Laura Burkle Seminar: Plant-Pollinator Interactions

Laura Burkle Seminar: Plant-Pollinator Interactions

One reason to research plants is that “they stay put.”

But more about that later.

Community ecologist Laura Burkle, associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Montana State University, Bozeman, is keenly interested in plant-insect interactions, especially floral volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

She'll discuss her research on “The Implications of Variation in Floral Volatiles for Plant-Pollinator Interactions" at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar from 4:10 to 5 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 30 in 122 Briggs Hall, UC Davis campus. Hosts are pollination ecologist Neal Williams, professor in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and doctoral student Maureen Page of the Williams lab.

“One understudied pathway by which environmental conditions and climate change may influence plant-pollinator interactions is via shifts in floral scent and pollinator attraction,” Burkle says in her abstract. “We sampled the floral volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phenologies, and pollinator visitors from naturally growing plants in a montane meadow over three seasons. With these data, we aim to acquire a base understanding of the variation in floral VOCs within and among species and how floral VOCs and other plant traits may structure plant-pollinator interactions across the growing season and across years.”

How did Burkle interested in bees and pollination? “At the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab in Colorado,” she says.

“To be honest, in college I was enamored with marine biology, until I realized that I didn't like being continuously wet while doing field work. Plants I liked because they stayed put for observation (unless eaten by a deer or something) interest in bees followed later.  Bees and pollination are great fair-weather friends, literally :) And I'm fascinated by the complexity of their interactions with each other.”

Burkle received her bachelor of science degree in biology and environmental studies in 2000 from Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, and then headed to Hanover, N.H., for her doctorate in biology in Dartmouth College's Ecology and Evolution program. Her dissertation: “Bottom-up Effects of Nutrient Enrichment on Plants, Pollinators and Their Interactions.”

Burkle served as a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Biology at Washington University, St. Louis, from 2008 to 2010, and then joined the Department of Ecology at Montana State University as an assistant professor in 2011. She advanced to associate professor in 2017. At Montana State University, Burkle has taught Principles of Biological Diversity, Plant Ecology, Community Ecology, Ecological Networks and Disturbance Ecology.

She has published her work in Plant Ecology, New Phytologist, Biological Reviews, and Nature Ecology and Evolution, among others. She was the lead author of the technical publication, "Climate Change and Range Shifts" in the North American Bumble Bee Species Conservation Planning Workshop Final Report, published in 2011.

Her 2019 publications include “Checklist of Bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) from Small Diversified Vegetable Farms in Southwestern Montana” in the Biodiversity Data Journal; “Dryland Organic Farming Increases Floral Resources and Bee Colony Success in Highly Simplified Agricultural Landscapes” in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment; and “The Effects of Post-Wildlife Logging on Plant Reproductive Success and Pollination in Symphoricarpos albus,” a fire-tolerant shrub, published in Forest Ecology and Management.