University of Vermont

Taylor Ricketts Lab

Society of Conservation Biology Conference in Missoula, Montana

Botany lessons by Charlie


Last week our whole lab traveled together to Missoula Montana to attend the North American Conference of Conservation Biology Meeting. Insu, Charlie, Taylor, and I had posters in the conference and Steve and Alicia gave fantastic presentations. 

In addition to attending the conference, we went on a lab group hike in the Rattlesnake wilderness, which naturally became more of a snail-paced natural history endeavour than an ordinary hike. Taylor showed off his butterfly catching skills aquired doing fieldwork for his his 2001 "The Matrix Matters" paper, and we all gave his techniques a try. We also saw two black bears (Insu's first black bear sightings), and we witnessed an American Dipper chick take what might have been its first plunge into a cold mountain stream, and took a couple of cold plunges ourselves!

I think I can speak for all of us in saying that I learned very much from the presenters as well as my own lab group during this conference, and had a great time doing so!



Insu Koh: Spatial distribution and temporal changes of native bee abundance across the United States. Native bees are important pollinators for many crops. However, the spatial distribution of native bee abundance over broad scales is poorly understood. We projected pollinator abundances across the United States using an ecologically-scaled model that combines indices on floral and nesting resources with estimates of foraging distance for native bees. We collected expert opinion to derive habitat quality indices for land use categories in the NASS-Cropland Data Layer. Using these indices and a general foraging distance of native bees, we first modeled relative bee abundance nationwide for 2008. We validated model results with field-measured abundance data in several states. We then created a similar map for 2012 and estimated that land use changes caused significant changes of bee abundance in agricultural areas. These results and approaches could be applied to evaluate the effects of future land use changes on pollinator conservation and service delivery


Charlie: To what extent does landscape pattern determine pollinator activity? Wild bees provide valuable pollination services to crops, but the factors that influence their abundance in agricultural landscapes are still poorly understood.  In particular, few studies have analyzed pollinator response to land use across multiple spatial scales.  Here we ask what landscape extent is most influential in predicting pollinator activity.  We sampled bee visitation and abundance in 14 highbush blueberry farms throughout Vermont’s Champlain Valley. We then calculated landscape metrics in circles of three nested radii: 2000m, 1000m, and 300m.  Visitation rates by native bees vary ten-fold across the 14 farms.  This variance is best explained by an interacting mix of variables at the broader scale (e.g., edge density) and more local scale (e.g., crop diversity). Managing crop pollination services will therefore likely require action both within farms and in the surrounding landscape. Doing so carefully can reduce the impacts of ongoing land use change on biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The butterfly hunt

The hunt!


A Checkerspot butterfly.

Taylor loved the water...Insu was less certain.


 Trip Quotes:

"You have a butterfly in your pocket" - Keri
"I think I might be mildly narcoleptic." - Steve
"Bears, they are scary not cute." - Insu
"The larch!" - all