USC bee researcher buzzing with new grant

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USC student Rachele Wilson, of the Blackall Range, conducting fieldwork. (Photo: Tim Heard)

A USC PhD student investigating the foraging patterns of Australian native bees in forests and orchards has received a grant from the Friends of Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Gardens.

Rachele Wilson was awarded the organisation’s $1,500 USC Student Research Grant to assist the costs of her cutting-edge research, which uses an approach trialled in only a handful of laboratories around the world.

“I’m using a process known as pollen DNA meta-barcoding to identify the plant sources of pollen foraged by several bee species in natural and disturbed landscapes,” said Rachele, 29, of Balmoral Ridge on the Blackall Range.

“Meta-barcoding involves matching environmental DNA, from pollens in this case, to the DNA barcodes of plants or organisms.

“I’m aiming to find out what vegetation is required to support these bee species and the pollination services they provide across south-east Queensland.”

Ms Wilson, who graduated from Honours to her doctorate since completing a USC Bachelor of Science in 2013, said she hoped to capture some of Australia’s 1,600 solitary bee species that were rarely studied.

“I’m expecting to gain important insights into the biology of bees through this world-first study comparing the foraging behaviour of solitary and social bees, using the latest genetics techniques.”

She said she was delighted to receive the grant because one of the sites within her study was located at the Maroochy Botanic Gardens.

“Preliminary findings suggest the stingless bees at that site forage on four plant species in autumn, seven in winter and five in spring,” she said. “I’m expecting these numbers to rise when the results for summer come in.”

Ms Wilson’s PhD is supervised at USC by Professor of Agricultural Ecology Helen Wallace and Associate Professor of Vegetation and Plant Ecology Alison Shapcott.

 
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