My research interests focus on community ecology and span broad spatial scales. I am currently part of a USDA funded project examining the impacts of landuse change on bees in eastern Colorado and I am investigating bee responses to floral occupancy by competitors (Chauliognathus beetles) and predators (Phymata ambush bugs). Understanding biotic interactions across scales will allow us to develop a model of the deterministic forces shaping the bee communities of plains and provide insight into the impacts of policy on biodiversity.
Understanding how and at what scale bee communities in remnant patches are affected by their surrounding landscape is critical for conservation, pollination service management programs, and our general understanding of community assembly. By analyzing bee community data collected at 32 sites in 2013 and comparing it to remotely sensed data and spatially explicit data layers generated from TIGER road data and EPA pesticide data from the study region, I hope to answer the following questions: (1) Does the abundance of bee functional groups correlate with environmental features and if so at what scale? (2) Can community dissimilarity be predicted by certain environmental features, if so at what scale? (3) Can we generate predictive surfaces of abundances for functional groups or species; are those surfaces improved when important environmental features are included?
For a bee, choosing the right flower can be the difference between life and death. Repeatedly collecting resources from flowers makes bees vulnerable to ambush predators (Dukas, 2001; Jones & Dornhaus, 2011). Bees are capable of interpreting complex visual and olfactory cues to assess floral quality (Bernays & Wcislo, 1994). Because the fitness cost of becoming a prey item is high, bees should make decisions about floral quality based on presence or absence of predators (Preisser, Bolnick, & Benard, 2005). Those decisions should be reflected in the rate of floral visitation and the duration of floral visits. Attractive flowers that are occupied by predators could be visited frequently, but for shorter periods of time because of predator detection by the bees. Understanding how bees respond to predators in non-laboratory settings provides valuable basic information on bee foraging strategies and intra-community interactions. Ambush bugs (Phymata spp.) are common and easily manipulated sit-and-wait predators, capable of capturing prey many times their own size, including bees (Elliott & Elliott, 1994). For that reason I used them as the predators in my experiment. I randomly paired 40 Helianthus petiolaris blooms and assigned them treatments, predator present or absent, and recorded each pair once for ten minutes from 07:40 to 13:00. Using an ANOVA, I compared visit durations to test whether or not bees were spending less time on occupied flowers and if there was an effect from the day of trial. I also examined how bee foraging patterns changed throughout my experiment.
Below is a poster I created for the 2014 Entomological Society of America meeting showing preliminary results from my community interactions work.