This semester, I am continuing my research on infection rates of bumble bees by Nosema, a fungal gut pathogen. My research is an important component in understanding declines of bumble bees and other essential pollinators. My general interest in conservation biology and species protection has made me interested in this pollinator conservation project.
Over winter break and at the start of this semester, I have been processing the bumble bees for DNA analysis of Nosema in the gut tissue and of pollen composition in the crop (honey stomach) and corbicula (pollen basket). On a weekly basis, this involves sterilizing bees to remove any external pathogens, taking measurements of their body weight and wing wear, and dissecting their abdomens. I will complete the DNA analyses in Dr. Pat Gillevet’s lab at GMU’s Microbiome Analysis Center. Specifically, I will determine Nosema infection using PCR and pollen composition using Next-Generation Ion Torrent sequencing. I will analyze the data for correlations pollen diversity and Nosema infection rates and will compare infection levels across species using ANOVA. I am excited to learn DNA extraction and analysis techniques, especially Next-Gen sequencing technology. Additionally, Dr. Forkner, my research mentor, and I have been preparing to present my research at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research this April.
The research I have done through the URSP program has given me considerable experience both in field and lab research techniques that I can use in graduate school and future research. I am interested in working in the conservation field as a researcher at a non-profit, aquarium or zoo, or even in the federal government. I want to be able to have my research make a difference in conserving the biodiversity of life on this planet and to keep the environment healthy for future generations.