Talking bees, neonics, pollinators and more

December 5, 2015 - 2:00am to 4:00am

Forum Poster


7:00 Welcome, Introductions and Acknowledgements

7:05 Protecting Alberta's Pollinators: Assessing The Biodiversity Of Native Bees In Alberta's Agroecosystems
Dr. Jessamyn Manson, University of Alberta
7:25 Are We Facing Another Silent Spring? The New Threats of Current Use Pesticides to Birds and Aquatic Ecosystems in the Canadian Prairies
Dr. Christy Morrissey, University of Saskatchewan
7:45 Panel Discussion: Open Mike
8:05 Break
8:15 Panel Discussion: Audience-written Questions
9:00 Thanks and Adjourn

Speakers' Abstracts and Biographies


Protecting Alberta’s pollinators: Assessing the biodiversity of native bees in Alberta’s agroecosystems

Dr. Jessamyn Manson, University of Alberta

Native bees play an essential role in maintaining healthy ecosystems by pollinating plants that provide food and habitat for a myriad of organisms. They also contribute to increased yields for many economically important crops. However, native bees are currently facing many challenges such as habitat loss, disease, changing climate, and pesticides, factors that have been tied to declines in some species. Assessing the status of native bees begins with gathering information on species richness and abundance as well as habitat and forage requirements. Comprehensive surveys of native bee populations in key habitat types such as rangelands and canola fields are therefore critical to characterizing the biodiversity and abundance of native bees in Alberta. Understanding how native bee communities vary across the province is the first step in detecting species at risk and creating sustainable land management strategies to protect these ecologically and economically valuable animals.

Jessamyn Manson is an Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Alberta, where she studies the community ecology of plant-pollinator interactions. Jessamyn’s research focuses on the chemical ecology of nectar and its role in mediating relationships between native bees and flowering plants. Her lab also investigates factors that drive variation in native pollinator communities across Alberta including agriculture, grazing and invasive plants. Jessamyn is currently working in collaboration with the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute to assess native bee populations and plans to establish a long-term strategy for monitoring pollinators across the province.

"Are we facing another silent spring? The new threats of current use pesticides to birds and aquatic ecosystems in the Canadian Prairies"

Dr. Christy Morrissey, University of Saskatchewan

Rachel Carson was the first to address the problems associated with the agriculture industry’s “war on insects” and the potential problems for bird populations associated with heavy reliance on insecticides.  Currently over 6000 pesticide products are registered for sale and use in Canada – a number that has increased three fold since the 1970s. The country’s most economically important agricultural region, the Canadian Prairies, contains 82% of the nation’s cropland and 80% of the pesticide use.  Agricultural intensification and pesticide use in this region continues to increase and our research is investigating the potential threats to wetland water quality, seasonal invertebrate production and the birds that depend on this resource. The controversial class of insecticides, the neonicotinoids, continue to expand in use and there is evidence that observed declines of insects and aerial insectivorous birds throughout North America and Europe may be linked to ongoing changes in agricultural practices and reliance on agrochemicals. 

Dr. Morrissey is an Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan in the department of Biology and jointly with the School of Environment and Sustainability and Toxicology Centre. Her academic background and research experience are in the fields of avian ecotoxicology, aquatic ecology, ecophysiology, and wildlife conservation. She has 16 years experience working on issues related to environmental contamination and the use of birds as indicators of environmental damage. She has published 37 journal articles and 1 book chapter and a co-edited book entitled “Wildlife Toxicology: Forensic Approaches” (Springer publication).  She has been an advisor and member of the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides and works closely with local and national governments on regulatory issues. Her work too has been featured very broadly in the national and international media including CBC’s Quirks and Quarks, The Nature of Things, and The Morning Show and a new documentary film called “The Messener”. She is asked regularly for interview or comment on issues related to pesticides, contaminants in birds and issues of the environment.  She is dedicated to training a relatively large cohort of students and postdocs - currently 9 graduate students and a host of undergraduate research students.  Additional information about her current projects and publications can be found at


Room 2-215
Van Vliet (Physical Education and Recreation) Complex, University of Alberta (East Wing)
Edmonton , AB