The human population is growing and agricultural production must keep up with it! Fruit and seed-set of most crops is dependent upon pollination, yet honeybees appear to be in decline. The pollination gap this has created is currently being filled by solitary bees. As humans change their landscape to produce more crops, what are the ramifications for our solitary pollinators? I study the mason bee Osmia cornifrons to answer this question. At the landscape scale, I am using historical data to document temporal and spatial range changes of this species across the Eastern Seaboard. Locally, I am placing bees in New York apple orchards that range from agricultural to natural surroundings and analyzing their pollen to quantify host-plant diversity and pesticide content. I will follow these field experiments with laboratory experiments to deduce which specific diets and pesticides are most detrimental and/or beneficial to solitary bee fitness. If we understand what conditions are most beneficial for solitary bees, we can design agriculture with them in mind, and conserve both bees and agricultural production.
I am interested in population and community ecology, primarily of insects and other invertebrates within the soil. The cryptic nature of the soil environment and the small size of many soil organisms mean that even basic ecological interactions are difficult to study. As such, soil can be difficult to manage and manipulate to ensure proper deliver of ecosystem services. My thesis research will focus on the potential of soil microarthropods such as mites and springtails to reduce the biological control efficacy of entomopathogenic nematodes through predation, and how soil biotic and abiotic factors affect predation rates.