Who we are
The Center for Pollinator Research is comprised of a dynamic group of more than 25 independent faculty, including researchers, educators, extension specialists and outreach coordinators, spanning multiple departments and colleges. Together we are committed to studying the factors impacting pollinator health and developing and implementing creative approaches to pollinator conservation. We have strong partnerships with the Pennsylvania State Beekeepers, the Penn State Master Gardeners, the Penn State Horticulture Extension Team, and the PA Department of Agriculture's Entomology Program.
Etya Amsalem, Assistant Professor, Entomology
Dr. Amsalem's research focuses on the evolution of social behavior. Her group studies the evolutionary development and the mechanistic basis of social behavior in insects, combining perspectives from evolutionary biology, chemical ecology, behavior and physiology, functional and evolutionary genomics. Her group further combines applied aspects by studying health in managed bumblebees with a goal of improving management, productivity and health of bumble bee colonies.
Mary Barbercheck, Professor, Entomology
Dr. Barbercheck’s research focuses on sustainable agriculture. Her studies include biological soil quality and sustainability and the biology and ecology of entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi.
Robert Berghage, Associate Professor, Horticulture
Dr. Berghage performs both research and extension at PSU on flower gardners and green roofs. He interacts directly with the Master Gardner program and with the public. He is interested in developing pollinator-friendly plantings for enhancement of pollinator populations.
Dave Biddinger, Research Associate Professor, Entomology
Dr. Biddinger is working on the conservation of wild populations of Osmia Orchard Bees as supplements to honey bees for orchard pollination and is developing protocols for managing these populations. He has been examining the effects of orchard pesticides on non-Apis pollen bees and developing their use as bioindicators of ecological health in ecologically based IPM programs in apple using only reduced-risk and bio-pesticides. He is collaborating with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in their survey efforts to develop the first checklist of Pennsylvania bees and in understanding the natural history and importance of the many species of bees found in fruit orchards. He is a trained taxonomist as well as biological control specialist.
Tom Butzler, Extension Educator, Clinton Country
Mr. Butzler is a Horticulture Extension Educator in central Pennsylvania. He has been teaching beekeeping classes to youth and adults for over 15 years and developed Penn State Extension's first online beekeeping course, .
Anita Collins, Adjunct Professor, Entomology
Dr. Anita Collins continues her research on cryopreservation of honey bee semen as a collaborator with USDA, ARS, Bee Research Lab, Beltsville, MD. However, since retirement, the intensity of the work is rather reduced. As a member of the native bee survey group coordinated by Sam Droege, USGS, she is trapping and identifying native species in the Pocono Mountain and Lehigh Gap areas of northeastern PA, as well as in Berks County, PA.
Diana Cox-Foster, Adjunct Professor, Entomology
Dr. Cox-Foster’s focus is on understanding the mechanisms underlying host/pathogen interactions in honey bees and other pollinators. Her research utilizes a systems biology approach, examining the interactions at multiple levels including the molecular processes in the pollinator, the genomics of the pathogens, impacts on cellular physiology and immunity, and overall impacts on ecological interactions. Her work focuses primarily on honey bees and with extensions of the findings into other pollinator species. Her expertise includes the viral pathogens that infect bees and other pollinators and the impacts of varroa mites. She is also collaborating in projects to transition her research into application to remediate problems in honey bees and other pollinators, with emphasis on controlling viral disease via the mites and development of disease resistant bee strains.
Andrew Deans, Associate Professor, Entomology, Director of the Frost Entomological Museum
The Deans lab studies the systematics of parasitic Hymenoptera, specifically wasps classified in Ceraphronoidea and Evanioidea. Several ongoing projects also focus on biodiversity informatics, especially ontologies and semantic approaches to representing phenotype data, and on methods of specimen digitization.
Kathy Demchak, Senior Extension Associate, Plant Science
Kathy Demchak works in research and extension as related to berry crops at Penn State. She conducts research on cultural systems and pest management. Current areas of research include high tunnel and low tunnel production, with current research focused on the effects of non-visible wavelengths transmitted through plastic covers on plant growth, micro-environment, and disease and insect complexes.
Shelby Fleischer, Professor, Entomology
Dr. Fleischer is an applied insect ecologist. His research helps define the structure and dynamics of insect populations and communities in agroecosystems, and he uses this information to advance IPM. Projects often emphasize communities of beneficials: examples include conservation biocontrol in peppers, sweet corn, and cucurbits, and how farming systems and landscapes influenced community dynamics of a diverse (>100 species) assemblege of epigeal species critical for biocontrol and nutrient cycling. He is applying those community ecology techniques across landscapes to advance conservation of pollinator communities in vegetable agroecosystems that rely on insect pollination of cucurbit crops.
James Frazier, Professor Emeritus, Entomology
Dr. Frazier focused on synergistic and sublethal effects of multiple pesticides on the chemical senses and chemically mediated behaviors of honeybees in relation to honeybee health and CCD in collaboration with Chris Mullin and Maryann Frazier.
Maryann Frazier, Senior Extension Associate Emeritus, Entomology
As a recently retired senior extension associate specializing in apiculture, Maryann is supporting the honey bee extension effort though work with the Pennsylvania Beekeepers Association. She worked closely with Dr. Chris Mullin and Dr. Jim Frazier on the potential role of pesticides on declining honey bee health in general and CCD specifically.
Rick Grazzini, Garden Genetics LLC, Adjunct Professor, Entomology
Dr. Grazzini is studying the pollinator attractiveness of commercial and heirloom varieties of Pentas lanceolata. He is a plant breeder working with a wide range of ornamental and edible plant species on the research farm and greenhouses of GardenGenetics LLC.
Christina Grozinger, Distinguished Professor, Entomology
Bees are critical pollinators in natural and agricultural landscapes, and key model systems for the study of social behavior. My program seamlessly integrates research, education and outreach related to the biology, behavior, health and conservation of pollinators, particularly honey bees and bumble bees. We use an integrative approach encompassing genomics, physiology, behavior, chemical ecology, and ecology. Our studies test and elaborate fundamental principles in animal behavior, evolutionary biology, disease ecology, and more recently landscape ecology. These studies have led to multiple new avenues of inquiry, and provided critical knowledge that can be deployed to improve conservation of pollinators and their ecosystem services.
Heather Hines, Assistant Professor, Biology and Entomology
Dr. Hines’ research spans the fields of systematics, evolution and development, and evolutionary and ecological genomics. Her research program currently focuses on the genetics underlying mimetic color pattern variation in both butterflies and bumble bees. Dr. Hines’ research also involves projects in Hymenoptera phylogenomics, bumble bee systematics and biogeography, Heliconius butterfly phylogeography, insect social evolution, and pollinator conservation.
Eric Lonsdorf, Adjunct professor, Entomology
Dr. Lonsdorf develops ecological models for decision-makers faced with making decisions in conservation biology and natural resource management under considerable uncertainty with limited resources. He leads development and application of a model to predict crop pollination services provided by wild bees, and to understand landscape impacts on managed bee colonies and wild bee populations.
Margarita López-Uribe, Assistant Professor, Entomology
Dr. López-Uribe uses molecular ecology approaches to investigate how human-driven environmental change affects managed and wild bees. She is currently investigating the effect of beekeeping practices and agricultural intensification on the demographic stability and health of honey bee and native bee populations. Margarita is interested in using citizen science to engage the public into pollinator research and to increase awareness about the environmental problems bees are currently facing.
James Marden, Professor, Biology
Jim Marden’s research focuses on molecular and physiological ecology, including studies of molecular mechanisms that regulate individual phenotypes and population dynamics of pollinators such as moths and butterflies.
David Mortensen, Professor, Plant Science
Dr. Mortensen performs both teaching and research at PSU. He is working on methods of first, quantifying functional traits of plants commonly found in the agricultural matrix, then, exploring how aggregation of those traits confer ecosystem services that include support of pollinators and natural enemies. His work also explores how agricultural management like cover cropping or herbicide use enhance or suppress ecosystem service provisioning. His approach involves a hybrid of empirical field experimentation and spatially explicit modeling.
Chris Mullin, Professor, Entomology
Dr. Mullin studies pesticide toxicology as it relates to honey bee and pollinator health. He looks for evidence that pesticides and other toxic substances in bees, pollen and hive products may be linked to CCD. He develops and evaluates analytical methodology that monitors pesticides and their metabolites. His focus is on mechanistic interactions of modern systemic and seed-treatment pesticides used in transgenic technologies, and their risks to food security and non-target species. Practical outcomes include developing both selective pest control strategies and regulatory processes that assure safety for pollinators and products from the hive.
Doug Miller, Professor, Ecosystem Science and Managment
Dr. Miller is the founding director of the Penn State Center for Environmental Informatics. He has been actively involved in applying remote sensing and geospatial technology to interdisciplinary research challenges in the earth and environmental sciences for the past 29 years.
Nancy Ostiguy, Associate Professor, Entomology
Dr. Ostiguy’s lab is investigating the contribution of various stresses, such as varroa mites and miticides (used to control varroa mites), on Colony Collapse Disorder and other honey bee diseases. Current work includes the limited characterization of the pesticide exposure experienced by honey bees in stationary apiaries. This work is expected to expand to provide improved characterization of honey bee and native pesticide exposure. Models to predict how varroa mite populations, virus infection and other colony and apiary characteristics influence colony survivorship are being constructed and tested. Work is underway to evaluate varroa control tactics that do not expose bees to miticides yet reduce mite populations.
Harland Patch, Research Associate, Entomology
Dr. Patch’s research focuses on the genetics and genomics of olfaction in insects and other arthropods. Honey bee olfaction plays a central role in social integration, defense of the colony and in nectar and pollen finding. He is currently involved in a project to understand the evolution of the honey bee olfactory system and how selection has influenced changes in chemoreceptors and other proteins. Other projects include developing genomic resources for Varroa mites and, in collaboration with other members of the CPR group, understanding Varroa resistance in subspecies of Apis mellifera in East Africa.
Ed Rajotte, Professor, Entomology
Dr. Rajotte is interested in crop pollination services provided by Apis and non-Apis bees, especially as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) program, especially as pollination in integrated into ecosystem services programs and practices. He is part of team studying the epidemiology of bee viruses. He has also studied pollination of fruit crops and wild bee biology.
Tim Reluga, Assistant professor, Mathematics and Biology
Dr. Reluga is an applied mathematician interested in the structure and functioning of biological systems, ranging across many different scales. One of his current interests is in the identification of feedback loops important in the regulation and disregulation of bee hives.
Cristina Rosa, Assistant Professor, Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology
Dr. Rosa studies plant viruses, interactions between plant viruses, their insect vectors and their plant hosts, the role played by microbes in the association between insects and plants and the evolution of viruses under constrains imposed by climate change and by natural mechanisms of viral resistance. Lately, she has been interested in collaborating on research focused on viruses of pollinators, since many of them share the same ecological niche as other plant and insect viruses and belong to the same viral families.
Katriona Shea, Professor, Biology
Dr. Shea’s research focuses on the ecology and management of populations and communities. She models population dynamics, movement, invasion and stability using demographic and network models. She uses these approaches, combined with decision theory, to understand and manage the impacts of invaders and disturbance on pollinators.
Andrew Stephenson, Professor, Biology
Dr. Stephenson’s research focuses on the ecology and evolution of plant reproduction. Current projects include studies of the effects of growing conditions (soil nutrients, mycorrhizal infection levels, and herbivory) on the number, size, chemical composition, and performance of pollen, the effects of inbreeding on pollen performance, and in vivo pollen selection for tolerance to high temperatures. Our experimental approaches to these problems range from greenhouse and garden studies employing quantitative genetic designs through the use of morphological, biochemical, and molecular genetic markers to the deployment of a variety of physiological, developmental, and molecular techniques.
Kenneth Tamminga, Professor, Landscape Architecture
Professor Tamminga’s research focuses on ecological design and restoration, planning for resilient and robust social-ecological systems, and anticipatory approaches to climate change impacts on landscape / ecosystems integrity.
John Tooker, Associate Professor, Entomology
Dr. Tooker is interested in how non-crop habitat can be used to harbor populations of natural enemies in agricultural landscapes. Flowering plant species are an integral part of non-crop habitat because they can provide natural enemies with pollen and nectar, increasing life expectancy, fecundity, and, in many cases, the effectiveness of natural enemies. Most natural enemy species appear to visit only a narrow range of flowering plant species, so understanding this host range may enhance conservation biological control programs.
Brenna Traver, Assistant Professor, Biology
Dr. Brenna Traver’s research interest lies in pathogen of honey bees, Apis mellifera. Her focus has been on a recently described pathogen, Nosema ceranae, which infects honey bees on a global scale and in some countries has been implicated as the cause behind increased colony losses. Her research involves investigating interactions of other pathogens, such as viruses, pesticides, nutrition, and management style (conventional versus organic) on N. ceranae infections in honey bee colonies as possible factors involved with increased colony losses. She has also done several surveys looking for N. ceranae in populations not commonly monitored for infections, such as feral and Africanized bee populations, in the United States and also apiaries in Belize.
James H. Tumlinson, Professor, Entomology
Dr. Tumlinson and his students are investigating the chemical ecology and behavior of the small hive beetle, a recently introduced pest of bees. The small hive beetle is attracted to volatile organic compounds, including the honey bee alarm pheromone. Several of these attractive compounds, including the alarm pheromone, are produced by a yeast, which is associated with the beetle and thrives on pollen in the hives.
Annmarie Ward, Assistant Professor, College of Education
Dr. Ward is the director of the Penn State Center for Science and the Schools, which partners with science and engineering researchers to bring broader impact components to grant proposals. The Center designs, develops, and implements outreach programs and workshops to promote science and engineering practices in the K-16 classroom.
Heather Toomey Zimmerman, Associate Professor, College of Education
Dr. Zimmerman and her research group use ethnographic and design-based research methods to study how children and families participate in science learning activities. Zimmerman partners with schools, nature centers, libraries, gardens, and museums to investigate the development of interests, knowledge, and expertise related to the life sciences, earth sciences, and engineering. With colleague Dr. Susan Land, her team explores how mobile computers support people’s understanding of ecology, including pollinator-plant interactions. A 2016-2018 project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), is creating intergenerational workshops held in libraries and museums; two workshops (Water Quality In My Community and Plants Around Us), are related to pollinators.