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Conservation Research Fund

SaveNature.Org’s Conservation Research Fund supports research and scientists in the field committed to identifying, unraveling and solving ecological questions to help answer environmental challenges impacting ecosystems. Presently we are raising funds for the following projects to better understand the pollination crisis in the world’s ecosystems today. These problems will likely increase with climate change.

Principal Investigators:
Leslie Saul-Gershenz, Research Scientist, SaveNature.Org, 699 Mississippi St. Suite 106, S.F. CA 94107, USA
Jocelyn Millar, Chemical Ecologist, University of California, Riverside, CA, 92521, USA

Habropoda pallida is a solitary ground-nesting bee and an important pollinator of Larrea tridentata (Linsley 1958, Bohart et al. 1972, Hurd and Linsley 1975). Bohart et al. (1972) have briefly described the natural history of this species. Habropoda depressa, a closely related species, is found in the San Francisco Bay Area and has been studied by Barthell and Daly (1995) and Barthell et al. (1999).  However, Saul-Gershenz's recent research has revealed that H. pallida is the likely pollinator of Astragalus lentiginosus var. borreganus at Kelso Dunes  and most likely the pollinator of other dune restricted endemic rare and threatened plants such as Astragalus lentiginosus var. micans at Eureka Dunes. According to Bohart et al. (1972). Habropoda pallida builds single celled nests in sandy slopes along water-courses in the Mojave desert.).  H. pallida was thought to be oligolectic pollinator of creosote, Larrea tridentata (Bohart et al. 1972),the dominant shrub at Kelso Dunes and throughout the Mojave Desert.   Current knowledge of H. pallida's distribution is as follows: California from Inyo County south to Imperial County; east through southern Nevada in Clark and Nye County along the California-Arizona border and an isolated populations in Pinal, Mohave and Yuma County in Arizona; in Washington County (T. Griswold pers. comm.) in the southwestern corner of Utah.

Research to date has documented a new host-parasite location system and the first documentation of cooperative aggressive mimicry in insects (below) and two upcoming papers on the natural history of the bee H. pallida and the bee nest parasite Meloe franciscanus.

1. Saul-Gershenz and Millar 2006. Phoretic nest parasites use sexual deception to obtain transport to their host's nest. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences     103:14039-14044
2. Hafernik and Saul-Gershenz 2000. Beetle larvae cooperate to mimic bees. Nature, 405:35).


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Floral "pasture" crops for neotropical orchid bees at risk from deforestation: a pilot project

Principal Investigators:
James H. Cane, Research Entomologist, USDA-ARS Bee Biology and Systematics Lab, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322 USA
Heather DuPlooy, Curator, Belize Botanic Gardens, P.O. Box 180, San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize, Central America

Orchid bees (tribe Euglossini) are the poster children of neotropical deforestation.  The size of bumble bees, they possess breathtaking jewel-like beauty.  Males attract female mates using fragrances collected from orchid flowers, which they also pollinate.  In Belize, this specialized mutualism is essential for pollination of an estimated 12% of Belize's orchid species (S. Javorek, pers. comm.).  In contrast, female orchid bees are broad floral generalists. They are important pollinators of the Brazil nut (B. Freitas, in press) and other flowering trees.  The nesting needs of bees typically constrain females to native forest.  Their populations variably persist in forest fragments, with smaller, older and more isolated forest fragments supporting the fewest species.  Foraging females will, however, venture beyond the forest canopy to visit flowers in the surrounding secondary growth, collecting pollen and nectar for their progeny.  We propose that, by augmenting suitable floral resources around forest fragments through direct seeding of fast-growing native herbaceous wildflowers to create "bee pasture", we can enlarge the carrying capacity of forest fragments for orchid bees as well as other members of the forest bee community that share these floral hosts.  By boosting the population sizes of resident orchid bee populations in forest fragments, we can improve their chances for survival and better maintain their taxonomic and genetic diversity while awaiting long-term reforestation efforts.


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