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Kathryn Gardner

2004 - 2005 CSIP Fellow

Research Interest:

I began studying insects while I was a biology student at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA, and was immediately engrossed. I find all aspects of social insects (and insects in general) fascinating, although my research mainly focuses on the ecology, physiology, and behavior of bumble bees. Initially, I worked on the division of labor and task specialization in bumble bees – a topic that still interests me. Currently, I am working on development, caste determination, and colony organization. When the queen (the only reproductive female) lays a female egg, it can develop as either a worker or a new queen, depending on the environment it experiences during larval development. I am exploring exactly what “environment” means in this case. For example, there may be hormonal differences between developing queens or workers or larval nutrition may be more important. I am also interested in how the colony “decides” when to rear new queens and who has control, the queen or the workers. I rear my own bumble bee colonies every year, and they are easily transportable and amenable to observations and experiments (there is little to no risk of being stung). Social insects provide the ideal platform to explore many important biological concepts, such as ecology, pollination biology, communication, social organization, and behavior. I would love to set up an observation hive in a classroom of either honey bees or bumble bees and carry out experiments that investigate foraging behavior and the dance language, color preference in flowers, or social organization within the colony.

Typically, entomology is viewed in one of two ways: either students think bugs are unpleasant or scary and want nothing to do with them, or they think bugs are cool simply because they are disgusting and scary. As a CSIP fellow, I look forward to introducing students to a largely foreign world that exists right outside their front door – the world of insects. Although my research focuses on insects, I enjoy biology and ecology in general and have several ideas for experiments or class projects that deal with general biological principles.





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