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)

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!

2019 in Review

Lots of hard work paid off for lab members this year. And since we’ve not been great about updating the lab news, this will be a post with lots of news.

Matt Austin received a full year Dissertation Fellowship, that started in the fall, and Andreia Figueiredo was awarded a Raven Fellowship that will allow her to spend the spring semester in the field.

Many successful grants were written! Undergrads Katelyn Hanners, Dannice Alexander, and Brittany Alexander were all awarded grants from the Harris Center for their work on bees. Andreia was awarded a grant from the St. Louis Zoo for her work on orchid bees. And Rachel Brant was awarded grants from the Harris Center and the Webster Groves Nature Study Society for her work on sweat bees.

Lots of data were collected! Tian Manning completed her experiment on colony learning in bumble bees, with a monumental effort from Brittany, Dannice, high school student Kamau MuseMorris, plus many others. Matt brought a long-running bumble bee experiment on producer-scrounger dynamics to a close, completing efforts started by former student Isabel Rojas-Ferrer. Rachel finished her first season of data collection on sweat bees in community gardens and in the prairie, with help from Katelyn, Moses Alshimary, and a drone. Matt finished his field work for his dissertation, and buckled into genetics and modeling. Andreia completed her second field season in Florida, with some great lab work in St. Louis from Jacob Kottmeier, and high school senior Sindhu Bala. Fly work continues, with Michael Austin learning more about costs of learning in our evolved lines, undergrad Logan Philpott collecting some nice data on spider predation on high learning flies, welcoming three interns into the fly world (Candice Krull, Carly Spielberg, and Jacob Ryno, who have been learning lots of techniques), and last, but definitely not least, Jill Lee completing all the data collection on her thesis on overshadowing in learning.

It was a good year for pollinator outreach! Our reworked table kit was a success at the 13th Street Community Garden and North City Farmer’s Market during Pollinator Week. Aimee taught classes for two rounds of the Master Pollinator Steward Certificate, and the Master Naturalists. We hosted many lab tours. And last, but not least, we contributed a graphic on pollinator conservation for the Pollinator Pantry brochure from the St. Louis County Parks.

And finally, a number of papers made it into press, including Matt’s paper in American Naturalist on size size and bumble bee range changes. Tian presented her first poster ever at the Animal Behavior Society conference, along with a poster from Rachel and a great talk from Matt. Andreia, Matt, and Rachel all presented posters at the Entomological Society of America meeting. And Aimee gave talks at Animal Behavior and at the European Society for Evolutionary Biology.

Corny Time for All

We decided to celebrate the fall by visiting a corn maze, and for those who could make it, we consumed large quantities of kettle corn, petted some animals, and destroyed pumpkins using slingshots and a cannon. Notably we did not get lost in the corn and no actual pain was caused by reading the “Cornundrums” placed throughout the maze.

Our intrepid team. Andreia and Rachel on the higher hay bales, and Matt, Itachi, and Aimee below.
We didn’t get lost.
We never found all the CORNundrums throughout the maze… and we weren’t going back in either.