This semester, I research Nosema, a fungal gut pathogen, in bumble bee workers and the relationship between Nosema infection and bumble bee food choice. I became interested in my project last spring after taking a class with my current mentor, Dr. Forkner. I wanted to have experience with both field and lab research techniques and joined an ongoing research project on bumble bee queens. After I started working, I decided to expand the research to examine worker bees and collaborated with my mentor to develop a project for URSP. I am fascinated by the research because it is critical to preventing the current decline of bumble bees, which are essential crop pollinators.
My long-term goals are to go to graduate school in biology and to pursue jobs in the conservation field. I would enjoy working as a researcher at either a non-profit, aquarium or zoo, or even in the federal government and being able to apply my research outcomes to make a difference. This research project helps me learn field and lab techniques I will need in the future, and provides me with experience in species conservation. All of these skills will make me able to conduct research on my own in the future.
Over last spring and the summer, I collected all the bumble bee workers I needed while helping to collect bumble bee queens. Since the semester has started, I have been processing my worker bees to make pollen slides to assess food diversity and to check the pollen and bees for Nosema. More recently, I have been counting and analyzing the pollen diversity of the fuschin-stained pollen slides. After the data have been collected, I will analyze the data with regression tests and seeing if there is a correlation between pollen diversity and Nosema infection loads and will use ANOVA to look for species differences in infection rates and food choices.
I have discovered that research is a creative process overall. In undergraduate courses, the labs have usually already been practiced hundreds of times and the process and techniques have been perfected. Working on your own research requires you to be flexible and adaptive to changes that you need to make. You have to be willing to try something new or change techniques in order to get the data necessary for your research. Over the semester, my process and project has evolved and changed to what works best with the available equipment and what I can complete in a semester.