East Bay Science Cafe: March 2014

EBSC coffee mug

Held the first Wednesday of every month in the Cafe Valparaiso on Solano Avenue in Albany from 7 to 9pm. 1403 Solano Ave., Albany, California 94706

The East Bay Science Cafe is an informal forum for discussing interesting and relevant scientific issues. The goal is to encourage public engagement with science by inviting members of the scientific community to present topics for a casual evening of conversation. Cafes may vary in length and format depending upon the speaker and the topic. Audience questions are encouraged both during and after!

For more information or suggestions contact Monica Albe.

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Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Lauren Ponisio presents “Bees!”

Photo courtesy of Lauren Ponisio.

Over the past 50 years, agriculture has become increasingly reliant on pollinator-dependent crops: 75% all crop species depend to some extent on animal pollinators in order to produce fruits or seeds, and animal-pollinated crops supply a large proportion of essential nutrients to the human diet. However, honey bees, managed extensively around the world to provide crop pollination, are in global decline. Luckily, there are approximately 1,700 different species of native bees in California alone that may be able to buffer against future honey bee losses. Bees come in all shapes, sizes and colors, from the well-known fuzzy bumble bee to metallic blue orchard bees. Native bees, however are also in decline. I will discuss how research at UC Berkeley is helping to restore bees in agricultural landscapes. In the process we will look at a lot of cool bees and highlight how people can help bees in their backyards.

Photo courtesy of ESPM website.

Lauren Ponisio’s Bio:
Lauren is a Ph.D. candidate in the Kremen lab at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on the assembly of pollinator communities.

Mutualisms are one of the most influential of all biological interactions for the generation and maintenance of biodiversity. Plant-pollinator mutualisms are particularly ubiquitous, with animal pollination positively influencing the reproduction of 87% of all flowering plant species and 75% of all crop species. Pollination systems, however, are under increasing anthropogenic threats from land-use change, habitat fragmentation, pesticide use, and invasions of non-native plants and animals. Understanding how pollinator populations respond to environmental impacts and how plant-pollinator communities assemble over evolutionary time or in response to disturbance will prove critical to managing and restoring biodiversity.

Lauren hopes to contribute to the understanding of mechanisms underlying the maintenance of species and interaction diversity in plant-pollinator communities and their assembly through time and space. Using theoretical and empirical approaches she examines how plant-pollinator communities assemble 1) evolutionarily in a simulation-based approach, 2) through time by examining succession after fire in the Sierras, 3) through space in the island-like system of Madrean sky islands, and 4) in response to restoration in an intensely managed agricultural landscape in the Central Valley of California.