The impacts of anthropogenic stressors on bumblebees: From behavioural ecotoxicology to conservation genomics

Late Lunch Talk by Lauren Cobb

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Bumblebees are vitally important pollinators, facilitating the reproduction of a vast diversity of plant species. Reports of bumblebee population declines across the world have been the source of increasing alarm, as such losses have severe implications for global ecosystem function and food security. Bumblebee declines are thought to be the result of a combination of anthropogenic stressors such as habitat loss, pollution, climate change and human-introduced pathogens and parasites. In this talk I will discuss my research on the impacts of anthropogenic stressors on bumblebees, firstly covering my Masters project on bumblebee ecotoxicology and behaviour, followed by my current PhD project on bumblebee conservation genomics.

PART I: The behavioural effects of aluminium and lead contamination on bumblebees

Anthropogenic activities such as industry, urbansiation and agriculture have resulted in widespread environmental heavy metal pollution. Plants grown in polluted soils accumulate these heavy metal contaminants and subsequently incorporate them into their tissues and their floral rewards on which pollinators forage. During my Masters project I investigated the behavioural effects of exposure to heavy metals through contaminated floral resources on the buff-tailed bumblebee Bombus terrestris.

PART II: Anthropogenic impacts on wild pollinators: investigating bumblebee population structure using whole genome sequencing

Spatially variable anthropogenic stressors such as land-use change and urbanisation can result in dispersal barriers, limiting gene flow between bumblebee populations. Past studies of bumblebee population structure are limited by their use of very few molecular markers, and few have studied bumblebee population structure in the context of spatially variable threats. I aim to use whole genome sequencing and population genomics to investigate the population structure of several bumblebee species in north-western Europe. I also aim integrate a landscape genetics component into the project, analysing genetic variability across space in the context of spatially variable anthropogenic stressors in the environment.


Lauren Cobb


This talk will also be available on Zoom. The zoom link will be shared through the CEES seminar mailing list. Contact Tore Wallem if you would like to be forwarded the invitation e-mail.

Published Mar. 29, 2022 9:11 AM - Last modified Mar. 29, 2022 9:11 AM