April meeting talk – Fungi to help the Bees!

We are honored to be having two PhD speakers this month coming all the way from WSU!   Dr. Jennifer Han, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Plant Pathology, will be presenting her talk titled “Can Metarhizium save the honey bee?” in which she will be presenting her current research on developing hyper-virulent strains of the entomopathogenic fungi Metarhizium brunneum for use against the honey bee ectoparasite Varroa destructor. Also, Dr. Nicholas Naeger, a post-doctoral researcher in the Entomology Department, will be present his talk titled “Using mushroom extracts to combat honey bee viruses”. This is the work that Paul Stamets mentioned during his talk at the Moore Theater a week ago. In Nick’s talk we should here more exciting details about the progress they are making to develop this idea into something that can help all of us keep our honeybee hives from failing.

More information about our speakers is below:

Dr. Nicholas L. Naeger is a molecular biologist and geneticist has been researching honey bees for over 15 years. From 2001 to 2005 he worked at the Ohio State University where he assisted Susan Cobey with the New World Carniolan breeding program. He then moved to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where he completed his graduate work in Entomology. His master’s thesis used time-trained foragers to identify genes involved in honey bee sleep/wake cycles, feeding activity, and memory formation. His doctoral research focused on bee brain genetics where he uncovered vastly different genetic networks in the brains of the different honey bee castes, and identified genes involved in the hard-wiring of instinctive behaviors. He has also published work on the behavior, physiology, and social structure of queenless hives with reproductive workers. Dr. Naeger is currently a post-doctoral researcher at Washington State University where he is exploring the possibilities of using fungi and fungal products to combat the many pests, parasites, and pathogens that plague honey bees.

Dr. Jennifer Han is a post-doctoral researcher at Washington State University in Pullman. She earned her BLA in landscape architecture from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2003. She worked for many years as a landscape architect designing and maintaining high-end residential gardens and collaborating with local and state governments on parks, nature preserves and streetscape design. After working as a landscape architect for several years, Jennifer returned to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and completed a PhD in plant biology in 2014. Her work focused on using genomics to better understand diverse aspects of the tropical crop papaya, including sex chromosome evolution and sex-linked traits. She used next-generation, high-throughput techniques to sequence, annotate, and characterize expression patterns of papaya sex chromosomes. In addition to research, Jennifer has published several peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and received numerous awards for teaching excellence. She has also been actively involved in science outreach. She helped develop an afterschool plant program for middle school students, set up a science booth at local farmer’s market, and worked to develop interactive science experiments for a children’s science museum. Jennifer is currently researching Metarhizium brunneum, an entomopathogenic fungi, as a biocontrol agent for Varroa mites, a leading honeybee pest. She hopes to develop fungal strains that are hypervirulent towards Varroa with minimal impact to honey bees and the surrounding evironment. She is also working to improve the theromotolerance of M. brunneum without loss of virulence.

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