Gera collects bumblebee data on a hedgerow on a farm in Cornwall. Image courtesy of Gera Datuin
First Fulbright Scholar takes Cornish research overseas
A Masters student and recipient of the first Fulbright scholarship for the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus, is hoping her work on pollinator research in Cornwall will have a positive impact on conserving pollinators in the U.S. territory of Guam and the wider Mariana Islands in the western North Pacific Ocean.
There has previously been very little research into pollinator networks in this part of the world.
Under the supervision of Professor Juliet Osborne and Dr Grace Twiston-Davies from the University’s Environment and Sustainability Institute, Biosciences postgraduate Gera Datuin surveyed Cornish farms to explore what resources queen bumblebees were using early in the spring when queens need an abundance of floral resources to start their colony. She used her field data and pioneering bumblebee computer model BEE-STEWARD to predict the combined effects of spring floral resources and pesticides on queen survival. This formed the basis of her dissertation.
Gera, who currently works for the Guam Department of Agriculture says, “Our natural resources are finite. One day they're not going to be available to the future generations, so I think it's our responsibility to give back to the land, to be aware and do our own research on what helps us be self-sustaining as an island and grow our own food."
“Pollinators”, she added, “are an important part of agriculture, as these insects help produce larger yields. Overall pollinator health on farms is an indicator of a healthy farm."
An Anthropology graduate from the University of Guam, Gera had always wanted to study a postgraduate degree in conservation, but could only do so if fully funded. She was successful in her application for a Fulbright U.S. Postgraduate Student Award, a prestigious, full-ride scholarship. In another first, Gera became the first Guam resident in approximately a decade to receive a Fulbright award.
The award brought Gera to the University of Exeter in Cornwall, where she recently received her Master of Science in Conservation and Biodiversity. She is hoping her experience to help encourage other Guam students to become Fulbright scholars too. She tells her story in the Guam Daily Post.
Professor Dave Hosken from the University of Exeter says: “We were delighted to host Gera as our first Fulbright scholar here at the Penryn Campus and hope she will be the first of many. Gera’s work is an example of how research undertaken in Cornwall can make a difference somewhere else in the world and contributes to our vision of being able to help solve global challenges, in this case sustainable food production.”
The US-UK Educational Commission (Fulbright Commission) fosters mutual cultural understanding through educational exchange between both nations, including the prestigious Fulbright Awards Programme. For more information, visit fulbright.org.uk
Date: 19 December 2018