Category: News

Anatomy of a pollinator garden

By , March 9, 2015

Some of you know that i love bees. I also generally dislike grass. I don’t like mowing it. I don’t like watering it. I don’t find manicured fields of green grass beautiful.

So, when the snow thawed off the ground – in that first spring in our new home in Woodbridge Ontario in 2010 – my wife and i did something fun… we put a layer of newspaper on our front lawn (neighbours thought we were crazy), put about 2 inches of soil on top of the news paper, and planted several species of hardy native perennials that are attractive to bees, butterflies and birds. I had a lot of help, former postdoc and master gardner Clement Kent provided me with most of the plants (from his garden) and good instructions about how to keep my plants happy.

I was doing a google search on our home and was pleased to see that google maps snapped a nice picture of our pollinator garden in mid bloom last summer. Here is the full list of plants in my garden… in case you want to build your own.

Amro

I spy with my little eye, something that is full of bees

I spy with my little eye, something that is full of bees

Garden with 30+ species of plants, mostly native

Garden with 30+ species of plants, mostly native. See Plant list below… I used pea gravel and some slate stones on the edges.

Plant List
Some of the plants below are not native, but look pretty and still attract pollinators. Some I removed from the garden bed for some reason or another.

1. Violets
2. Amsonia tabernaemontana [blue star]
3. Rudbeckia hirta – Black-eyed Susan
4. Rudbeckia laciniata – Cutleaf Coneflower
5. Wild strawberries (spc ?)
6. Filipendula rubra – Queen of the Prairie
7. Physostegia virginiana [obedient plant]
8. Monarda (bee balm) (purple; red = M. didyma – jacob cline; c = fistulosa blue)
9. Iris versicolor – Northern Blue Flag
10. Veronica longifolia – white speedwell
11. Sanguisorba canadensis – Canadian burnet
12. Baptisia australis – Blue false indigo
13. Penstemon hirsutus – hairy beardtongue
14. Gaillardia aristata – blanketflower
15. Asclepias incarnata – Swamp Milkweed
16. Agastache foeniculum – Golden Anise Hyssop
17. Liatris spicata – gayfeather
18. Helenium hoopesii – orange helenium
19. Echinacea purpurea (2 from C. Kent; 1 bright star, 1 Magnus); purple coneflower
20. Liatris ligulistylis – Meadow Blazingstar
21. Echinacea purpurea ‘baby white swan’
22. Veronica spicata (speedwell – sunny border blue)
23. Creeping thyme (mother of thyme)
24. Sage (spc ?)
25. Tiarella cordifolia – heartleaved foamflower
26. Phlox stolonifera blue ridge – Phlox
27. Oenothera tetragona – sundrops
28. Phlox subulata Emerald blue creeping Phlox
28b. Phlox subulata Emerald pink creeping Phlox
29. Coreopsis verticillata – threadleaf coreopsis golden showers
30. Viola labradorica – Labrador Violet
TT. Tarda Tulips
BR. Sanguinaria canadensis – bloodroot
31. Aster novae-angliae -New England Aster
32. Erigeron speciosus – Showy Fleabane
33. Eupatorium purpureum – Sweet Joe-Pye weed
34. Heliopsis helianthoides
35. Phlox paniculata a.David b. Nicky c. purple flame – Summer Phlox
36. French Lavender (spc. ?)
36a. Pincushion flower Scabiosa pink mist
37. Wolly thyme jeepers creepers thymus pseudolanuginousus
38. Lamium maculatum “white nancy”
39. Hen and chicks Crassulaceae

Daria defends her MSc

By , January 29, 2015

Congrats to Daria Molodtsova for successfully defending her MSc thesis on the evolution of regulatory networks that influence honey bee worker behaviour. Daria started her MSc on September 2013. She co-authored the lab’s population genomics study on honey bees in PNAS, and she recently published her MSc thesis in Frontiers in Genetics. Daria is heading back to her motherland (Russia) to purse a career in biotech.

Well done Daria and congrats one the hard-earned MSc!

Samir and his Africanized ‘killer’ bees

By , September 8, 2014

Happy to welcome Samir Moura Kadri, a visiting PhD student from São Paulo State University from Botucatu, Brazil . We are hosting Samir here for the Fall 2014 and Winter 2015 terms to study the genetics of aggression in Africanized ‘Killer’ bees! Africanized bees are very defensive, and Samir studied variation in defensiveness across a large number of colonies in Brazil. He is here to apply genomics to understand the genetics of defensiveness in his colonies.

Here is a picture of Samir and a histogram of a measure of colony defensiveness in his study… the number of stings per minute!… yes, the upper limit is 100+ stings per minute… which is pretty nasty…

Thankfully, it was not 100 stings per minute that Samir actually received; he got the data by swinging a little suede-wrapped ball in front of the colonies… brave man! The range of defensive behaviour is very wide… about an order of magnitude difference between ‘happy go lucky africanized colonies ~ 20 stings per minute’ to ‘super aggressive killer bees – 120 stings per min’… bodes well for the genomic study!

Welcome Samir!
Amro

Samir and his 'killer' bees

Samir and his ‘killer’ bees

 

Tenure cake!

By , May 15, 2014

The lab threw me a surprise tenure party yesterday!… Here is a few pics of the celebration!

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Tenure Cake

Tenured Card

Tenured Card

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BeeUnit v.2014 L to R: Maisha, Jen, Keshna, Vijay, Nadia, Amro, Brock, Alivia, Sunny, Lior, Harshil. [Missing: Daria and Phil]

Tenurepro at last!

By , May 8, 2014

This will sound very cheesy, but all of my life I wanted to be a tenured prof; at least since 1998 when, as an undergrad, I finally discovered what an amazing gig my university professors had; a job where you get to do what YOU want to do, ask interesting questions, do cool experiments, and interact with bright students… who wouldn’t want that?

I remember walking into Laurence Packer’s office (my entomology prof turned PhD advisor) in 1998 and telling him half-jokingly: “I want to be like you when I grow up”. Then the long journey started. A 6 year PhD (2000 to 2006), a 3 year postdoc (2006 to 2009), then I started my tenure-track position on July 1st 2009. This however was not the end of the journey; Assistant Professors live in the Ivory tower, but they just rent it… they can be evicted from this glorious institution at any time!

And so, after five years of hard work, trials and tribulations, much less hair, a wife and 2 kids, I received THE letter today. I opened President Shoukri’s letter  with great anticipation. The text, as written, went something like “It is with pleasure that I accept the unanimous recommendations of the Adjudicating and Senate Review Committees that you be granted tenure and promoted to Associate Professor, effective July 1, 2014”.

In my mind, it played a bit differently…

Voice: ‘Kneel, Assistant Professor Amro Zayed

[i feel the weight of a heavy sceptre on my right shoulder and then on my left]

Voice: ‘Rise, Associate Professor Amro Zayed, White Knight of the Ivory Tower, Defender of the light, Keeper of bees

With your eyes… Amro!

By , April 30, 2014

I was very happy to be one of 21 Canadian faculty members to participate in the 2014 Science Leadership Program, organized by Dr. Ray Jayawardhana and the University of Toronto’s Science Engagement team. It was a two-day leadership/communication/engagement boot camp! Check out Elaine Smith’s UoT news story about this (see the picture in the link; I am the bold guy on the right, trying to balance a hula hop with 10 other fellows!). It was a great experience… Among other things, i have a lovely memory of 21 super-smart professors throwing a pink tennis ball around the room… with their eyes!

Amro

Brock successfully completes his prelims

By , April 1, 2014

Happy to report that Brock Harpur successfully completed his doctoral preliminary exam two weeks ago. Congrats Brock!

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Brock contimplates Y?

Around the continent in 30 days.

By , February 26, 2014

… it started with a trip to Edmonton, Alberta, to attend the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists’ annual meeting. We managed to outline the research priorities for Apiculture in Canada over the next few years, and I gave a talk on the genetics of honey bees.

The CAPA brain trust [i am in the middle row, second in from the right]. Edmonton, Alberta, Jan 2014

Then back to Toronto for a week, then off to the Gordon Research Conference on Genes and Behaviour held at Galveston Texas for another week. There i rubbed shoulders with some of my citation heroes and gave a seminar on bee population genomics and behaviour.

Back to Toronto on Friday [after a 12 hour limbo @ Houston Airport], then delivered a public seminar for the Royal Canadian Institute for the Advancement of Science on Sunday. The talk was a great experience. I also got a kick from seeing my name before the amazing Canadian Astronaut, Colonel Chris Hadfield, who was slated to speak the week after me (he had cancelled earlier, but after the brochure was printed).  I showed my family – i told them that i was speaking before that ‘Guy from Space’ 🙂 I actually feel extremely fortunate to get invited to speak at such a prestigious event, with an amazing line up of speakers, which include York U’s incoming dean of science, Ray Jay!

Amro, then that guy from space!

Amro, then that guy from space!

Then, I left Toronto Sunday night for a much needed mini vacation in the Caribbean over reading break.

That is more than 15,000 KM traveled over 30 days!… i think i am going to hang around Toronto for the next little while.

Amro

 

PNAS Cake II

By , January 7, 2014

Very happy to report that, after months of hard work, we’ve just heard that our study will be published in PNAS – a top science journal. Can’t tell you much about the article now – it is embargoed until published – but it is very very neat in my humble and biased opinion. We had a little mini-celebration with PNAS cake… Yum! 🙂

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Hmmm, 40^3!

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[L to R]: Nadia, Alivia, Jen, Daria, Phil, Brock, Lior, Amro

Dr. Alivia Dey joins the lab!

By , December 3, 2013

I would like to welcome our new Postdoc Dr. Alivia Dey to the lab. Alivia obtained her PhD from the University of Toronto where she studied the population genetics of Caenorhabditis with Dr Asher Cutter. Check out Alivia’s recent PNAS paper on hyperdiversity in nematodes! She will be working on honey bee population genomics here.
Welcome Alivia!

Amro

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