding the influence of human-caused and natural disturbances on pollinator communities, especially in forest habitats. Sara has studied how land use change in Costa Rica and wildfire severity in southwestern Oregon influence wild bee communities, and she is currently investigating the influence of forest management on pollinator health in the Oregon coast range. Outside of work, Sara enjoys hiking with her dog and watching the Great British Baking Show.

Listen in to learn how forests are managed, how it affects pollinator habitat, and how bioassays gather essential insights into improving pollinator health.

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“We know so much about these mason bees and some of the other species that we manage that could work for these types of experiments, that it gives us the abilities to test all sorts of hypotheses.” – Dr. Sara Galbraith

Show Notes:

  • How forests are managed, and why that affects the bees we see
  • Why herbicides can affect bee habitats in very complex ways
  • How researchers learn the ways that habitats are affected by forest management
  • The methodological challenges of researching the changing bee habitats
  • What can be learned through using the bioassay in studying pollinators
  • Why forests are so important to the ecosystem of the Pacific Northwest
  • What is measured in a bioassay
  • How the myriad data collected through the bioassay can be used
  • The ways that natural disasters affect pollinator habitats in forests
  • What Sara and her team are currently working on
  • What wood lot owners can do to help their pollinator habitats thrive

”There are a lot of challenges in measuring the quality of habitat for bees, especially because they are such mobile organisms. So some of our biggest challenges are really methodological.” – Dr. Sara Galbraith

Links Mentioned:

Project Apis m. on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Our guest today is Danielle Downey, the Executive Director for Project Apis m., whose mission is to fund and direct research to enhance the health and vitality of honey bee colonies while improving crop production. Danielle has been working with honey bees and the parasites that plague them for 25 years. Her background includes training and research from bee labs in Minnesota, Canada and France; beekeeper education, work with commercial beekeepers and queen breeders, regulatory work as a State Apiarist in Utah and Hawaii, and wrangling bees for TV and film. She has worked closely with the Apiary Inspectors of America, Bee Informed Project and a bee breeding project with collaborators in Hawaii, Louisiana and Europe selecting and refining Varroa resistant bees. She holds a BSc from University of Minnesota and an MSc from Simon Fraser University.

Listen in to learn how Project Apis m. has accomplished valuable and sustained research for both pollinators and the agriculture and beekeeping industries.

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“We know that scientific research is the best way to answer questions about how to do business and improve agriculture…and beekeepers and growers, at the time of Colony Collapse Disorder, had really pressing questions that nobody was answering.” – Danielle Downey

Show Notes:

  • What got Danielle into studying bees
  • When and why Danielle started the Project Apis m.
  • Why a project like Apis m. is so valuable for everybody in the agriculture and beekeeping industry
  • How Danielle has centralized support for their project’s goal
  • How Project Apis m. maintains their scope and goal over their long timeline
  • What Project Apis m. has accomplished since it’s inception
  • Why Danielle is looking to change our chemical treatment of varroa
  • Why Project Apis m. believes that “practical is tactical”
  • What makes a promising proposal for Project Apis m.
  • What Project Apis m.’s “Seeds For Bees” program has done to help growers establish pollinator habitats
  • How Danielle’s project has helped them learn more ways to fight common pollinator problems
  • The importance of cover crops in efficiently grown agricultural areas
  • How farmers can use unused or unprofitable portions of their farm to create pollinator habitats
  • How Project Apis m.’s “Seeds For Bees” intersects with monarch butterfly conservation

“What it takes to make the change on the ground is to show and prove what is happening, and then outreach to educate on the alternatives, and change those practices.” – Danielle Downey

Links Mentioned:

Rich Hatfield on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Rich Hatfield is a senior conservation biologist for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. He has authored several publications on bumble bees, including a set of management guidelines entitled Conserving Bumble Bees. He serves as the Red List Authority for the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Bumble Bee Specialist Group and has taught bumble bee management and identification courses in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, and Massachusetts. Rich helped develop and launch the citizen science website Bumble Bee Watch, which has attracted over 18,000 users throughout North America, and gathered over 30,000 photo observations of North American bumble bees since 2014. Bumble Bee Watch now serves as the platform to collect data for the Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas for which he is the principal investigator. In addition to his work with bumble bees, Rich has investigated native bee pollination in agricultural systems in the Central Valley of California, and studied endangered butterflies in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and throughout the Pacific Northwest. When not at work, Rich is often off exploring the wonders of the Pacific Northwest with his family.

Listen in to today’s episode to learn how the PNW Bumble Bee Atlas is aiding in bee conservation, and how you can participate in pollinator habitat surveys.

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“I can tell you from the response that we’ve had that people are pretty excited. They’ve been having a really good time doing this. I love it, too, and it’s good to know that other people can join you on this.” – Rich Hatfield

Show Notes:

  • What the bumblebee atlas is, and what it is accomplishing
  • How the Xerces society developed their system of bumble bee collection
  • Why this bumble bee atlas can’t use other similar programs in their own study
  • The importance of having positive and negative data in these studies
  • What training people need to take to participate
  • What the process is of gathering specimen for bumble bee research
  • How a roadside survey is different than a point survey
  • What happens after the citizen scientists complete their survey
  • The benefits for many different groups of this kind of a project in this region
  • How you can get involved in helping the PNW Bumble Bee Atlas

“A lot of what we need to know is not what’s happening where people live, but what’s happening more in remote areas.” – Rich Hatfield

Links Mentioned:

Drs. Margaret Couvillon and Roger Schürch on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

PolliNation was joined this week by Drs. Margaret Couvillon and Roger Schürch from Virginia Tech. As you will learn in this episode, the Couvillon Lab investigates the dynamics of how pollinators collect their food in the landscape, with a specific focus on honey bee foraging, recruitment, and health. Dr. Couvillon is in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech. Dr. Schürch is a Research Assistant Professor studying the Behavior, Ecology and Evolution of Insects. Over the last few years he has become increasingly interested in the honey bee waggle dance both as a tool for foraging ecologists, as well as from a basic science perspective. Today they talk about their collaborative work on using honey bee dance behavior as a way to assess habitat quality for bees.

Listen to today’s episode to find out what we can learn from bee dances, and how home gardeners can make a difference creating their own pollinator habitat.

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“Let’s say you want to assess a large area for bee forage availability. If you are a traditional ecologist, you would walk transects and catalog the flowers you see, collect nectar and pollen samples to determine how much each flower is producing, and you have to account for competition. […] Even if you could do all that we calculated that it would take over 1,600 days to cover 90 km2. This is why we turned to the honey bee. The honey bee can do a lot of this hard work for us.” – Dr. Margaret Couvillon

Show Notes:

  • How to measure the efficacy of small pollinator habitats
  • Why the size of the habitat may not as big of a factor in pollinator population growth
  • Why a bee’s dance can point to their pollen sources
  • How researchers are able to use the bee’s dance to extrapolate useful data
  • How a bee’s dance moves dictate distance and direction of food
  • What we can learn from the inaccuracy of a bee’s dance
  • How Margaret and Roger are using this research to develop habitat restoration for pollinators
  • What one can answer with this research
  • What our guests will be focusing on in their upcoming research
  • The techniques Margaret and Roger use to create the most useable data in researching bee dances
  • What can be learned from studying the miscommunication of the bee dances

“If you put an observation hive in a landscape and observe the duration of the honey bee dances, which translate into foraging distance, you will be able to say [whether a habitat is good or bad for the bees] at a given time.” – Dr. Roger Schürch

Links Mentioned: