Since beginning in 2006, Project Apis m. has endeavored to fund bee research that will improve honey bee health. Translating the research into improvements on a large scale means not just funding the work, but providing beekeepers with the knowledge and tools quickly so they can benefit from the research. Over time, with the help of an engaged research community, PAm has created a funding process and pipeline to drive innovation and solutions for years to come.
That pipeline has grown alongside increased collaboration and connection to other organizations and stakeholders, while also listening to the needs of the industry and beekeepers. Most importantly, PAm relies on extensive beekeeper input. All members of the PAm board have significant beekeeping experience.
When PAm puts out a request for proposals (RFP), the details in the RFP describing the priorities are the results of beekeeper feedback, and collaboration with other organizations. 2020 marked the formation of the Bee Research Coordination Committee, with the Almond Board of California, the United States Department of Agriculture, Bee Informed Partnership, Pollinator Partnership, the National Honey Board, the American Beekeeping Federation, the American Honey Producers Association, and the California State Beekeepers Association. We agreed on top priority areas, and can divide and conquer that list, or combine resources to help a project area grow.
Once proposals are submitted, they undergo review from our committee of Science Advisors (SA’s). This group contains career researchers with diverse subject matter expertise that includes research on pathogens, nutrition, genetics, pesticides, behavior, technology and new management techniques. They meet and weigh each proposal and then decide which ones are recommended to the PAm board of directors who make the final decision on funding.
Dr. Diana Cox Foster, who is part of the USDA’s Pollinating Insect-Biology Management, Systemic, Research unit in Logan Utah, was funded this year. Her project is emblematic of PAm’s research funding process, especially utilizing input and collaboration from stakeholders. The three-year project, “ Ensuring Healthy Pollinators for Crop Production: Defining Forage Needs of Bees, Through Examination of Interactions of Bee Species and Pollen Use” is an example of how PAm is able to quickly fund research in response to current issues that are priorities to beekeepers.
Over time it has become more apparent that there is still a great need for more research about the relationship between honey bees and native bees, as well as scientific evaluation of forage for pollinators. That is where Dr. Cox-Foster comes in. The Logan project, in particular, will be useful to beekeepers, and other researchers, by helping answer complex questions and providing a model for replicating the work elsewhere.
Regarding how this project fits into the larger landscape of honey bee and pollinator research, Dr. Cox Foster said;
“In the current climate, forage has become a major issue for beekeepers across the United States. In part, that's driven by changes in the landscape itself. Not only through land use (changes), and changes in agriculture practices but also climate impact. Here in the West, we have a major drought going on, especially in the southwest portion (of the state) so this project here, I think, is needed. Not only here in Utah, but similar research is probably needed in other parts of the country. To understand – what are the forage needs of bees and how the species interact with each other. The lack of great forage is impacting all of the different pollinators.”
The Logan lab is a government lab with its own research budget, however, extramural funding “helps one to do much bigger projects” Dr. Cox Foster said. And the additional communication and collaboration that comes with a PAm proposal review can be an added benefit. “with PAm, even after submitting [my proposal], working with the advisory board, and the board of director panel, they provided additional feedback. I would encourage other researchers out there to reach out to (PAm), have these discussions, and be open to having people provide input on the project. I think it strengthens the overall project that we are doing.” Dr. Cox Foster said about the overall process of working with PAm.
After a project is funded, PAm stays in touch with the researchers throughout the duration of the work. Researchers are encouraged to plan for and follow through with communicating results to beekeepers. PAm also helps with communication by providing a platform with research databases to describe projects, our social media, blogs, eNews, annual report, and especially in 2020, with webinars.
This all might sound very prescribed, but PAm is not so process-oriented that it cannot be flexible when it is called for. A good example is when, early in the 2020 field season, shut downs related to the pandemic delayed the progress of many projects. PAm issued every no-cost extension that was requested so that researchers could rework their schedules without fear of running out of time to use their funding.
PAm puts out regular RFP’s, such as the current call for research proposals in Canada, with priority areas listed in them. Research proposals can also be submitted at any time via our portal. Applicants have the ability to search our research database to learn about previously funded projects, and Project Apis m. also maintains the Bee Health Collective, which provides accurate information about honey bee health, a comprehensive database of honey bee research in the U.S., and a bulletin board of funding and job opportunism related to honey bees.
As always, we want to hear from you! What areas of research are you interested in? Get in touch!
PAm's statement of independence.
PAm's 2020 Annual Report.