Dr. Axel Brockmann
Axel Brockmann is an Associate Professor at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (NCBS-TIFR). He is deeply interested in the biology and behaviour of honeybees. Experiments in the lab range from observations of the behaviour in nature to identifying molecular processes in the brain of honeybees underlying behavioural capabilities like time memory. In recent years, he and his students started to have a closer look at the rock bee, Apis dorsata. The rock bee is unique among all honeybees in that it is capable to fly during the day and moonlit nights. Besides his interests in fundamental research, Axel Brockmann and his colleagues of the Indian Pollinator Initiative are trying to promote public awareness of the importance of honeybees and other insect pollinators for fruit production and environmental conservation. In contrast to the beneficial value of honeybees for humans, Apis dorsata colonies are eradicated in Indian cities because the colonies tend to build their nests at overhangs or balconies of buildings. In collaboration with Dr. Smitha Krishnan (Alliance Bioversity-CIAT), Axel Brockmann’s lab started to investigate and monitor the behaviour of Apis dorsata colonies in Bangalore and the response of residents confronted with the colonies.
Prof. Renee M Borges
Renee Maria Borges always wanted to study and observe nature. She spent days with Malabar giant squirrels in the Western Ghats for her doctoral dissertation and obtained a sense of what marvelous chemists and nutritionists they are, after studying their feeding on forest leaves, bark, flowers, and fruit. She connected with the squirrels and with the local human communities and forged a life-long relationship. Renee has since then explored the competing forces of mutualism and parasitism in several plant–animal–microbe interactions that include the strange wasp nursery pollination system of wild figs, ant–plant nutritional symbioses and fungus-farming by soil mound-building termites.
She is now examining the genetic diversity of the living root bridges in Meghalaya, a natural wonder, and a product of the mutualism between figs, pollinating fig wasps, and seed dispersers. She also works with engineers to understand animal-built soil architecture such as the cathedral-shaped nests of termites and the globose nurseries of potter wasps. She has helped to discover the world’s only truly nocturnal bee in the Western Ghats, has examined aggressive visual mimicry in crab spiders and ant-mimicking spiders, and hitchhiking by nematodes on fig wasps. She hopes to find new challenges and new mysteries. Renee M Borges is an Evolutionary Ecologist at the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
Dr. Parthib Basu
Parthib is the Director, Centre for Pollination Studies & Associate Professor, Ecology Research Unit, Department of Zoology & Centre for Modern Biology, University of Calcutta. He leads a team of dedicated young researchers focusing on the status of eco-system services and species functions in various habitats and species assemblages. Parthib is deeply concerned about the loss of ecosystem services in agro-ecosystems due to indiscriminate use of insecticides and loss of natural vegetation in rural landscapes.
A major thrust area in his research group is to understand the status of pollination services along agricultural intensification gradients in Eastern India.Parthib is a member of the IUCN Wild bee Specialist Group.
Dr. VV Belavadi
Dr. Belavadi is an Emeritus Scientist and Professor of Entomology at the University of Agricultural Sciences, GKVK, Bangalore. He is deeply passionate about Pollination Biology and Taxonomy and behaviour of bees and wasps. He has worked on the pollination biology of several cultivated crops including cardamom, coffee, muskmelon, bitter gourd, guava, niger and also on the taxonomy of non-Apis bees.
He was a visiting FAO fellow at the University of Southampton; and a consultant for the Global Pollination Project which was operated by the FAO. He along with other scientists working on native bees and pollinators have aligned to form the Indian Pollinator Initiative. This initiative is trying to promote public awareness of the importance of honeybees and other insect pollinators for fruit production and environmental conservation.
Dr. Smitha Krishnan
Smitha works as a Scientist at Bioversity International, a research based CGIAR institution that aims to deliver solutions that harness agricultural biodiversity and sustainably transform food systems to improve people’s lives. Although born in Kannur District of Kerala, she has lives in Bangalore most of her life. She is an ecologist with special interest in studying importance of ecosystem services for sustainable food systems. She believes that appropriate management practices in agroecosystems are vital for securing the benefits of ecosystem services. Working towards conserving wild pollinators through gathering evidence to show their role in pollination piqued her interest. She carried out her PhD research at ETH, Zurich on role of bees in enhancing coffee production in Kodagu and demonstrated that 1 in every 3 bags of coffee is a contributed by the pollination services provided by bees.
Smitha has authored a review on pollination services of forests and how forest and landscape interventions enhance their cross-sectoral benefits in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Currently, she is involved in a project on human-bee conflict in Bangalore and is involved in developing a tool for coffee agroforests of Western Ghats called Diversity for restoration. The tool helps with decision-making on the use of appropriate tree species and seed sources for tree-based restoration or other tree planting activities.
Prof. Shannon B Olsson
Born in the rural St. Lawrence Valley of New York State, Prof. Shannon Olsson has travelled across four countries and three continents to dedicate herself to listening to nature’s chemical conversations across India’s diverse ecosystems. Her science is committed to laying the foundation for a sustainable India, and her recent studies address ecological agriculture in India’s coffee plantations, the impact of air pollution on our wild animals and insects, the effect of climate change on our ecosystem services, and the bioremediation of our ocean microplastics by marine sponges.
A Fulbright Scholar, Ramanujan, and INK Fellow, Shannon’s research has been featured by CNN, Inverse, Cosmos, TEDx, Syntalk, Sci-Illustrate, Dublin Science Gallery, V&A London, Chemical and Engineering News, and the DST Science Express train. Since 2014, Shannon has been a faculty member of National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
Dr. Geetha G. Thimmegowda
Geetha Thimmegowda is a Senior Researcher with more than 10 years of research experience in diverse fields of chemical ecology, pollination biology, air pollution, climate change and integrated pest management from different research organizations like ICAR-Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, ICAR-National Bureau of Agricultural Insect Resources and National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
In 2020 Geetha, along with Shannon Olsson published the first field-based quantitative study on the effect of air pollution on pollinators. Through a series of experiments, they found that Giant Asian honeybees from more polluted areas of Bangalore exhibited lower significant differences in flower visitation rates, heart rhythmicity, blood cell count, and the expression of genes responsible for stress, immunity, and metabolism. Their study indicates the urgency for more studies on wild systems to better inform international air quality guidelines.
Dr. Allison Young
Dr. Allison Young is currently a University Research Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Kentucky in the United States, studying the effects of chronic pesticide exposure on European honeybee exploratory behaviour while foraging. She is broadly interested in bee behaviour, especially how foraging bees decide when and where to look for food and how environmental conditions shape those decisions. During her Ph.D. training at Michigan State University in the U.S., she learned about the ability of giant honeybees to forage during both the day and the night, an extraordinarily unusual behaviour (most honeybees are only active during the day!). Her interest in this unusual behaviour combined with her broad interest in foraging decision making led her to study the nocturnal foraging behaviour of the giant honeybee in Bangalore, India for over 9 months.
Working with Dr. Axel Brockmann at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Dr. Young investigated when giant honeybees were actively foraging throughout the day and night; how environmental factors like temperature, season, moon phase, and illumination levels shaped nocturnal activity; and how bees communicate with each other during nocturnal foraging. Though Dr. Young is no longer conducting field work in India, she continues to collaborate with Dr. Brockmann to investigate and decode how giant honeybee foragers communicate with each other at night via the honey bee waggle dance. She hopes to one day return to India to further study these fascinating bees.