Kristen Brochu

PhD Student

Currently a PhD candidate in the field of Entomology at Cornell University, I received my BSc in Wildlife Biology from McGill University and my MSc in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Toronto. I have always been fascinated by the natural world, and my love of biology was only reinforced by several excellent field research opportunities during my undergraduate studies.

I am particularly interested in chemical communication in plant-pollinator interactions, insect-microbe interactions, and the digestive physiology of insect pharmacophagy. Many studies have attributed the success of bees to their mutualistic pollenivorous lifestyle, but how pollen-feeding affects bee health and fitness is surprisingly understudied. Many wild bees will collect pollen only from a small set of host plants, rendering the foraging choices made by adult bees extremely important, as they provide the only nourishment that the larva will receive to complete its development. In addition, recent work has suggested that floral tissues, like pollen and nectar, are important sites of microbial transmission between pollinators. Understanding how pollinators make foraging decisions and how microbes are transmitted across floral resources can be especially important to understanding threats to bee health.My dissertation work is investigating factors contributing to bee health, specifically for ground-nesting bees which spend the majority of their life cycle underground. In particular, I study the effect of pollen chemistry and microbial communities on nesting site preferences, foraging choices, and larval development. My work leverages techniques from genetics, chemical ecology, and physiology, and integrates both laboratory and fieldwork components for a more comprehensive perspective of this system.

Understanding the factors affecting ground-nesting bee health will help us to understand why some species are more effective as large-scale agricultural pollinators, as well as to identify the species that are most threatened by environmental changes that affect native flora abundance and composition.

Research Interests

insect-microbe interactions, chemistry of bee brood cells, host-plant specialization, bee health