The Department of Entomology would like to recognize undergraduate students Emelia Rogers, Madalyn Laskowski, and Melissa Langkilde for receiving 2022-2023 Undergraduate Research Fellowships! Melissa, working with Dr. Amy Trowbridge, and Madalyn, working with Dr. James Crall, each received the Holstrom Environmental Research Fellowship, and Emelia, working with Dr. Sean Schoville, received the Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowship. Each recipient was awarded a $3000 stipend to support their research. A summary of each of their research projects is presented below.
My research concerns the population dynamics and genetic diversity of a species of alpine butterfly, the Sierra Green Sulfur Butterfly (Colias behrii). C. behrii underwent a sharp population decline due to a severe drought in its home region of the Sierra Nevada. This is concerning because smaller population sizes can impart negative effects on a species’ genetic diversity and ability to adapt. In addition to this, alpine species are known to be particularly vulnerable to global warming due to limited space for upwards range shifts. I proposed an experiment in which genomes of C. behrii from before and after the population decline are sequenced, analyzed, and compared against each other. From this, the change in genomic diversity can be quantified and measured to estimate the effects of the drought-induced bottleneck. The findings may have implications for the future management and conservation of endangered alpine species.
Recent large-scale drought and bark beetle-induced mortality events of piñon pine (Pinus edulis) have prompted a surge of research into understanding mechanisms behind tree susceptibility to destructive herbivores. While literature suggests that drought-induced changes in a tree’s specialized metabolites in aboveground tissues leads to increased vulnerability to bark beetle attack, the importance of substrates and metabolites present in belowground tissues have received little attention. Metabolite concentration in roots is particularly relevant to tree’s survival because reduced photosynthesis during drought may make carbohydrates and metabolites stored there critical to support physiological functions under environmental pressures. The proposed work aims to fill a critical gap in our knowledge of the root metabolome and its role in supporting both below and aboveground processes. Specifically, I will examine variation in starch, amino acids, sugars, and specialized metabolites known to serve as defense compounds in root cores collected from trees that have undergone short or long-term drought in a manipulative field experiment. This research is critical because drought events are expected to increase in severity and frequency in the future and this study will expand our mechanistic understanding of how processes in the roots may mitigate the impacts of those disturbances.
My study aims to investigate the effects of different classes of insecticides (three neonicotinoids, a sulfoximine, and a butenolide insecticide), on the social behavior of Bombus impatiens. Bumblebees are important pollinators whose populations are in decline partially due to exposure to neurotoxic insecticides. Neonicotinoids have been shown to be detrimental to numerous aspects of colony health and development; in particular, the neonicotinoid imidacloprid has been shown to disrupt a colony’s ability to regulate nest temperature under cold stress. Other widely-used insecticides act on the same pathway as imidacloprid and should be taken into consideration. Sulfoxaflor and flupyradifurone are new “alternative” solutions to use instead of imidacloprid but are shown to have similar effects as the harmful neonicotinoid. We will use imaging and temperature monitoring to track the thermoregulatory behavior of microcolonies that are exposed to both cold stress and insecticide treatments. In addition, we will examine varying microcolony sizes, as larger colonies have shown less response to the effects of insecticides. We will create microcolonies of 4 and 16 workers to study these different responses. The aim of my research is to better understand the effects of insecticides on bumblebees in order to better protect and preserve bumble bee populations.This article was posted in Awards, News.