Project Details


Pollinators are critical for plant reproduction and the maintenance of healthy natural and managed ecosystems. Solutions to the ongoing pollinator population decline around the globe requires the development of research that involves cross-countries collaborations among interdisciplinary groups of scientists. This IRES project will engage five U.S. undergraduate students from underrepresented groups in STEM to spend eight weeks in Colombia or Peru conducting research on how abiotic stressors impact plant-pollinator interactions. Students will utilize interdisciplinary approaches in ecology, physiology, climate science, and ecohydrology to develop projects that will facilitate the acquisition of new and useful information about timely research topics on pollinators in a changing world. This program specifically pursues a training partnership involving mentors and students from Colombia, Peru, and US universities, while field work will take place in hyperdiverse tropical countries where plant-pollinator interactions remain understudied. Students will address biological research questions about pollinator responses to air pollutants, temperature gradients, crop drought, and flooding while using cutting-edge technological approaches to address the research questions. Teams of biology and engineering students will be grouped by their topics of interest. Students will participate in professional development activities to prepare them for careers involving convergent research. Research outputs of this program will have direct implications for the conservation of biological diversity and the livelihoods of people in Latin American where many crops rely on insect pollinators that are poorly studied. Last, this IRES research experience will significantly contribute to the training of the next generation of interdisciplinary scientists who will lead solutions to global problems such as those currently experienced by declining populations of insect pollinators.

This ten-week undergraduate research program offers students a unique opportunity to investigate how different abiotic factors and their interactions impact plant-pollinator interactions in tropical areas. Students in the program, with guidance from faculty advisers from U.S., Colombian, and Peruvian universities, will undertake an interdisciplinary scientific exploration, generating and testing hypotheses, analyzing data, and communicating research findings, including scientific and policy-relevant implications, to other scientists and the public.

Students will use emerging technologies and advanced data analysis and visualization methods to investigate the ecological responses of plants and pollinators in mountainous regions of Colombia and Peru, areas that are undergoing accelerated environmental changes related to atmospheric warming. Each project will be led by a pair of biology and engineering students who will work together with mentors on multidisciplinary approaches to develop research activities, for example, tracking bee foraging using mini-transponders and linking it to impacts of ozone concentration on bee physiology and behavior. The multidisciplinary nature of projects will push the frontiers of knowledge and methodological approaches to this topic. Specifically, students will investigate the in situ movement patterns of foraging pollinators, effects of drought and flood stress on plant-pollinator interactions, and the latitudinal variation of pollinator thermal tolerance. Students will communicate their results via oral and written reports, building their communication skills and disseminating research findings to scientific and non-scientific audiences. Students can also communicate research results in videos or podcasts for television broadcast and social media in both English and Spanish.

This program will recruit US students from universities and colleges where research opportunities for undergraduates are limited, exposing them to career opportunities in ecology, entomology, plant science, electrical and environmental engineering, ecohydrology, and climate science. We will emphasize recruitment of females and other groups that are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Students in this program will be working in Latin American, where local students have different cultural backgrounds and levels of opportunities to engage in research. Noteworthy elements of this program include (1) multidisciplinary research approaches combining expertise in life and physical sciences and engineering, (2) training in the development and use of audiovisuals to broaden communication of research results, and (3) the partnering of students and mentors from underrepresented groups in STEM.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date9/1/208/31/23


  • National Science Foundation: $300,000.00


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