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Science@Cal Lecture June 2014 – Pollinators

On Saturday, June 21 our talk will be given by Dr. Amber Sciligo and will be entitled “Native pollinators and food [production] security: How growing multiple crops can help, and whether ecological evidence is enough to promote management changes in the food system.

LOCATION: 159 Mulford Hall, UC Berkeley.

TIME: 11am-12pm.

stylized bee

Since the discovery of Colony Collapse Disorder in 2007, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of studies investigating honeybee health and the stability of alternative (i.e. wild) pollinator communities in providing pollination services. Many previous studies have demonstrated that natural habitat surrounding farms increases pollinator abundance, diversity and services. This level of diversification, however, is not under grower control, whereas local diversification practices such as polyculture (i.e., the planting of multiple crops) are much more under grower control. Yet, no studies to date have explicitly studied whether polyculture can provide the same critical resources to native pollinators that larger landscape-scale natural habitats do. This study compares polycultures to monocultures, embedded in either intensive agricultural or natural habitat landscapes, to determine the effects of local versus landscape scale diversity on pollinator communities and pollination services.

Our results create opportunity for discussion about the types of diversification that are recommended for more resilient agroecological systems and their feasibility for implementation. Currently, infrastructural constructs of our increasingly consolidated food system may prevent growers from adopting management practices that focus on biological conservation without considering the risk and business aspects of farming. For insight on the social component that is often overlooked in agroecological studies, survey responses from growers, pest control and certified crop advisors will be also be presented.

Interactions with those in the industry who decide how our food is grown, has made it apparent that future studies should not only include either ecological or social examinations of our food systems, but a combination of both disciplines simultaneously. This study provides a great start to that effort and conversation.

Dr. Amber Sciligo

Dr. Amber Sciligo

Amber is a Postdoctoral Researcher working with Professor Claire Kremen in the department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management (ESPM). She has been studying the value of native bees to mitigate the risk of honeybee losses since 2009. Her work began on this topic in New Zealand, while collaborating with researchers interested in honeybee collapses and the catastrophic risks posed for NZ agriculture, where native bees that could replace the service of honeybees, are non-existent (unlike the good fortune of CA, where there are lots of native bees to fill that role). Amber received here PhD in Ecology and Evolution in Canterbury, New Zealand. Her dissertation work was on the evolution of self-fertilization in carnivorous plants as a mechanism to overcome the long term absence of pollinators. A California native from a farming community, she left agriculture to pursue a BSc in Ecology and Evolution at UC Santa Cruz, and after a long adventure in natural systems, has now returned to addressing systemic and major problems in our current global food system.

This free public talk is presented as part of the monthly “Science@Cal Lecture Series”

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