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Researching bumblebee learning and snapper biology

New projects researching bumblebee learning and snapper biology

8 November 2018

The biology of bumblebees and snapper are the focus of new research projects funded by the Marsden Fund.

Two Plant & Food Research projects, one on the learning capability of bumblebees and another on thermal adaptation of Australasian snapper, are amongst the 136 projects granted funding by the Marsden Fund in the latest round.

Most animals are capable of learning, but being a “good learner” is not always beneficial as learning involves energy investment. In “The effect of environmental complexity on learning capacity in wild bumblebee populations” project, pollination scientist Dr Lisa Evans and her New Zealand and international collaborators will compare the learning capability of wild bumblebees occupying different kinds of floral environments, to determine whether learning potential provides a selective advantage to bumblebee colonies in some environments but not others. The outcome will further our understanding of why we observe variation in learning potential within species and whether this can affect the ability of bees to successfully reproduce. This project has received a $300,000 fast-start grant designated for early career researchers.

The project “Beyond DNA: testing the role of epigenomics in thermal adaptation” has received a standard grant of $929,000. Nelson-based scientist Dr Maren Wellenreuther and her team will investigate genomic versus epigenomic variation in thermal adaptation of the Australasian snapper, a marine fish native to New Zealand. This project will support research into snapper as an aquaculture species by testing whether the species can change rapidly, through epigenetic regulation of gene expression, to new environmental conditions.

The Marsden Fund, managed by the Royal Society Te Apārangi on behalf of the New Zealand government, supports New Zealand’s best investigator-initiated research in the areas of science, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities. The Plant & Food Research projects are two of only seven CRI (Crown Research Institute)-led projects that have been selected.

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