Assessing the impact of rapid environmental changes on pollinators: Using visual morphology to predict vulnerability
I am interested in trying to understand the factors that lead to different habitat preferences in bumblebees and ultimately other pollinators. There are approximately 250 bumblebee species spread across a broad range of habitats, from alpine tundra to tropical rainforests. While some species are habitat specialists and can only be found in one habitat type, others are generalists that can be found in many different habitat types. Key to bumblebee survival is their foraging behaviour, which consists of three main aspects: flower detection, safe flight control and navigation. These behaviours are mediated primarily by the visual system, which is likely to set limits upon the ability of different species to exploit different habitat types. It is therefore likely that features of the visual system, such as visual resolution and sensitivity are linked to the differences in habitat preference between different species. My aim is to develop a model that predicts habitat preference and potential habitat use from visual morphological features using a combination of field observations, experimental tests of functional foraging limits and visual morphological analyses on a focus group of arctic bee species with different habitat preferences.