Bees have been heavily researched in the West, but the Southeast is unknown territory to researchers. However, an initiative at Auburn University is working to shine some light on the Southeast and its bee biodiversity. Bashira Chowdhury, a pollination ecologist with the Bee Biodiversity Initiative, described the Southeast as, “a gigantic black hole” in regards to knowledge about bees in the region, which is why the initiative was born.
The idea of the initiative came up in 2015 while Chowdhury was in an Arizona desert sampling bees with colleagues. Wanting to explore new frontiers, Chowdhury asked her fellow colleagues about regions where bee biodiversity information was scarce, which turned out to be the Southeast. She reached out to Charles Ray at Auburn University about making Auburn the headquarters of the initiative, and she has been there ever since.
When Chowdhury first arrived in Alabama, she spent most of her time exploring the state and surveying the bees. Now, she has been able to branch out her explorations to tackle more complex issues. She said a main question she is working on now is, how can we work with bees to preserve their biodiversity, but also better human well-being?
Chowdhury added that the initiative has moved a little beyond bees at this point to strategies for more sustainable agriculture in the Southeast, as well as improving human land usage. Working diligently on these issues can have a positive effect on bees and other pollinators.
Although the initiative is Alabama-centered right now, Chowdhury hopes to expand the research to other states in the Southeast in the coming years.
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