My UROP Placement

My name is Charles Geary and in the summer of 2014 I spent 6 weeks working with Jacob Bishop, a 3rd year PhD student. This work was for my UROP placement titled : “Climatic stress and insect pollinators: effects on field bean yield”. I applied for this placement unaware of what area of biology I was hoping to go into but knowing that my interest lay within further study and possibly entomology / ecological interactions. Throughout my 6 weeks I worked in several locations, undertaking various tasks at each. These included the Plant Environment Laboratory in Shinfield, Sonning Farm and the Harborne building on campus.

The focus of my UROP was with regards to yield losss in faba beans (Vicia faba ) due to a heat stress event, and whether this can be compensated for by wild pollinator communities. Two bean varieties with differing hilum shades were used to detect the presence of self pollination or outcrossing ( due to wild pollinators). The experimental plants used (Wizard) were homozygous recessive for a pale hilum whilst the pollen donor plants (Buzz) were homozygous dominant for dark hilum. Hilum colour would be identifiable within the Wizard progeny.Selfing would hence result in a pale hilum whilst outcrossing would create heterozygotes with a dominant dark hilum.

Several field experiments were set up to identify if : 1) Outcrossing due to the presence of wild bees buffered yield loss and, 2) Whether it was possible to manipulate bee behaviour, encouraging them to pollinate faba beans.

For our main field experiment we would be placing 160 experimental plants across two sites. Each site would be made up of 8 Buzz strips in 2 rows of 4. Between columns 1 & 2 and 3 & 4, grass or wildflowers were present on each row. This was to identify whether wildflowers would attract more wild pollinators. At each site there would be 8 columns of 8 Wizard plants, each within its own strip of Buzz plants. Then 16 other Wizard plants were placed outside of a strip as controls, all of which were hand pollinated. Within each strip and control patch, half of the plants would be within mesh bags, controlling for the presence of wild pollinators. There was also a final 16 plants that were in a 3rd site, within large mesh cages, controlling for the mesh bags. However, all of the plants were first heat stressed prior to moving them into the field. Heat stress occurred at 4 varying temperatures to achieve a scale of potential buffering.

During my 6 weeks , I got an accurate impression of what was entailed within PhD work. It wasn’t clean cut, with one job being completed before moving onto another, but much more of a juggling of a variety of tasks, requiring lots of careful planning and schedueling. So as well as the focus of the main field experiment, I also produced all of the mesh bags, completed some data analysis using Windias, undertook pollinator strip & control counts and recorded pod node location from a previous experiment.