Stacy Philpott

Bees benefit from flowers, harmed by mulch

contributed by Stacy Philpott


Agriculture, Agroecosystem, Animals, Biodiversity, Community ecology, Conservation, Ecology, Environmental change, Field, Food justice, Interactions, Lab, Mutualism, North America, Plants, Species richness, Woman


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Other Resources

Quistberg RD, Bichier P, Philpott SM. (2016) Landscape and local correlates of bee abundance and species richness in urban gardens. Environmental Entomology, 45: 592-601

Presentation Notes

Researcher’s Background

Stacy is an agroecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz and she studies how agroecosystem and landscape management contribute to conservation of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and human well-being.

PB: Why did you become a biologist?

SP: Probably because I love being outside and because I’m fascinated by parasites. My parents took me on long hikes in the summer, and I learned to appreciate natural habitats. In my high school biology class, I just couldn’t believe all the amazing things that parasites do and how. I needed to learn more!

PB: What is your favorite part about your job?

SP: Getting to interact with students and seeing them get excited about research and ecology for the first time.

PB: What obstacles have you overcome to get where you are?

SP: Even though most people would probably say I’m a successful researcher, I still feel insecure about my abilities. It is an ongoing struggle, but I just keep on going and doing my best!

PB: What advice do you have for aspiring biologists?

SP: Find what is your passion and follow that. Find good mentors who can support you in developing your own interests and skills. If you are not having fun at work, find a different job! 

PB: Do you feel that any dimension of your identity is invisible or under-represented/marginalized in STEM?

SP: Maybe

PB: Can you elaborate on your answer above?

SP: Women have been traditionally underrepresented in science, but this is changing quickly in the field of ecology. Among undergrads and graduate students, most programs are at least half women (or more); but there are still drops in the proportion of women at higher academic ranks, and still a striking lack of women role models for younger scientists. I am so thankful for the women role models that I had as a student, and hope that everyone can soon have the opportunity to see someone like them in an advanced/leadership position!

Research Overview

Take home message of study

In this study, we examined how local management (plant choice and diversity, mulch use) and landscape change (amount of natural or urban impervious habitat in the surrounding area) impact bee communities in urban gardens in California. We sampled bees in 19 gardens, and also surveyed plants, flowers, ground covers (like mulch) and landscape surroundings of each of the gardens. We found that gardens with higher floral abundance had more bee species and gardens with more mulch had fewer bee species. It makes sense – bees depend on flowers for pollen and nectar resources, and many bees nest in the ground; if mulch is covering the bare soil, they don’t have access to this important nesting resource.

Study system

One of the urban garden study sites in the central coast of California where we tested impacts of predators on garden pests.

Key Research Points

Main figure

This figure shows the relationships between bee abundance (a, c) and bee species richness (b, d) and how those are influenced by features of the gardens. Each dot in the figure represents a single study site and the grey areas show the confidence intervals around the lines. 

Figure caption from paper: Relationships between significant factors in generalized linear models and bee abundance and richness for bee abundance (a) and bee species richness (b-d). All factors were significant at the P < 0.05 level. Each dot represents an urban garden study site, the lines show the best fit, and the grey area cover confidence bands based on the generalized linear models. 

Societal relevance

Urban gardens are important spaces in cities that can potentially protect biodiversity (given the right management practices). Gardens also have huge social relevance as spaces for people from diverse backgrounds to grow food (including culturally relevant vegetables, herbs and medicinal plants), make friends, and improve their physical and mental well-being.

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