The Danforth lab at Cornell University seeks a highly qualified applicant to assist in research on the brood cell microbiome of solitary bees. Bees and angiosperms are one of Earth's most successful evolutionary and ecological partnerships. Bees gather, transport, and store floral products including pollen, nectar, and floral oils and, in the process, serve an essential role in plant reproduction: pollination. However, this bipartite relationship may involve a third hidden partner -- microbes (bacteria and yeasts). Historical literature, more recent microbial metagenomic studies, and our own preliminary data suggest that bees rely heavily on microbes obtained from flowers for larval nutrition. The pollen/nectar provisions stored by solitary bees for larval development host a diverse microbial community rich in fermentative bacteria and yeasts. Stable isotope analyses indicate that bees derive proteins and lipids from these microbial sources, meaning these microbial communities are an important component of the larval diet. Our project focuses on characterizing the microbial diversity of pollen/nectar provisions in solitary bees, using Osmia cornifrons (Megachilidae) as a model system, and understand how perturbations to the microbial community impacts larval development.
1. Characterize the microbial (bacterial and fungal) communities of pollen, nectar and pollen provisions in O. cornifrons using next-geneneration DNA sequencing
a. compare the microbial community of O. cornifrons pollen provisions from nests reared in fungicide free-habitats (urban/suburban gardens in Ithaca, NY) and in habitats where fungicides are applied for the control of fungal plant diseases (commercial apple orchards in the Finger Lakes region)
b. compare the brood cell microbiome of O. cornifrons to the microbial community of apple flowers (nectar and pollen) in order to identify the likely source of the brood cell microbes
2. Conduct manipulative experiments using O. cornifrons to explore how fungicides impact larval bee development via alterations in the brood cell microbiome
a. determine how the brood cell microbiome responds to the application of fungicides at field realistic levels
b. determine how changes in the brood cell microbiome impact larval development
Additional details and project background are available here.
This is a one-year term appointment with the possibility of extension, dependent on funding.
Undergraduate degree in biology, entomology, botany or related fields
Expertise with wild bee biology, especially the biology of stem-nesting mason bees (Osmia)
Expertise in laboratory bioassays using mason bee larvae
Molecular biology experience, including expertise in DNA extraction, PCR, and Sanger sequencing
Ability to use Sequencher and Geneious software packages for editing, alignment, and analysis of DNA sequence data
MS degree in biology, entomology, botany or related fields
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