Multiple stressors are implicated in UK honey bee colony losses, but whilst our understanding of stressors such as climate change and pesticides is improving, we lack an appreciation of how they interact. Climate prediction models largely agree that average temperatures will rise but also with increases in extreme weather events. Whilst the direct implications of these forecasts will impose stress on bee health, are honey bees in for a double blow? Alongside changing temperatures, there will be increases in pesticide usage and a softening of regulations over bee-harming chemicals post-Brexit. A pressing question, therefore, is whether the severity of pesticide impact on UK honeybees will increase under climate change?
Our mechanistic understanding of how pesticide residues can leave colonies vulnerable to environmental challenges remains poorly understood. To address this knowledge gap, we must first link how effects on individual functions and behaviours that are vital for colony performance are temperature dependent. From this, we can develop a mechanistic framework to determine how this translates to effects on colony-level function, such as thermoregulation, under changing climatic conditions. The goal of this project is to contribute to our understanding of how pesticide exposure under simulated cold snaps and heatwaves can contribute to colony losses. This will help in forecasting when in the season and across which climatic regions are honey bee colonies most vulnerable to pesticide exposure.
This PhD studentship will incorporate lab exposure assays to different pesticide classes across a temperature gradient. It will bring together three primary work packages over a three-year period, involving experiments to 1) understand how thermally dependent processes of energy metabolism and body thermoregulation are influenced by pesticides across a temperature range; 2) Quantify the pesticide thermal response relationships of locomotive behaviours that are dependent on metabolic rate and body thermoregulation; 3) Assess how collective behaviour and thermoregulation of brood under different cold and warm conditions are affected by pesticide exposure.
The student will join the Gill and Graystock groups located at the Silwood Park campus of Imperial College.
The application deadline is 10th January 2023 but will be extended if no suitable candidate is found. To apply please send your CV and a cover letter (max. 2 pages) explaining why you want to do this PhD and your suitability to Richard Gill ([Email Address Removed]).