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University of Nevada Reno
Fleischmann 311A

(775) 784-1932


Filtering by Tag: Publications

New papers and people!

Anne Leonard

Isabelle, Sage, and Jake sampling flowers at our Norden CA field site

Isabelle, Sage, and Jake sampling flowers at our Norden CA field site

This summer’s research is in full swing, and new happenings include:

Two new papers! Muth et al. Biology Letters asks how neonic pesticides impact learning of floral scent vs. color…and Francis et al. Current Biology explores how nectar and pollen chemistry might work together to affect interactions between plants, their pollinators, and their co-flowering competitors.
Two new people! Isabelle Maalouf has joined us as a postgrad research assistant, and Anthony Vaudo has joined the lab as a postdoctoral researcher, joining the NSF-funded project “Nutritionally complex floral rewards in a community context”.

Summer 2019

Anne Leonard

Campus workspace

Campus workspace

As spring semester comes to an end, some lab highlights!

  • Felicity ended her postdoctoral era with a new publication on how neonicotinoid pesticides impact learning in free-flying bees, and now heads to UT-Austin to begin her faculty position.

  • Jake received 2nd place in the UNR Graduate Student Association’s Student Paper Competition! A version of this work will be out in press in a few weeks, so stay tuned…

  • Anna received a Hadley-Lynch Scholarship from the UNR Biology Department!

  • PI Leonard received the Hyung K. Shin Award for Excellence in Research from the College of Science. It was great to have all our hard work recognized in this way!

Now for a busy but hopefully productive summer! Many of us will be at conferences (e.g. International Pollinator Conference at UC Davis, Evolution). PI Leonard is starting a year of leave, so may be a bit slower to answer emails than normal.

Spring update

Anne Leonard



As the latest snowstorm heads into town, we’re starting to make plans for Spring/Summer 2019, which include:

It’s been a busy and productive year so far, with USDA-funded new postdoctoral researcher Sarah Richman joining the lab, and new PhD student Anna Tatarko starting up electrophysiological experiments with Dennis Mathew. The past few months have also seen a new paper out on how pollen fatty acids influence bee learning, and (very shortly) we think our first in a series of neonicotinoid papers written by Felicity Muth will be out. Stay tuned!

Summer 2017

Anne Leonard

Measuring nectar

Measuring nectar

We're wrapping up a great summer by attending the BOMBUSS conference in Logan, Utah. This first-of-its kind meeting was an intensive immersion in methods for bumblebee researchers.

Felicity gave a lightning talk and poster about the new FMPER technique, which we are using to measure learning in wild bees. Excitingly, the paper describing the method is now out (Methods in Ecology and Evolution). The FMPER technique is not only awesome for our research, but also makes a great undergraduate lab activity (contact us for details).

After co-leading a session on "Foraging and Nutrition" with Hollis Woodard (UC Riverside), and spending 3 days talking Bombus non-stop, very excited to get back to lab and try out some of what we've learned!

We're going to keep BOMBUSS spirit alive at UNR this semester, with EECB Colloquia by Hollis Woodard, Maj Rundlöf (Lund University./UC Davis)  aaaaand Felicity Muth herself this semester!

Bees on a sugar rush? New Animal Behaviour paper out!

Anne Leonard

Most flowers offer visitors some combination of nectar AND pollen, but nearly all research on bee cognition involves nectar alone (or, increasingly, pollen alone). We wondered how well bees learned an association between color and a given resource (pollen) when they were also collecting the alternative resource (nectar).

The paper tells a complex story that can be easily summarized: while collecting pollen had no effect on bees' ability to learn a nectar-color association, collecting nectar impaired their ability to learn a pollen-color association.

Read the whole story for our thoughts on why this might be happening, and what it might mean for plant fitness. This paper was a long time in coming, so it's nice to see out!

Bees have good taste: new Biology Letters paper out!

Anne Leonard

**Update: this got a lot of press! Science, Nature and Scientific American**

In our new Biology Letters paper, Felicity, Jake and I showed that bees responded differently to pollen blends adulterated with a sweet (sucrose) or bitter (quinine) substance. The taste of pollen affected how much of it bees collected from a flower, as well as their tendency to land subsequently on a visually-similar flower. We're excited about the implications of these findings for looking at pollen chemistry in a new light! This was also a fun chance to use our thermal camera :)

Request a copy on ResearchGate!

New paper on pollen learning: real flowers!

Anne Leonard

"Mosaic" flowers (aka frankenflower) created by combining different species' corollas and anthers

Our NSF collaboration with colleagues at the University of Arizona (PhD Student Avery Russell, co-PI Dan Papaj and undergraduate Rebekah Golden) has produced a new paper in Behavioral Ecology, involving a first-of-its-kind experiment that explores what floral features bees learn from plants that reward bees with pollen alone. Avery pioneered the "frankenflower" design, which allows him to compare the responses of naive and experienced bees to flowers that have anthers matched or mismatched between Solanum and Exacum plants. Check it out on ResearchGate, or via the journal website. Congrats Avery!!

What floral features do bees learn based on pollen? New paper out!

Anne Leonard


Bees might learn that the colors of petals, anthers, or pollen itself predicts pollen rewards.

In our new Animal Behaviour paper (Muth et al. 2016 or try ResearchGate) , Felicity pushed the study of pollen learning forward by 1) demonstrating that bees can learn based on reinforcement by floral-collected pollen and 2) exploring what features of flowers they can learn, and how long they remember these associations.

Do bees find themselves "lost in the (floral) supermarket"? New Biology Letters paper out!

Anne Leonard

We're excited about our new publication, "Colour learning when foraging for nectar and pollen: bees learn two colours at once" out today in Biology Letters. It was a fun experience to prepare a short-format manuscript, and Felicity's experiment uncovered some exciting findings about basic aspects of bee foraging.

When most people think about bee learning, they think of sugary nectar rewards. However, many bees collect both nectar and pollen (their source of protein) on a foraging trip. Felicity was interested in the cognitive aspects of this "multitasking". At least here when the rewards are on different flowers, bees can indeed learn to associate color + reward type. Doing so may come at a cost, as we found some evidence that bees focusing on a single reward performed better (more on that in forthcoming publications).

From the plant POV, it's interesting that bees seem to form expectations about what kind of reward a plant will offer based on its color. Could this have consequences for co-flowering plant species?

Good and bad vibes: Using vibration to train spiders and stress bees

Anne Leonard

Two papers on the use of vibration in learning experiments are now out!

Long, S.M., Leonard, A.S., Carey, A.*, and Jakob, E.M. 2015. Vibration as an effective stimulus for aversive conditioning in jumping spiders. Journal of Arachnology 43:111-114.

Muth, F., Scampini, A.V.*, and Leonard, A.S. 2015. The effect of acute stress on learning and memory in the bumble bee. Learning and Motivation.

Bees harnessed for PER conditioning

Nectar guides

Anne Leonard

Functional Ecology paper selected as video highlight and featured in Science News

A video describing recent research by Leonard and Papaj on whether nectar guides influence the foraging preferences of bumblebees Read the article: Read the Functional Ecology journal: Duncan J Irschick Executive Editor