I am currently a postdoctoral research assistant at Iowa State University, in Amy Toth's lab.
Starting January 2016, I will be starting as a new faculty member in the department of Zoology at the University of Otago, in New Zealand.
For some serious awesome - check below. Otherwise, I hope you find these photos and fun anecdotes amusing.
Or on Twitter @TheWaspLady
Why do I love wasps? They're artists (check out this video of a solitary paper wasp building her nest). They're pollinators. They're natural enemies of crop pests (check out this video of wasps eating broccoli pests).
"Champ" wasp built me a rainbow nest one summer. I gave her a different color of construction paper every day, and she used it to make a beautiful rainbow nest. Outside, in a screened building, I watched as paper wasps voraciously attacked and collected cabbage loopers and cabbage worms from broccoli plants.
While in Iowa, I've had opportunities to study wasps in a variety of facets (personality, development, predation, and nest construction).
I tell this rhyme to kindergartners at insect presentations. It just means that bees (and wasps) don't sting everything they land on. So, if you see a foraging bee or wasp, and you stay still like a tree, maybe they'll land on you, but they won't have a reason to sting you.
Recently, a brilliantly blooming thistle attracted a ton of hungry bees - of a variety of species. I was so excited, and the light shone on them so perfectly, I couldn't stop taking their photographs. The honey bees posed, and the bumble bees bustled, but some of the smallerbees (solitary, but also important polinator species) starting catching my eye. They didn't spend so much time at each flower, so I had to be quick with the shot, and I had to be patient. And while I sat there with my head in the blooming thistle, focusing and waiting for the perfect shot, I heard a deep BZZZZZ in my ear. Turns out I inadvertently nudged a foraging honey bee with my head, and instead of turning around and stinging me, she just gave me a stern tsk (or BZT in bee-speak). She continued foraging, I continued taking pictures, and all was well. And I got my solitary bee photo!
Those who know me, know that I adore wasps. They are my absolute favorite (psst - follow me on Twitter @TheWaspLady). However, there is one species, Dolichovespula maculata (the bald faced hornet) that terrifies the pants off of me. I've seen them catch and kill my Vespula germanica (the ground nesting German yellowjacket) mid-air. When they came out to my feeding station, even if I had a tray full of yellowjackets, I would don a bee suit over the tank top and shorts I had been wearing around the foraging yellowjackets. So, imagine my panic as I stumble across a foraging hornet while I'm out at a field site, in tall grasses (not so easy to run away!), searching for Polistes (paper wasp) nests. But, my panic began to abate as I noticed this forager collecting pulp from a nest box. She behaved *exactly* like my Vespula and Polistes do when they collect pulp. How could something that is doing the same behavior that I love watching in my other species be dangerous? So, I took a deep breath (never a good idea to breathe on wasps), leaned in, and got my photo. My first photo of Dolichovespula. Because she was foraging. And foraging wasps have more important things to do than sting me!
Looking for an anecdote you had seen here before? Click here for Previous Anecdotes.
Some serious awesome
When I'm not taking pictures and/or being absorbed by the crazy adventures undertaken by the bees and wasps (and yes, sometimes ants) in front of me, I actually do real research.
If you're visiting my website, it's probably because I told you that I posted a picture of you. The 'Collaborator' page is where you'll find pictures of anything that's not an insect. If you're just a visitor, Whoot!!! I've had an incredible opportunity to work with some truly amazing people. Check out some of the students I've mentored and collaborators I've worked with. I've tried to include links to their lab or personal webpages where possible.
And I didn't just go out there and record data. Some of it actually got published.
For the boring delineation of my scientific achievements, you're welcome to also peruse my CV.
Thanks for stopping by!