Bee researcher secures grant

How DNA meta-barcoding is helping better understand bees

Agribusiness
RESEARCH GRANT: USC PhD student Rachele Wilson with Malcolm Cox, the president of the Friends of Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Gardens, and a hive of stingless native bees.

RESEARCH GRANT: USC PhD student Rachele Wilson with Malcolm Cox, the president of the Friends of Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Gardens, and a hive of stingless native bees.

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DNA meta-barcoding is being used to investigate the foraging patterns of Australian native bees in forests and orchards.

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A PhD student investigating the foraging patterns of Australian native bees in forests and orchards has received a $1500 grant from the Friends of Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Gardens.

Rachele Wilson from the University of Southern Queensland (USC) was awarded the organisation’s student research grant to assist the costs of her cutting-edge research, which uses an approach trialled in only a handful of laboratories around the world.

“I’m using a process known as pollen DNA meta-barcoding to identify the plant sources of pollen foraged by several bee species in natural and disturbed landscapes,” Ms Wilson said.

Meta-barcoding involves matching environmental DNA, from pollens in this case, to the DNA barcodes of plants or organisms.

“I’m aiming to find out what vegetation is required to support these bee species and the pollination services they provide across south-east Queensland.”

Ms Wilson, who graduated from honours to her doctorate since completing a USC Bachelor of Science in 2013, said she hoped to capture some of Australia’s 1600 solitary bee species that were rarely studied.

“I’m expecting to gain important insights into the biology of bees through this world-first study comparing the foraging behaviour of solitary and social bees, using the latest genetics techniques.”

She said she was delighted to receive the grant because one of the sites within her study was located at the Maroochy Botanic Gardens.

“Preliminary findings suggest the stingless bees at that site forage on four plant species in autumn, seven in winter and five in spring,” she said.

“I’m expecting these numbers to rise when the results for summer come in.”

Ms Wilson’s PhD is supervised at USC by Professor of Agricultural Ecology Helen Wallace and Associate Professor of Vegetation and Plant Ecology Alison Shapcott.

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