We’ve recently welcomed a few new members to our lab group. Here is a short introduction.
Olivia Bernauer joined the lab in June as a lab technician. She is a 2014 graduate of UW-Madison and recently finished her M.S. degree at the University of Maryland in the lab of Dennis van Engelsdorp.
Can you tell us a little bit about your master’s research?
My master’s research involved working with citizen scientists to determine which flowers were most frequently visited by Maryland’s native pollinators. Based on our results, we were able to score the value of pollinator plants species and then make recommendations about which plants are best to include in pollinator gardens.
What are you working on now?
Lately I’ve been working to develop a system to evaluate the quality of pollinator habitat planted in and around solar energy fields in Wisconsin. I have also recently wrapped up my field work for a collaboration with Michigan State University to monitor the impact of CRP land on honey bee colonies. Now that field work is finished, I’ve also had some time to starting thinking about potential projects for next year.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
When I’m not working I like to be outside! I enjoy gardening, cooking, photography, hiking, and traveling, preferably in the company of friends and family.
What is your favorite thing to do on a fall weekend in Madison?
My favorite thing to do on a fall weekend in Madison include: watching the Badgers and Packers win, eating squash and/or pumpkin foods, and drinking warm apple cider while watching a bonfire.
Taylor Tai joined the lab this fall as a graduate student in zoology. Most recently she worked as a research and curatorial assistant in the Lepidoptera collections at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. She is a 2015 graduate of Swarthmore College.
Tell us about your background and what brought you to the lab.
In 2014 I did a undergraduate research project on honey bee foraging at Tufts University, and have loved working with insects ever since. I’ve always wanted to move from that initial honey bee work into research on native bees, and I chose to join Claudio’s lab because his focus allows me to consider not only bumble bee behavior, but their ecological context as well. Before coming to Madison, I worked briefly in a social insect lab at UPenn and in the Pierce Lab at Harvard, where I assisted in projects on ant-plant mutualism and butterfly visual communication.
What is the focus of your graduate research?
I’m thinking about investigating some of the below-ground behaviors of bumble bees, including nesting and hibernation. There’s not much known about how bees select nest or hibernation sites, and I think we have an opportunity to take advantage of the arboretum, farms, and other distinct landscapes around Madison to better understand the factors that impact success at each of these life stages. I’m hoping my research touches on conservation and management issues for Bombus terricola and affinis, both of which have experienced population declines and can be found in Wisconsin.
How are you liking Madison so far?
I’ve never lived off of the east coast before, so coming to Madison was a big cultural shift. I’m really happy that I chose to experience a new part of the country, and am having a good time exploring some of the natural areas, getting into gardening at Eagle Heights, and being constantly surprised by mid-western friendliness.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
If I’m not working, I’m most likely cooking, eating, or talking about good food. I like to work with my hands as a break from reading and thinking, so I also do lots of arts and crafts and hang out with my fat rabbit Mitch at home.
Erin Lowe also joins us as a graduate student this fall. She is pursuing her M.S. in Agroecology and Entomology. She is a 2014 graduate of Swarthmore College and comes to us from the Winfree Lab at Rutgers University where she was a research technician.
How did you get interested in bees and agriculture?
I became interested in bees after spending a summer at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) working on a pollination project with David Inouye’s group. After college I worked in sustainable agriculture and then returned to bee research.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and I’m excited to see what the Madison area has to offer.
What do you want to do when you grow up?
I’d like to find a career where I can combine my interests in pollinators and sustainable agriculture to help farmers conserve bees.
Welcome Olivia, Taylor, and Erin! We are glad you are here and look forward to seeing where your research leads you.