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Dining out in the Anthropocene: the impact non-native Himalayan Balsam on bee Microbiome, health and pollinator ecosystems (OP2244)


   Faculty of Science, Agriculture and Engineering

  Dr Rinke Vinkenoog  Monday, January 24, 2022  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Newcastle United Kingdom Data Analysis Ecology Genetics Microbiology Molecular Biology Molecular Genetics

About the Project

Honeybees (Apis mellifera) play a vital role in pollination of crops and wildflowers. They are “generalists” who visit a wide range of flowers, basing their choice on quality of reward (nectar, pollen) and of quantity of flowers available. Invasive flowers like Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) can cause changes in the plant-pollinator network1,2. Honeybees forage heavily on Balsam, but only from mid-summer onwards. They then keep on foraging on Balsam until the end of its flowering season.

What is the impact of Himalayan Balsam on bees? Balsam provides large quantities of nectar per flower3. As it flowers at a time when other food sources become scarce, beekeepers value Himalayan Balsam as an important food source. Does it keep bee colonies in good health by preventing malnutrition? Or does it create problems for honeybees by keeping them away from other plants and leading to a less diverse diet4?

In this project we will follow a number of honeybee colonies in regions with abundant Himalayan Balsam, and in regions where Balsam is scarce or absent. We will monitor their foraging behaviour over time by identifying and analysing pollen in honey samples and pollen pellets collected by worker bees. Bee health and bee nutrition are linked to the microbiome in the bee’s gut system5,6. We will analyse the microbiome of honeybee midgut and honey samples of colonies from both regions. Differences in the microbiomes will then be linked to diet and overall health of the colony. Data on bee health will be obtained by monitoring the hives with Agrisound hive monitoring equipment and by working closely together with beekeepers. This candidate will develop skills in microbiology, molecular biology, genetics and pollen analysis. They will be provided with opportunities to present data in conferences.


Funding Notes

This project is part of the NERC ONE Planet DTP. Each of our studentship awards include 3.5 years of fees (Home/EU), an annual living allowance (£15,650) and a Research Training Support Grant (for travel, consumables, etc).
Home and International applicants (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. Following the UKRI announcement regarding their new 30% UKRI international recruitment policy (to take effect from September 2021) both Newcastle University, and Northumbria University, have agreed to pay the international fee difference for all International applicants (inc. EU) who are awarded a DTP studentship. Interviews will take place in February 2022.
How to apply: View Website

References

1.Lopezaraiza et al. (2007) Ecol Letters 10, 539-550; 2. Davis et al. (2018) Biodivers Conserv 27, 2069-2085; 3. Chittka & Schurkens (2001) 411, 653; 4. Dolezal et al. (2019) R Soc open sci 6, 181803; 5. Wang et al. (2021) J Hazard Mater 402, 123828; 6. Daisley et al. (2020) Trends Microbiol 28, 1010-1021

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