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.
Research Interests: I am broadly interested in insect ecology and natural history, and particularly in community and landscape ecology. For my M.Sc. research at Purdue University, I focused on behavioral and chemical ecology of ants. Specifically, I studied odorous house ants, a native North American ant which has an extremely variable social structure which seems to relate in some way to its success in urban areas. For my PhD at Cornell, I would like to focus on community ecology in agroecosystems under the supervision of Dr. Katja Poveda. I am particularly interested in understanding how diversity and community composition relate to ecosystem services such as pest control by natural enemies.