Highlights from Summer 2016

The summer flew by but I think its because we were busy bees! Here are some of the summer highlights:

Undergraduate Research – Anna Nixon spent the summer in the lab and field studying the influence of morphological features on bumble bee thermal properties and presenting and publishing her research as part of the McNair Scholars Program. Jesse Schneider joined the lab in May. He provided essential help during peak season of our bumble bee rearing and collected solitary bees for understanding pathogen transmission in bee communities. Carrie Hill was collecting bees as part of her Apes Valentes Undergraduate Research Award funded last May. The goal of her project is to study pathogen loads in pollen to compare these to pathogens in bees.

Travel and Field Trips – In June, I traveled to the Evolution Meeting in Austin, TX where I shared the labs research on understanding the genetics and evolution of mimetic coloration in bumble bees and had a chance to chat with some great collaborators. New grad student in the lab, Sarthok Rahman, attended modules in GWAS and pop gen a the Summer Institute in Statistical Genetics at the University of Washington. Patrick, Briana, and I each went on collecting expedition for bumble bees – Patrick to Oregon and Canada to collect Psithyrus females for his research on chemical ecology of these social parasites, I went to Utah to acquire Bombus bifarius males for genomic analysis of color variation, and Briana to collect Bombus melanopygus from the Oregon hybrid zone to understand how mimetic patterns have shifted over the last 100 years. Briana also spent a substantial portion of her time in the field in Pennsylvania collecting bumble bees, honey bees, and solitary bees for her pathogen communities project, and mentored Carrie and Jesse on this as well. She also helped out at Powdermill Nature Reserve identifying bees at the Flight 93 crash site.

NE SARE Research Grant Funded – Briana received funding for her bee pathogen community research project “Understanding the epidemiology of pathogens within bee communities in Pennsylvania” through a Northeast Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education Graduate Research grant!

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Left – Lee talking about bumble bee life stages at the Wings of the Park booth with the Frost Museum. Right – Patrick watching Psithyrus mate outside Mueller while jamming to some tunes.

Outreach at the Wings in the Park – Lee, Briana, Anna, Carrie, and I engaged the public on mimicry in pollinators at the July Wings in the Park celebration in Tudek Park. It was a very hot day but a fun event nevertheless. We got some good coverage in photos from the event published in the Centre Daily Times.

The Pollinator Meeting – Several members of the lab attended the third International Conference on Pollinator Biology, Health, and Policy held here at Penn State this past July. The pollinator community is vibrant and the pollinator center did a great job putting this together. Briana presented last year’s pollinator pathogen data at the meeting.

Lets not forget time in the lab doing research! – There were a lot of projects running this summer but major progress was made collecting data from the pathogen project described above, understanding developmental genetics of coloration (Lee, Sarthok, and I), and Patrick was exceptionally successful rearing and studying several species of North American Psithyrus on various bumble bee host species to better understand host nest invasion. I also enjoyed spending time at the bench collecting data fro several insect pigmentation projects (dogface butterflies with Counterman Lab, mutillids, bumble bees) and enjoyed experimenting with mutilliculture (velvet ant rearing, that is) for collaborative work with Joe Wilson. Extra efforts will be spend this fall on getting some of these results to publication!