More good lab news – NSERC grad fellowship for PhD student, David Awde

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Everyone in the lab was delighted this week that Dave was awarded an NSERC Post-Graduate Scholarship, which will support him for the next three years.  Dave switched to the PhD programme in September 2015, and this funding is perfectly timed to (eventually) get him to the finish line.  Currently, Dave is working on the first of several planned thesis chapters, comparing the nesting biology of Lasioglossum (Dialictus) laevissimum here at Brock, to populations in other places, as well as to other species of eusocial sweat bees nesting at Brock.

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PhD student, Jess Vickruck, now has her own webpage!

Check Jess’s new independent webpage.

The grad students grow up so fast.  Sniff.

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Dialictus genome project update

L. laevissimum Photo:  USGS Native Bee Inventory  http://www.flickr.com/people/54563451@N08

L. laevissimum
Photo: USGS Native Bee Inventory
http://www.flickr.com/people/54563451@N08

At long last, our genome project is truly underway – the sequencing has been done so now begins the process of assembly!

Getting to this point, we ran into an unexpected series of setbacks with DNA quality control.  A major issue lay in quantifying the DNA for sequencing from very tiny bees.  We used a Nanodrop spectrophotometer, which fooled us several times into thinking we had more DNA than we actually did.  It turns out that the total DNA from a tiny sweat bee like Lasioglossum laevissimum, when eluted in a reasonable liquid volume, is at a concentration well below accurate levels of measurement for our instruments.  This explains why some people refer to Nanodrops as expensive random number generators.  We actually found the Nanodrop to be quite accurate in measuring relatively high DNA concentrations from big bees.   A second set of problems arose with DNA quality – low quality DNA might not produce sufficient or high enough quality DNA libraries.  After several apparently unsuccessful attempts to solve this problem, we instead decided to ignore it! Lo and behold, we got all the libraries we originally planned for.

So now we have billions of sequences to assemble.   We will be learning a lot of new skills soon.  Once we have more or less figured out how to do this, we hope to use this genome assembly and annotation project not only for our research, but also to teach bioinformatics skills to undergrad and grad students to widen their technical experience.  This should be fun!

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NSERC USRA award for Andrea Cardama!

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Andrea Cardama is on a roll!   Andrea has been selected for an NSERC Undergraduate Summer Research Award, which is great news for the whole lab.  The award will enable Andrea to continue studying gene expression in local bee species, research that she has been doing for her 4th year Honours Thesis project, in collaboration with PhD student, David Awde.  Having spent the winter learning molecular biology techniques in the lab, now Andrea will get to the really fun part – watching and collecting bees in the field.

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Invasion of the body-snatchers

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Twigs with perfectly round holes in the ends often turn out to be the nests of Ceratina, pygmy carpenter bees.  I found some nests in southern Greece, near Monemvasia, last spring.   I opened one up and found a peculiar specimen with yellow antennae.  When I looked at it more closely, I realized that the yellow appendages were fungal hyphae sticking out of the bee’s head.  The rest of the fungus was growing inside the bee.  The bee was still alive, but hardly moving.

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Three-minute thesis prize for Bee Lab undergrad, Andrea Cardama!

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Brock’s undergrad Math and Science Council recently held a Three-Minute Thesis competition.  Undergrads working on 4th year research theses gave three minute presentations on their research progress.   Andrea’s research is on gene expression patterns and how they relate to … Continue reading

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If you have a Dalmatian, bee biologists need you…

Nice hair, dude.

Nice hair, dude.

Sam Droege is kind of a rock star among bee biologists.  Sam works for the US Geological Survey and spends his time devising biodiversity surveys.  His specialty is collecting, identifying, photographing and publicizing bees.  Like any good publicist and society photographer, Sam wants his subjects to look their best.  Turns out, grooming a bee is best accomplished with tiny brushes made of hairs from Dalmation dogs.  Their hairs are forked, which is perfect for buffing and brushing bees.

Our national broadcaster picked up on this  – here’s Monday’s interview from As It Happens:  http://www.cbc.ca/asithappens/features/2015/01/26/dog-hair-needed-for-cleaning-bees/.

(Editorial note:  if Sam was a federal scientist in Canada, this interview could never have happened.  US government scientists are free to talk to the CBC, but Canadian government scientists are not! )

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