New WIRED article on urban bees and our orchard project

Fun to read this article today on urban pollination and the need to support bees. There are some great quotes from collaborators Gerardo Camilo, Ed Spevak, and Dean Gunderson from SeedSTL (as well as from lab PI Aimee Dunlap).

Grad student George Todd is working on this project along with Jordan Hathaway from the Muchhala Lab and a great group of undergrads.

Jeremy’s ABS talk on the Zombie Games Lab

This week is the virtual half of the Animal Behavior Society meeting. Grad student Jeremy Howard is presenting a video talk entitled “Teaching Foraging and Vigilance in Animal Behavior Lab through “Zombie Games.” This is a lab that we’ve been teaching for a number of years, and it is lots of fun for the students and they tend to learn the material very well. Most of the lab joined in to help Jeremy demonstrate how it works.

Let us know if you have any questions about the lab and ways that we’ve modified it to adjust to different circumstances and student needs. Hope you enjoy the talk!

Congratulations to Rachel on her PhD defense!!

It was a week full of awesome lab successes, and capped by Rachel Brant’s excellent dissertation talk and defense last Friday. For her talk, Rachel focused in on two chapters that formed the bulk of her fieldwork with sweat bees: an analysis of pollen foraging behaviors across urban, suburban, and exurban sites, along with lots of environmental variables and a brain RNA-seq study from bees at these same sites. Many thanks also to her committee, Bob Marquis, Nathan Muchhala, and Mike Arduser.

We will be all be seeing papers from this work later this year- her chapter 1 review manuscript is accepted, chapter 2 on foraging behavior is under review, and the manuscript from chapter 3 is pending some additional data from this summer. Chapter 4 is under revision after co-author comments.

Rachel managed an extremely productive four years in the lab and we are all thrilled for her next challenge as a post doc at the Missouri Botanic Garden.

Congratulations to Jill Lee on her thesis defense !!

We are thrilled that grad student Jill Lee passed her master’s thesis defense this week!!! Once she turns in her final revisions, she will complete her degree!

Jill gave a great talk on her work, “The effects of overshadowing in Drosophila melanogaster with experimentally evolved preference.” Jill took some of our experimentally evolved fly populations and then tested whether the resource preference that we evolved for where females choose to lay eggs then affects learning when multiple stimuli are present. Will a stimulus with an evolved preference be more likely to overshadow a stimulus without that same history? The short answer is: its complicated. The evolutionary background of the flies influences their learning, but only in interactions with aspects of the learning scenario such as whether the pairing was aversive or appetitive, and whether the test featured an experimentally evolved stimulus with a more novel stimulus, or the same two options the flies were experimentally evolved with.

Congratulations Jill on persisting in your research work through a global pandemic and while working full time!

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:

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