Live on the radio!

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Preparing to go live, stacks of notes, powerpoint slides with key points and factoids, and lots of scratch paper!

 

Last week, Claudio and I had the privilege of being invited to the Larry Meiller show, a program on Wisconsin Public Radio.  There, we discussed pollinators, why they’re all over the news lately, and also my research involving radio-tagging bumblebees.  It was a unique experience, very different than most of the public speaking and outreach events that I have done over the past two years.  Not being able to see your audience is an interesting feeling.

The preparation that Claudio and I had with our lab two days before was crucial to the show going smoothly.  A lot of tough questions and critiquing of word choice, phrasing, and tone helped us to establish our goals and messages we wanted to convey.  Preparation for these types of media interactions is essential if you want to get your message across and to help avoid any uncomfortable moments of silence and unsureness when you are blindsided by a question you weren’t expecting.  A huge thanks to the Gratton lab for helping get us in “game mode.”

Please feel free to listen to the archive of the interview, linked below!
http://www.wpr.org/shows/tagging-bees-support-pollinators

EntSoc 2014

I recently returned from the 2014 meetings of the Entomological Society of America.  This was my first trip to a conference of such magnitude, and I must say it was quite an experience.  Several thousand presentations over the course of 4 days, with over 3,000 entomologists from across the US and world present.

At this years meetings, I presented a poster of my preliminary findings from the bumblebee foraging study I developed this past summer.  Putting together the poster was a great experience – with a lot of feedback coming in from my lab and adviser that has helped guide me in new directions for the coming field season and in my analyses.

I was fortunate enough to attend a number of pollinator symposia – each brimming with fascinating pollinator research.  Happily, I saw that not many people at all were working in the area I currently am – finding out you are duplicating efforts is always somewhat disheartening.  Luckily this is not the case!

A full summary of the talks I attended is forthcoming – until then, please take a moment to have a look at the poster I presented this year!

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My 2014 EntSoc poster on bumblebee foraging and landscape level resources.

Insect Photography

A test run with my labs 105mm macro lens.  Good fun, but a difficult lens to use well.  I’ll need a lot more practice before the good images start rolling in.

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Damselfly: Zygoptera

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Soldier beetle: Cantharidae

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Common eastern bumblebee – Bombus impatiens

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Research featured in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The experiment I have going at Arlington research station was featured in a short article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  It was subsequently picked up by a few other news outlets as far away as San Francisco.  It was also featured briefly on Wisconsin Public Radio broadcasts.  Hopefully this spotlight will help get pollinators and insect conservation on the minds of folks around the country who read these articles.

Thanks to Emily for writing a great article.

Field Season 2014

This coming summer marks my first field season as a graduate student.  As for most ecologists, entomologists, or agriculture-related researchers, summer is the season where the “work” gets done.  The winter months are for data analysis and writing!

For the past month or so, I have been in the process of developing a series of experiments that will be carried out over the course of the summer months.  Below, I have very briefly summarized the projects I am interested in carrying out this summer:

  1. Floral competition:  Does the presence of additional floral resources increase, or decrease the production of a pollinator dependent crop?  The idea of this experiment stems off basic competition theory.  Almost all flowering plants require insect pollination, a service that is, and is becoming increasingly more, limited.  Whenever resource is limited, those individuals who require it are often in competition with one another to acquire that resource.

    Generalist pollinators (e.g. bumblebees, honey bees) perform best when a diverse array of flowering plants are available.  However, the common farm practice is to limit the availability of additional floral resources as to protect from the possibility of bees visiting non-crop flowers.  This practice could have an unintended, negative consequence of reducing pollinator abundance and/or diversity by reducing the resource base bees depend on.  Because of this, farming practice and pollinator conservation strategies are placed at odds.

    That being said, there aren’t many studies that explicitly test the claim that having additional floral resources will detract from crop pollination services.  In fact, some studies suggest that the opposite may be true: an increase in additional floral resources may increase crop production by supporting a larger, more localized population of native pollinators that then visit crops as well.I am developing an experimental design that will test these claims using a series of plot designs that alter the phenology (timing) of floral resources surrounding a pollinator dependent crop (cucumber) to determine if competition occurs by measuring the crop yield within each plot.

  2. Tracking bees with RFID: One of my goals with my research is to develop farm-level maps of pollination services to help farmers identify areas of their farms that provide the greatest pollination services.  Ideally, those areas would then be conserved or enhanced to further build pollinator populations.  One piece of that model that is required, is the foraging patterns and ranges of native bees.RFID (radio frequency identification) is a technology that could inform that component of the model.  Ultra-small radio tags are attached to your organism of choice (lately, birds)  and then tracked using antennae arrays.  The tags are small enough for ants, and would be able to help determine bee foraging behavior in situ (in place; in their natural habitat).Specifically, I would like to determine if this method is practical, and then try to figure out the average foraging distance of bees in an agricultural landscape.  Where do bees go?  Where do they prefer to spend their time?  Gathering these data will help build ‘gravity’ into my model.  That is, I can selectively bias areas of habitat that bees prefer to provide additional realism to my model.

So that’s the plan so far!  There may be one additional experiment to perform in the later part of the year, but that is still contingent on a few things…  Stay tuned for updates on the season!

Welcome to my new website!

Hello everyone!

Welcome to my brand new website.  I have maintained a blog for about the last two years, but decided recently to switch to a more involved, customizable, and elegant interface.  To accomplish those things, I needed my own site!  Thanks to some magic and the incredible help of Daniel Imhoff, I now have a beautiful site to share with y’all!

This site will serve as a research outlet for my newly begun adventures in academia.  This fall marks my first semester as a graduate student in the Department of Entomology at the University of Wisconsin.

Throughout the next five or so years, I will be immersed in whirlwind of learning, exploration, and discovery.  The website is meant to chronicle that journey and provide those who follow it a learning portal.  I truly want this to help any who care to learn about the fields of biology, ecology, entomology.  It is my goal to display my research and information about the aforementioned fields of study in an exciting, dynamic way that allows anyone to understand these fields and why they are so cool!

Additionally, I will share my photography on this site.  Over the past five or so years, I have become, for lack of a better word, obsessed with wildlife and nature photography as well as photography in general.  The images I share are for the enjoyment of all, but please, don’t steal them from the site.  If you would like to use them, just contact me.

Please take a moment to explore the site.  I am still working on getting all of the content up, but the basic framework is complete.  If you have comments, suggestions, or just want to say hello, please contact me.

Cheers, and here’s to new adventures.

jH