Three students and faculty standing on a hill overlooking a valley with trees and grass
Pictured left to right, intern Stephanie Paris, Professor Amy Toth, graduate student mentor Erica Ybarra Garibai, and intern Dennis Camarena at a field site near Dubuque, Iowa, where they were looking for bees. Stop to take pictures.

Whitney Baxter

Students may join the Iowa State University Bee and Bee Squad with little background knowledge about pollinating insects, but after doing summer field and lab work, they will be Not only do we know more about, but we are likely to learn more. about yourself too.

Amy Toth, professor of ecology, evolution, and biological biology, will launch the Bee & Wasp Squad in the summer of 2021 to introduce undergraduates to hands-on fieldwork and research related to these pollinators. did. Financial support for the program came from her Rossmann Manatt Award in Iowa, which Toth received.

Seeing how popular the program was, based on the number of student applicants, Toth wanted to offer the program again in the summer of 2022. Toth applied for and received funding to support another cohort of the team through the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Facility Fellows Program. Launched last academic year, the program is sponsored by the Agricultural and Life Sciences Dean of Academics starting something of her Innovations Her Office and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Toth is one of her nine faculty members selected for the original Fellows program.

With many students vying for three open positions on the team, Toth spoke with each applicant to determine if they were a good fit.

“I wanted to make sure that students could develop their own interests through the summer internship experience,” said Toth. “We talked to them about their career goals and interests to help them decide if this program would be a good fit for them.”

The three students selected for the 2022 Summer Bee and Wasp Squad are Ayrin Alexander, third year animal ecology, Denisse Camarena, fourth year animal ecology, and Stephanie Paris, fourth year environmental science. was.

Each student was paired with a graduate or postdoctoral student mentor. Undergraduates learned how to assist seniors in research projects, study pollinators, and conduct experiments.

Camarena teamed up with ecology, evolution, and biobiology graduate student Erika Ibarra Garibai in search of the endangered bee species, the rust-spotted bumblebee, which she met while traveling across the state. We collected information about other bees that

Ibarra-Garibay and Bee & Wasp Squad Mentor Kate Borchardt is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in Ecology, Evolution and Biobiology who chose to become a mentor because of her positive experience as an undergraduate researcher. I called.

“I knew the value I was getting from my undergraduate studies and wanted to pass it on,” says Ibar-Garibay.

All summer long, Camarena was surprised to discover a new interest in small species – insects.

“I never thought I would be interested in the entomological side of animal behavior,” Camarena said. “I was thinking of working with larger animals, but being part of a bee and bee squad made me realize there is more to it. “

Undergraduates were also required to work on their own research projects. They planned out the questions they wanted to study through the project and how they would conduct their research to find the answers.

Toth describes the process of planning a student’s research project:

Paris investigated wing wear in foraging bees, among other bee-related studies, during the summer. To do that, she looked at how long flights and age wear down a bee’s wings.

Alexander conducted a similar research project, but she was the only one to examine wing loss in the air and how it correlated with baldness on the thorax (midsection) of bees. The biggest challenge with this study is that bees live only a few weeks, making it difficult to document changes over time.

“My perception of insects has completely changed. I learned a lot about plants and herbs as well as the basics of how to write a proposal,” said Alexander.

Students walk away from summer internships not only with more knowledge about pollinators, but with a better sense of where their education and career paths want to go. Morgan Moore, a graduate student in ecology, evolution, and biobiology, was part of the 2021 team. She is currently a first year graduate student working under Toth’s guidance.

“My internship definitely influenced my future goals,” said Moore. “It showed me what I was passionate about and introduced me to people who made my passion a reality.”

Toth hopes the Bee & Wasp Squad will continue to be available in the future.

“The program aims to support highly promising students, especially those from historically underrepresented and excluded groups, by providing an in-depth research experience and building strong relationships among group members. ,” said Toth. “These relationships are important. Students perform best when supported by a lab community that fosters a strong sense of belonging while respecting individual goals and talents.”

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