Galpern Lab @ Department of Biological Sciences | University of Calgary

Beneficial Insects


Bumble bees (Bombus spp.) can be effective pollinators of many crops. How can we leverage these wild pollination services?

Ecosystem services provided by beneficial insects in prairie agroecosystems

Pollination and pest control are critical ecosystem services in agricultural and natural systems. Our research examines pollinators, as well as the delivery of pest control ecosystem services by beneficial insects in Prairie agricultural landscapes. We are investigating how these services may depend on the availability of uncultivated remnant features in this intensively cropped agroecosystem

We are motivated by three general questions:

How do semi-natural areas influence wild pollinators and other beneficial insects and crop yields in agro-ecosystems?

How has agricultural land use intensification affected the abundance and distribution of pollinators and other beneficial insects?

Can we plan for insect-mediated ecosystem services by optimizing the spatial arrangement of cultivated and semi-natural areas on the landscape?

We have established a large landscape-level study across agroecosystems in Southern Alberta, where we sample beneficial insects (including pollinators, and predators of insect crops such as beetles, bugs, spiders. We use estimates of abundance and diversity, and of crop yield to determine how the configuration of uncultivated features (such as wetlands and un.


Artwork by Alexander Chaban.

How has inhospitable terrain influenced the dispersal of bumble bee queens? Landscape genetics can tell us.

Planning for pollinators under climate change
Climate change is expected to relax thermal barriers that have defined the northern range limits of many species, and encourage expansions into new areas. Bumble bees, which are important pollinators in many terrestrial ecosystems, should be among these species.

But can they get to where they need to go?

In this project we are investigating how conditions, such as the absence of available habitat or the presence of inhospitable terrain through which bees cannot disperse, have influenced bumble bee dispersal in the recent past.  We will also test if landscape connectivity presents a risk to bumble bee climate change responses in the future.

Over several years we are sampling bumble bees in mountain, foothill and grassland environments in Alberta.  To answer our questions, we will genotype these bees and use landscape genetic methods to examine movements of queens (and their genes) in the recent past and use these data to parameterize models of future connectivity.


FEB 5/17 We've re-opened our search for a PhD student to work on bumble bees in Fraser Valley, BC blueberry fields. Co-supervised with Ralph Cartar here at University of Calgary. See posting here for more information.

OCT 13/07 We're recruiting a PhD student to work on bumble bees in Fraser Valley, BC blueberry fields. Co-supervised with Ralph Cartar here at University of Calgary. See posting here for more information.

JUL 17/17 University of Calgary is using our bumble bee and climate change work as part of a national advertising campaign. See this poster snapped as we sped by on Calgary Transit. Our part of the campaign can be found here

JUN 13/17: Summer is here, and we have started sampling in canola fields and in ditches in the Calgary area, near Duchess, and near Claresholm, Alberta. Big thanks to our grower-cooperators who allow us into their fields to sample insects and measure yield. And also to Canola Council of Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute and Alberta Conservation Association whose ongoing support has enabled us to expand this prairie cropland ecosystem services and conservation program.

JUN 8/17: We have been in the news. Here our beneficial insect project coordinator Jess Vickruck and Canola Council agronomist Gregory Sekulic talk to Grainews about our collaborative prairie research project. University of Calgary also reported recently on our bee work, here.
APR 1/17: Our field program is building. We have FOUR paid positions this summer for our various Prairie beneficial insect projects. Please contact Jess Vickruck if you are interested in applying. [Thank you for your interest. All positions are now filled. Closed.]

APR 5/16: We have THREE paid positions for field/lab assistants on our pollinator landscape ecology projects. See here for more information. Apply soon. [Thanks to those who applied. Now closed.]

DEC 14/15: It's always Bombus rufocinctus! We are looking for undergraduate volunteers starting in the new year to help us identify bumble bees from this summer's field collection. 1picrufo The infamous and abundant rufocinctus is anything but red-belted as the latin scholars among you have already suggested. Rather, it is a brilliant mimic with thirteen different colour pattern morphs that make our game of identifying prairie bumble bees especially fun. Fortunately we have a secret up our sleeve. Come join the rufocinctus gang and find out how to tell a real rufo (err--we think). Thanks to artist and bee ecologist Riley Waytes for our mascot.

OCT 26/15: University of Calgary tweets about our bumble bee climate change study as one of five "research advances that could change our world." There's always hope!

SEP 15/15: Very pleased to be advertising for a University of Calgary Eyes High Postdoctoral Scholar in pollinator informatics--or is that bee-o-informatics? See the job posting here.

JULY 16/15: We're quite excited about our team's new bumble bee climate change study just out in Science (Kerr, Pindar, Galpern, et al., 2015). The findings were covered by over 400 media outlets around the world (here's a list), with stories appearing in print, on the web, on the radio, in streaming video, on several Canadian TV networks, and in a few languages.

JULY 10/15: Here's University of Calgary's coverage of the main findings of our new bumble bee climate change study in Science.

MAY 1/15: We are advertising for several graduate positions in pollinator conservation and in landscape modelling (for caribou). Please read the ads here. Applications accepted immediately until filled. Start dates as early as Fall 2015 are possible.

APR 14/15 We are advertising for TWO summer field assistants to help with our landscape-scale pollinator field experiment. Please email Paul Galpern to inquire. UPDATE: These positions have now been filled.

APR 14/15 We are advertising for a summer research assistant to take a lead role in our walkshed project. Please see the job ad here. UPDATE: This position has now been filled.

FEB 1/15: We are gearing up for our summer pollinator field experiment in the Calgary area where we will look at how landscape context has influenced insect pollinators. We are also looking for volunteers to help us collect samples from insect traps.

DEC 1/14 We're looking for graduate students. Get in touch if you have any overlapping interests!

AUG 16/14: MEMGENE, new software for detecting, visualizing and conducting inference on spatial genetic data is now published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution. The package is available on CRAN. Helpful for landscape genetics!