Travels with my grant

29 April 2017 - By: Jonathan Pattrick

Travels with my grant - Jonathan Pattrick

Exomalopsis nest excavation
Exomalopsis nest excavation

Grant recipient: Jonathan Pattrick  (University of Cambridge, UK)

Travelled to: Bee biology course, Arizona, USA


The Bee Course was a nine-day workshop run by the American Museum of Natural History and based at the Southwestern Research Station in Arizona. It consisted of lectures in bee biology and floral relationships, field trips on collecting and sampling techniques, and associated lab work on specimen identification, preparation and labelling. Days were packed full, typically consisting of a field trip or workshop starting at 8 am, lab work in the afternoon and lectures/ seminars in the evening. The research station itself was situated at 5500 ft in the Chiricahua Mountains and thus was much cooler than the desert flats (which were still at 4000 ft, but very hot). The Chiricahua Mountains are in the south-west of the state, in a sparsely populated area, very close to the Mexican border. The surrounding area is notable for the range of ecosystems within a short distance of each other – montane, desert and dry grassland – all of which were visited during the course. Bees are particularly abundant in arid areas of the world, and the environment here makes this a hotspot for bee diversity. 

There were 24 students and seven instructors on the course, giving a very good student to instructor ratio. In addition, the collective expertise of the instructors was very impressive and this was coupled with great enthusiasm, making this a unique opportunity to learn about bee biology. A particular highlight was an impressive four- hour nest excavation demonstration in 30+ degrees C desert conditions by 88-year-old Jerry Rozen, world expert in bee nesting behaviour and larval biology. 

The course was a great opportunity to discuss in detail some of the more specialised taxonomic aspects of my current work with the instructors. In particular, I had a very useful discussion with Terry Griswold, an expert in the bee family Megachilidae, on potential directions for my current work with the morphology of this group, giving me some new ideas as well as setting up the potential for future collaborations. Students on the course were from all over the world and from a range of backgrounds (undergraduates to PIs) meaning that this was also an excellent chance to talk more generally about a wide range of current bee research and create academic contacts in many different countries. This is something that will prove very useful in my future career.

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Category: Animal Biology