June 25, 2020

4-VA@Mason Grant Provides Rich Research Opportunity

Expectations for 4-VA@Mason’s grants include thoughtful, impactful research; statewide collaboration with partner universities; and experiential learning opportunities for students.  However, the 4-VA@Mason story grows stronger when that learning opportunity gets elevated to supporting post graduate work.

Over the past two years, students in Haw Chuan Lim’s lab at Mason’s Science and Technology campus have contributed to the work done on Dr. Lim’s 4-VA grant “High-throughput bee pathogen survey: Combining expertise in pollinator biology, bioinformatics and genomics to yield insight into pollinator health.”  They looked deeply at whether the presence of managed or feral honeybees, with their large colony sizes, influences pathogen populations of native bees (bumble and mason bees).

To do this, Lim’s students — including master’s candidate David Lambrecht — collected bees across 10 sites around Northern Virginia and analyzed pathogen strains – viruses/fungi — using high-resolution genotyping techniques.  They partnered with UVA’s T’ai Roulston, who is appointed to Blandy Experimental Farm, along with landowners and farmers of the Virginia Working Landscape project.  The resulting research will be important as beekeepers and farmers navigate the continuing loss of bee colonies.

That research was the foundation of Lambrecht’s master’s thesis “Prevalence and Cross Infection of Eukaryotic and RNA Pathogens of Honeybees, Bumble Bees, and Mason Bees” which he recently defended via Webex during the Coronavirus shutdown.  “This 4-VA opportunity gave me a chance to research honeybees and other pollinators important to our ecosystem,” explains Lambrecht.  “The results provide some guidance for successfully supporting their populations.”

Armed with his new MS, Lambrecht is off to join the ranks of the Environmental Protection Agency, where he will intern and help with gene editing regulations.

“At 4-VA, we’re always proud of the research opportunities and resulting outcomes we have to show,” noted 4-VA@Mason Campus Coordinator Janette Muir, “but when we get to combine research and collaboration with these types of prospects for our students — that’s a great success!”