Aimee & Nathan Win an UMSL Research Award!

Happy to share that the campus 2022 Co-Investigators of the Year Award went to lab PI Aimee Dunlap and department collaborator Nathan Muchhala, of Muchhala Lab, for their work on pollination in urban orchards. Of course both labs are heavily involved in this work, along with our awesome collaborators in St. Louis.

Its always nice to win an award, and even better to win awards with great colleagues! Biology did pretty well with our colleague Lon Chubiz also winning Junior Investigator of the Year!

Campus Daily story here: https://blogs.umsl.edu/news/2022/04/18/research-and-innovation-reception-2022/

Nathan Muchhala, Aimee Dunlap, Department Chair Wendy Olivas, and Lon Chubiz (picture by Eike Bauer)

Undergrad Research Day at the State Capitol!

We are thrilled that two of our undergraduate researchers, Lucas Lauter and Owen Ireton, were able to present their research at the University of Missouri’s Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol. They presented posters under the capitol rotunda in Jefferson City and met other students and state legislators. Notably, these are the first in person posters presented by our lab since the entomology meeting in 2019!

Owen presented work he’s been working with grad student Rachel Brant on honeybee competition with native bees around St. Louis. Lucas presented on work he’s been doing with grad student Avery Baker on what bees find memorable about flowers and other bees. Great job representing the lab and our campus!

The campus newspaper wrote an article about the event. https://blogs.umsl.edu/news/2022/04/11/um-system-undergraduate-research-day-2022/

New USDA grant starting!

We are thrilled to have been awarded a grant from the USDA along with some great collaborators, Nathan Muchhala from UMSL, Nicole Miller-Struttmann from Webster University, Gerardo Camilo from Saint Louis University, Kyra Krakos from Maryville University, Ed Spevak from the Saint Louis Zoo, and Peter Hoch, who recently retired from the Missouri Botanic Gardens. It is the range and depth of expertise that makes this project possible. Our team is working on ways to maximize pollination in urban orchards.

Using a gradient of urbanization in St. Louis, along with the network of community orchards supported by Seed St. Louis (formerly Gateway Greening), we will be assessing the pollinator communities of these orchards as well as the efficacy of their pollination services. We are hoping to answer two important questions: 1) How does the socio-environmental background in which orchards are embedded affect pollinator diversity and pollination services provided to orchards in the city of St. Louis? and 2) How do interventions aimed at increasing native bee diversity and density affect orchard fruit yields?

Our lab is responsible for measuring and analyzing the behaviors of the pollinators in our nine focal orchards (three urban, three suburban, and three peri-urban). PhD student George Todd will be taking the lead on a great deal of this data collection, as we record videos of bees and flies, and then analyze them for differences in how they interact with flowers and collect pollen. We were inspired in this work by recent findings from Rachel Brant, a PhD candidate in our lab who has found that sweat bees are using different patterns of pollen foraging behavior depending on how urban their environment is.

This will be a busy spring as we get all of our supplies together and finalize our protocols, which we were able to refine last spring as we were writing the grant. We will be looking for four undergraduates for paid positions this spring at UM (two working with our lab and two with the Muchhala lab), and are thrilled at the possibilities for some excellent senior theses and research projects.

Congrats Fall 2021 Graduates!

Our first in person commencement in TWO YEARS was this past Saturday. We were happy to watch a few lab members walk across the stage. Andreia Figueiredo Dexheimer graduated with her PhD. Andreia was also chosen as the Student Marshal for the Graduate School. And we have new bachelor’s degree graduates with Taylor Bayless, who worked on orchid bees with Andreia, and Amina Hamza and Omar Manzoor, who worked this fall on bumble bees. Congratulations to all of you!

Andreia and Taylor
Andreia and Aimee

Congrats to Dr. Andreia Figueiredo Dexheimer!

We are so thrilled to congratulate Andreia on her successful dissertation defense today! Andreia gave a fabulous talk in person and on Zoom. Her dissertation, “Cognitive Ecology of Color Vision in Orchid Bees,” involved a mix of field work in Florida, some conceptual work, and some lab work, both here at UMSL and with the Morehouse Lab at the University of Cincinnati. Andreia also worked with the Saint Louis Zoo for part of her research.

Congratulations Andreia! A tremendous amount of work and thought, as well as skill, was needed to navigate completing a dissertation in the middle of a pandemic. Excellent work!