A team of undergraduate researchers from the NIMBioS 2019 Research Experiences for Undergraduate (REU) program received a best poster award this month at the 15th annual Regional Mathematics and Statistics Conference at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
Abby Williams, a junior in mathematics at Salem College, presented the poster at the conference.
“Impact of Climate Change on the Distribution of Buzz Pollinators” presents research that Williams and her REU team conducted at NIMBioS. The research uses ecological niche modeling to predict the potential habitat suitability for 16 different bee species native to North America that buzz pollinates tomatoes, based on preserved specimen data and climate scenarios of varying carbon emissions. The main map on the poster depicts the change in habitat suitability that should occur by the year 2050 under a high emissions scenario. These regions of habitat loss were compared to areas that are currently known to produce a substantial amount of tomatoes. The research found that high production areas, such as around Indiana and Ohio, are predicted to lose significant habitat suitability for buzz pollinators, which would in turn negatively impact tomato crop yield.
Other group members on the REU project were Ellie Lochner, a math student at the University of Wisconsin, and Brandyn Ruiz, a statistics and applied math student at Arizona State University. Mentors were NIMBioS postdoc Luis Carrasco; Mona Papeş, who directs the Spatial Analysis Lab at NIMBioS and is an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at UT; and NIMBioS Education & Outreach Coordinator Greg Wiggins.
The NIMBioS REU program helped Williams really hone her research skills and interests.
“I really enjoyed learning about ecological niche modeling and how to use R and ArcGIS. I use R almost every day now,” she said.
For Williams, meeting different people from diverse backgrounds was the best part of the REU program.
“The connections and friends that I made last summer introduced me to a world of possibilities, and I cannot wait to explore what that world has to offer,” she said.