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USM Graduate Student Writes First-Author Publication for Bee Research

Thu, 05/16/2024 - 01:05pm | By: Van Arnold

Bee Research

University of Southern Mississippi (USM) graduate student Kristin Robinson’s research on how bees are affected by climate change has been published this week in a special issue on Insect Conservation Behavior in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Robinson is a doctoral candidate in USM’s School of Biological, Environmental and Earth Sciences (BEES). Her paper, titled “Stingless bee foragers experience more thermally stressful microclimates and have wider thermal tolerance breadths than other worker subcastes” addresses how climate change impacts key ecosystem services that insects provide, such as pollination. Robinson works in the lab of Dr. Kaitlin Baudier, Assistant Professor in the School of BEES.

“It is fairly straightforward to estimate what temperatures cause bees distress, but in order to accurately put performance data together with future temperature projections, we need to understand the behavioral strategies that pollinators use in their environment. In her study, Kristin did just this,” said Baudier.

A native of Minneapolis, Minn., Robinson immersed herself in biology research while pursuing an undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota. The fieldwork associated with the species highlighted in her research has been conducted in Costa Rica. She acknowledges the honor of being published as a first author on a paper for the first time.

“Seeing the payoff of this first publication from my dissertation research is incredibly rewarding after putting in the work to get to where I am now,” said Robinson. “Of course, I am also very grateful for all the people who have supported me personally and professionally over the years to pursue my education and research.”

She added, “As a graduate student, I think we are all often plagued with insecurities about how much we still have to learn and the feeling that we are unfinished scientists in the making. While that is very much true because we are still students after all, being able to publish my work does help me to see my research from an outside perspective and realize that I am doing work that is valuable and appreciated.”

Last year Robinson received a Charles Michener Bee Research Grant from the North American Section of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects to support her follow-up work investigating how division of labor interplays with the desiccation limitations of the same species of stingless bee.

Baudier stressed the importance of Robinson’s work which helps scientists understand how a tropical pollinator may fare in the future as the temperature rises. The research also sheds new light on what factors shape the evolution of within-colony thermal tolerance variation.

“Kristin is committed to pursuing answers to important questions related to insect conservation. She is a knowledgeable field biologist and an all-around bright early career researcher,” said Baudier.