Unique research on bees conducted by ASU graduate students at West campus has opened new doors for their future.
Adam Lowe, a recent ASU alumni and new scholar at University of Queensland-Ochsner, and Zackary St. Peter, an ASU biology graduate and a current graduate scholar at Georgetown University’s College of Medicine, had the opportunity to research and document the various types of native bees in Phoenix and their preferred floral host relationships. The research was conducted under the supervision of New College faculty member, Dr. Jennifer Foltz-Sweat, research that is set for publication, and helped Lowe and St. Peter stand out from their peers while applying for medical school.
President Obama’s Pollinator Initiative Act was a key inspiration in their research. This initiative focused on increasing crops to alleviate world hunger by restoring pollinator life and interaction. Dr. Foltz-Sweat and her team had set the goal of the project to evaluate the dynamics of pollinator interactions within urban landscapes present in southwest Phoenix. Prior to the research, Dr. Foltz-Sweat and Zackary collected data from a manuscript based on pollinator networks from a previous study in order to build the baseline data for the bee species community. From this information, the team was able to construct a representation of plant-pollinator networks.
Next, the research team focused primarily on the native bees and compared them based on the biodiversity, urbanization, and sustainability present in four particular locations: two at the dense urban landscape the ASU West campus, and the other two at the semi-natural landscape at Piestewa Peak. The team strategically used a protocol of pan trapping and aerial netting by placing traps in an “X” formation and created a plant list. They would net native bees and note its flower, then used their findings to compare the bees in the two communities and see how the variation of the landscape affected the community composition.
It was discovered that the dense urban landscape surrounding Arizona State University at the West campus had greater bee species diversity compared to the semi-natural landscape at Piestewa Peak. The graph below shows the impact the local flowers have on bee inhabitants. It was evident that the diversification of flowers is key in maintaining a stable and desired pollinator network. Furthermore, it was noted that when an environment is interrupted or urbanized, there is a negative impact to the community. In conclusion, the native bee community is able to maintain its diversity in the face of the growing urbanization as long as there are adequate floral resources available. A potential solution to sustaining the pollinator network would be to increase the variety of floral resources in the areas that are constantly being interrupted or urbanized.
St. Peter and Lowe agree that the Life Science program was a resourceful and amazing opportunity. Adam states this project is a great way to connect with your field, believing that undergraduate programs shouldn’t just be about meeting the requirements to get a degree, but it is a time to take advantage of the opportunity to learn as much as possible. He continues on to say that New College’s Life Science program (now the Biology B.S. degree program) allows students to choose from a wide range of electives anywhere from animal behavior to the human environment. These are the electives that blossomed the desire for him to take part in this research with Dr. Foltz-Sweat. Adam strongly believes “this kind of opportunity can only be achieved with a program like the one offered at New College.” As for Zach, the West campus was not only convenient in location, but the students and overall environment influenced him to take as many classes as possible on this particular campus. Additionally, he was able to sit down with Sue. LaFond, Pre-Health Advisor at New College, who provided the assistance he needed to begin his medical application process. LaFond played a key role in his application timeline, giving him the necessary support from beginning to end.
“I can honestly say that I would not be in medical school without the help of Ms. LaFond…[she] should be contacted by any ASU student interested in medicine.”
For more information on the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at ASU’s West campus, or the numerous research opportunities available to pre-health students, click here