BEEc in Action

About us

Who we are...

The Consortium for Bee Ecology Evolution and Conservation is currently comprised of five PIs and their research teams, encompassing multiple faculties and departments at York University. Through diverse approaches, BEEc researchers investigate a variety of topics relating to managed and wild pollinators, with special emphasis on bees (>850 species in Canada and >20,400 globally).

Why we are...

Bees provide indispensable pollination services through their essential role in agricultural crop pollination and in sustaining natural ecosystems worldwide. Declines in diversity, health and populations of wild and managed bees have been documented over the past decade, such that scientists and the general public alike are concerned about the sustainability of their populations and conservation. The causes of these declines are variable, complex and context-dependent and exist in socio-ecological systems. In response, BEEc and its affiliates plan to tackle some of the factors negatively impacting bee populations using tools from a variety of disciplines. Along with partnering organizations like Wildlife Preservation Canada, the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, and the Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation the BEEc hopes to expand the knowledge and understanding behind the determining factors for bee declines and utilize our interdisciplinary efficacy to try and overcome these issues.

What we do...

The research team at BEEc is using cutting-edge tools to broaden knowledge in the fields of bee biology, ecology, and conservation. The aim is to provide beekeepers, scientists, government agencies, and the public with the necessary information regarding the status of wild and managed bees for making recommendations for sustainability of our agricultural and natural ecosystems. The executive research team includes:

Amro Zayed, PI, Director
York University’s Research Chair in Genomics
Associate Professor, Biology Department, Faculty of Science
Dr. Zayed’s research focuses on the genetics, genomics and behaviour of social insects using the honey bee as a model organism. He also uses genomics to develop applied tools to improve honey bee health and to understand the causes and consequences of population decline in native bees such as bumblebees. Zayed has received over $9 million dollars in research funding since 2009 from a variety of sources including, Genome Canada, Ontario Genomics, NSERC, and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. Zayed received the Governor General’s Gold Medal in 2007, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation’s Early Researcher Award in 2010, and the Faculty of Science’s Early Career Researcher Award in 2014, a York Research Chair in 2015, and YorkU’s President Emerging Research Leadership Award in 2017. He was recently awarded the Entomological Society of Canada’s Gordon C. Hewitt Award for outstanding contributions to the field of entomology.
Sheila Colla, PI, Associate Director
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change
Dr. Colla’s research focuses on understanding the ecology and status of wild pollinators, primarily bumblebees. Her research investigates questions which fill knowledge gaps directly related to the conservation management of at-risk species. Recently, her research team has also begun to investigate the human dimension of pollinator conservation, including stakeholder perspectives, citizen science, and incorporating biocultural knowledge systems. She is the North American Coordinator for the IUCN Red List Species Specialist Group which aims to understand that status of bumblebees globally. She also co-authored “The Bumblebees of North America: An Identification Guide” (Princeton University Press, 2014). She works closely with government agencies and environmental NGOs to implement evidence-based decision-making and management.
Laurence Packer, PI, BEEc founding member
Distinguished Research Professor, Biology Department, Faculty of Science
Dr. Packer’s research focuses on bee systematics, phylogeny, taxonomy (including DNA barcoding) and biogeography. His first years of research were primarily sociobiological and he has published on topics as diverse as genetics, conservation, behaviour, invasive species, urban ecology, climate change and nest architecture. Laurence is a world expert on wild bees and, over the past 20 years, has built up a world class research collection – the largest of its kind, housing over 500 000 specimens from all over the world (>100 countries) and including perhaps 95% of the world's 500 or so bee genera. He leads the campaign to obtain DNA barcodes of the world's bees. He and his students have published over 200 research articles and described over 130 new species (including the 20 000th bee species) as well two new genera of bees. He is a past member of COSEWIC and twice a member of NSERC's Ecology and Evolution research grant panel. He has obtained funding from a diverse array of sources including NSERC, National Geographic, the FAO, Bioversity, the Garfield Weston Foundation and a private donor. He is the author of the award-winning book "Keeping the Bees" Harper Collins and co-author (with Sam Droege) of "Bees: an up-close look at pollinators around the world" Voyageur Press, which has been translated into Dutch, French and German.
Sandra Rehan, PI
Assistant Professor, Biology Department, Faculty of Science
Dr. Rehan’s research focuses on bee biodiversity and social evolution. She has a special interest in the origin and maintenance of social behaviour in bees. Her lab has three main foci: molecular phylogeny, behavioural ecology, and comparative genomics. Rehan employs these three levels of biological integration to study bees at multiple evolutionary scales. Research in her lab ranges from natural history and taxonomy to molecular phylogenetics and biogeography. She uses comparative genomics to uncover the genetic basis of group formation and transcriptomics to understand the epigenetic modifications involved with social experience. She also conducts long term studies of bee biodiversity across landscapes to determine plant-pollinator associations and the status of wild bee communities. Her biodiversity survey specimens offer invaluable data to discover cryptic species, study species ranges, adaptation and ecological niches using comparative morphology, population genetic, and geospatial modelling techniques.
Jane Heffernan, PI
Director of the Centre for Disease Modelling (CDM)
Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics & Statistics, Faculty of Science
Dr. Heffernan’s research focuses on understanding the spread and persistence of infectious diseases. Her Modelling Infection and Immunity Lab focuses on the development of new biologically motivated models of infectious diseases (deterministic and stochastic) that describe pathogen dynamics in-host (mathematical immunology) and in a population of hosts (mathematical epidemiology). Models in immuno-epidemiology, which integrate the in-host dynamics with population level models, are also developed. More recently, Heffernan is focusing on applying mathematics and modelling to studying pollinator health and diseases biology. In addition to being a mathematics professor, she is the Director of the Centre for Disease Modelling (CDM) and serves on the Boards of Directors of the Society of Mathematical Biology (SMB) and the Canadian Applied and Industrial Mathematics Society (CAIMS).
The collaborative member research team:
  • Aijun An, Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, York University
  • Jason Gibbs, Assistant Professor, University of Manitoba; Curator, J.B. Wallis-RE Roughley Museum of Entomology
  • Robert Hanner, Associate Professor, University of Guelph
  • Clement Kent, Adjunct Professor, Department of Biology, York University
  • Scott MacIvor, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto St. George
  • Roderick MacRae, Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University
  • Jenny McCune, Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences & Graduate Studies, University of Lethbridge
  • Lisa Myers, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University
  • Joel Ong, Director, Sensorium; Assistant Professor, Computational Arts, York University
  • Sarah Rotz, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University
  • Jessica Vickruck, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Where we are involved

In addition to scientific research and field work, the centre provides educational programs and outreach events on a variety of topics: pollinator-friendly gardening practices, bee identification workshops, species at risk monitoring events, citizen science applications, Bioblitz events, and many more! Most of these events are free and easily accessible to those interested.

As much as we remain active in the local community, we pride ourselves in global collaboration and innovation across borders. Members of BEEc have welcomed students and scientists from over 15 countries in the last 10 years - opportunities to join us may be available. We are always looking to expand our skillset and are constantly welcoming new members with similar or related research interests.

Check out our bee resources page to find out more about bees!