Neal Williams, UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute

Sustainable pollination strategies for agriculture

Neal Williams is Associate Professor of Pollination and Bee Biology in the Department of Entomology and core faculty member in the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute.  His research on pollination spans the disciplines of conservation biology, behavioral ecology and evolution.  One of Neal’s primary research foci is on sustainable pollination strategies for agriculture. This work is critical given ongoing pressures facing managed honeybees and reported declines in important native pollinators such as bumble bees.  With support from NRCS, NIFA, SCRI, CDFA, and others he and colleagues explore the role of wild native bees, honeybees and other managed species as crop pollinators and the effects of landscape composition and local habitat quality on their persistence. 

  • Under what contexts can native pollinators provide sufficient pollination for different crop?  The answer to this question helps alleviate the stress placed on honeybees and also informs ways to more sustainably manage agricultural systems to promote biodiversity and production.
  • How can we enhance habitat and diversify agricultural systems to promote managed and wild bees?
  • Do pollinators interact in ways to increase the overall effectiveness of crop pollination?

This work has been carried out in agro-ecosystems in California’s Central Valley and in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  A continuing goal is to provide practical information that can be used to improve the long term stability of pollination for agriculture in California, as well as promote pollinator conservation and management.  His work in the East and West has helped form the base for NCRS planting guidelines to enhance pollinators in agriculture. In addition to work in agriculture, Neal is also studying how habitat restoration affects pollinator communities and pollination.  He has ongoing research with Sacramento River Project (Nature Conservancy/ USFWS) to determine whether native pollinator species and the service they provide are restored along with the vegetation that is the target of restoration.