Current Projects

How does odor pollution impact bumblebee foraging behavior? This project started with findings that agrochemical odor pollution can be disruptive in lab-based foraging assays. Subsequent studies established a method for quantifying odors (facilitating characterization odor-pollution), allowing us to determine a threshold of pollution at which learned odors are no longer recognized, and determined that fungicide odors are broadly disruptive to floral-odor learning and recognition as well as floral search and selection. Current work is looking at expanding and improving the robustness of the current odor-characterization algorithm by: 1) examining the impact of stimulus complexity on odor-encoding and efficacy of the ‘Compounds Without Borders’ paradigm; and 2) investigating the structural basis of odor-valence variation with an aim to understanding what fungicide components may be aversive. We are also testing protocols to bring these questions into a field-paradigm.

How are visual and olfactory information from flowers integrated at different spatial scales? Because bumblebee foraging behavior manifests across a large variation in spatial scales, and not all sensory information provided by flowers is available at equal distances, a better understanding of if/ how sensory modalities are processed at different scales and foraging states will improve our understanding of bumble bee foraging overall.

Viability of distilled essential oils to make ecologically relevant stimuli for bumblebee foraging experiments: spoiler alert – they aren’t. But, mechanical extracts of floral material in mineral oil are! (Edwards et al. in prep)