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.