St. Louis-based destination design firm PGAV Destinations has awarded University of Massachusetts-Amherst Ecology Doctoral Candidate Luis Aguirre the first-ever $3,000 PGAVia Pollinator Research Grant.
“Over the course of the last two decades, we’ve seen habitat loss and other potential causes resulting in bee colony collapse and effects on other pollinator populations and behavior,” said Mike Konzen, chair and principal of PGAV Destinations. “As these birds, insects, and mammals have a foundational effect on world agriculture, medicine, and more, we see this grant as a way to help contribute to the understanding of the problems and potential solutions.”
Mr. Aguirre’s research, entitled “Cascading Effects of Plant Enemies on Pollinator Health,” explores the potential positive benefits to pollinators by triggering chemical defenses in plants. When plants are damaged, they often produce chemicals that can deter further consumption of their plant parts. However, while some concentrations can influence pollinators to stay away, other concentrations can not only attract pollinators, but may potentially be able to ameliorate the effects of pathogens, such as parasites, in the pollinators as well.
The global implications of Mr. Aguirre’s research are immense. If his studies can uncover causal links between triggering these chemical responses and a reduction in parasites and pathogens fatal to pollinators, then ecologists, agricultural scientists, and farmers could incorporate these practices to reduce pollinator mortality rates and therefore greatly increase crop health and yield.“I give Luis my strongest and most enthusiastic support for this proposal,” said Professor Lynn Adler, one of Mr. Aguirre’s mentors at U. Mass. “Luis is a dedicated, incredibly smart, and passionate student who is on a clear path to success. I can think of no one more deserving of this award, or who would take better advantage of the opportunities it affords.”
“It gives me great pleasure to know that there are others who are as concerned about pollinators as we are in our own lab, and also that those people want to invest in scientific research coming from young researchers,” said Aguirre. “This grant will allow me to initiate an experiment that will further my career and form the foundation of my subsequent PhD work.”
Each year, the volunteer arm of PGAV Destinations – PGAVIA – pursues a central conservation cause to study and support, in addition to ongoing, local environmental efforts. This year’s Conservation Awareness Campaign focuses on pollinators, and the Pollinator Research Grant serves as one of the flagship initiatives of the firm to help forward the global understanding of, and assistance with, pollinator health and habitat restoration.