About Prof. Mark J F Brown and this TKS episode:
Prof. Mark J F Brown is a Professor in Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation at the Royal Holloway University of London. In this episode of The Know Show Podcast, he outlines the link between bees and the environment and society. Mark also shares his concerns on the minimal attention bees get from conservation organisations, conservation biologists and policymakers. He explains why we need to protect bees, and what we can do to reverse the decline of the bee population.
A brief synopsis:
Prof. Mark J F Brown starts by describing the project PoshBee, which aims to support healthy bee populations, sustainable beekeeping, and pollination across Europe.
The project is based on scientific and academic research from the EU’s best specialists in the field, like Mark himself. The particular project Mark is leading focuses on the impact of agrochemicals like insecticides, herbicides, fungicides on the health of bees. He also touches on how these interact with other elements that can add to the stress wild bees face, like parasites, lack of food, or poor nutrition.
Mark then offers a historical perspective on how people have managed different types of bees. For example, people have used honey bees for hundreds of years to produce honey. More recently, people have used domesticated bumble bees to pollinate industrial tomato crops in Europe. In North America, solitary bees pollinate the Alfalfa crops.
Along with the members of his team, Mark mainly focusses on the conservation of bees. For example, they look at how parasites spread from one bee to another, and have researched how the chemicals that plants put in their nectar and pollen might protect bees against parasites. They are also exploring the application of DNA barcoding bees to provide an identification tool for solitary bees.
Mark also offers some words of advice for students that want to get involved in the type of research he does.
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TKS take home points:
Importantly in this TKS episode, we are shown why the bee population is in decline. We are left with an awareness that it is down to politicians to make the decisions that instigate policy change to combat this, where cooperation with scientists is crucial for policy to be effective. Protecting the bee population is a crucial factor in sustaining healthy biodiversity. It is our responsibility to protect and sustain the population of the bees, and agitate for policy that encourages this.