Southeastern biologist awarded grant to survey bee populations in area

Wednesday, January 7, 2015 Bee research begins
by: Tonya Lowentritt

BEE RESEARCH BEGINS – Southeastern biologist Janice Bossart and biology graduate assistant Eric Van Gorder of Fuquay Varina, N.C., study a bee they caught at one of the protected habitat sites they survey. Bossart was awarded a $103,448 grant from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to compare and survey native bee communities in conservation habitats.

HAMMOND – An evolutionary ecologist at Southeastern Louisiana University has been awarded a two-year grant to compare and survey bee communities in area conservation habitats.

The $103,448 grant by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries was awarded to Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Janice Bossart, who is performing a systematic survey of the native bee fauna in Southeast Louisiana. The grant funds are also allowing Bossart to include Eric Van Gorder, a graduate student from Fuquay Varina, N.C., as well as several undergraduates in her work.

"This survey of the native bee populations in vulnerable habitats will have multiple tangible benefits for conservation management in Louisiana," Bossart said.

The project is intended to address several priorities identified by the Louisiana Wildlife Action Plan, Bossart explained, including surveys of bee populations, a functionally critical understudied faunal group in which certain member species apparently are experiencing broad scale decline.

"These surveys will generate data on the distribution and abundance of various species with a primary aim towards identifying rare, habitat-restricted and/or declining species," she added.

"The project also presents a unique opportunity to explicitly assess how certain bee species in Louisiana have fared over the past decade," she said.

Bossart said the study should generate a wealth of valuable information to conservation stakeholders, including species' checklists and inventories, species abundance data, locality and geospatial data, photographs and field notes, project reports and scientific publications.

"Insects in general are understudied and under-documented relative to other animals, but are critical components of ecosystems," she said. Survey data are essential for determining species that warrant conservation attention," she said. "Insects are sensitive indicators of environmental change, and surveys like this have the power to reveal focal species that can ultimately be used to quantify and track the biological integrity and ecological condition of Louisiana's habitats that may be of conservation concern."

Van Gorder, who plans to ultimately attain a doctorate in chemical ecology, has found the project to be helpful along his educational journey.

"I am working on a thesis related to the abundance of different species in different zones in the various conservation habitats," he said. "The grant project is allowing me to gather information, as well as hands on experience, for my thesis."

Bossart said the project will help Van Gorder become a master's level ecologist trained in the collection and analysis of insect survey data.

"With the experience and expertise Eric gains in bee and insect identification, field research, data analysis and presentation, he will be well equipped to become an active contributor to conservation of Louisiana's threatened species and habitats," she said. "He will also be well positioned to continue his graduate training at doctoral granting institutions or to attain a professional position with state or national governmental or non-governmental agencies working to manage and conserve natural habitats and their associated species."

Bossart added that regular, ongoing work will heighten local awareness and visibility of Louisiana's threatened habitats and bring increased attention to the importance of native pollinators, which will help build support for their conservation management.

The project will include collection of other specimens to provide confirmation of state-listed other species such as butterflies and/or vertebrate species associated with the habitats.


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