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In Defense of Bees

Clara Stuligross ’14 has received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship at the University of California-Davis.

Stuligross is a first-year Ph.D. ecology student studying bee ecology and pollination.

“I’m researching the interactive effects of environmental stressors on native social and solitary bees,” she says. “Bees are threatened by many factors, including floral resource scarcity, pathogen infection, habitat loss and pesticide exposure, and they can be exposed to risks across landscapes as they forage widely for pollen and nectar. These drivers rarely act in isolation, and understanding their interplay can have important consequences for pollinator conservation.

“For my research, I am specifically interested in the impacts of pesticide exposure and floral resource availability on native bees.”

Graduate Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost of education allowance paid to the institution for tuition and fees, opportunities for international research and professional development, and the opportunity to conduct their own research at a graduate program of their choosing.

While a student at Earlham, Stuligross received an NSF summer fellowship to conduct research on native bumblebees at a field station in the Shenandoah River Valley. She investigated potential reasons for bumblebee population declines and the impact of a parasitoid fly on bumblebee colony growth.

“My interest in bees started with my work in Virginia with bumblebees,” she says. “I had really good mentors, which made a huge difference in my experience. There are over 20,000 species of bee worldwide, and they’re really important and charismatic insects.”

This fellowship gives Stuligross more flexibility to pursue her research, allowing her to focus on collecting, analyzing and sharing her results.

“After graduating I worked as a field and lab research assistant at Michigan State University, studying native bee communities in blueberry fields and the response of bumblebee colonies to insecticide drift,” she says. Also, she spent a year and a half as a museum educator for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History developing and teaching science outreach programs. While at Carnegie, she also worked as an educator on a climate change education project called Climate and Urban Systems Partnership, an NSF-funded program run across four U.S. cities to improve local understanding of and engagement with climate change issues.

While at Earlham, Stuligross won first place with David Schutt ’14 in the 2012 Project Pericles Debating for Democracy Conference for their defense of a letter in support of the Budget Control Act to reduce military spending and reallocate funds for educational programs to enhance national security instead.

“Earlham taught me how to think critically about complex questions,” she says. “My professors always encouraged my curiosity and excitement and taught me how to turn ideas into concrete research objectives,” she says. Her favorite parts were the opportunities to travel off-campus with professors to apply coursework to the field, including studying abroad in New Zealand, leading trips like August Wilderness with the outdoor education program, and the Penziner-Matson biology spring break trip.

Clara Stuligross

Clara Stuligross 2014, Ph.D. Student

Major at Earlham: Biology

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