Rusty patched bumble bee

Michelle Boone

Research Q & A

What’s your hometown?

My hometown is Crystal, MN.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on developing non-lethal methods for collecting DNA from bumble bees. This work was inspired by the listing of the rusty patched bumble bee as federally endangered in 2017. This designation has led to the need to develop minimally harmful methods of studying this species, including how we collect DNA for population genetics studies. I’m developing a method of collecting bumble bee hairs from live bees by swabbing them with cotton swabs, which we can then use to learn about genetic diversity in surviving populations of this species.

How did you get started/what drew you to your area of study?

I’ve been interested in conservation since I was a child and learned that some of my favorite animal species were at risk of extinction. At that time, I was mainly interested in mammals: tigers, elephants, pandas, etc. Pollinators weren’t really on my radar until I got a job as a gardener after I graduated with my B.S. in Biology in 2016. Spending my days tending gardens provided the opportunity to look closely at insects and gain an appreciation for them.

How are you working toward that goal?

In 2021, we collected hair samples from three species of bumble bees, including the rusty patched bumble bee, from sites spanning across MN. We are now in the process of using molecular methods to extract DNA from our samples. Once we have completed this step, we can begin comparing samples to one another to learn how genetically diverse these spatially separated populations are.

What 5 songs do you listen to most while you work?

  • Philly Jawn by Kota the Friend
  • Fire Drills by Dessa (U of MN alumn!)
  • How Far I’ll Go by Auli’I Cravalho (from Moana soundtrack)
  • Peppers and Onions by Tierra Whack
  • Starting Now by Brandy


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