Seeking urban gardens and farms

Help scientists study the effects of heat on pollinators!

Wanted: Farms and community gardens in and around Detroit, Toledo, Raleigh, Durham, Atlanta, Athens, Denver, Boulder, Phoenix, and Tucson, especially if cucumbers are grown.

Who we are: A team of researchers from Bowling Green State University (OH), North Carolina State University (NC), and Kennesaw State University (GA) working on a USDA-funded project to help gardens and farms, especially those near cities.

What we are studying: Our research seeks to better understand how bees respond to the stressors they face in urban environments. We will examine diversity, abundance, health, and pollination services. This research will suggest which species are most at-risk from stressors, and help develop management strategies to support pollinators in the future as cities grow and the climate warms. 

Why you: We need your help to study bee populations in gardens and farms in different parts of the city, and outside, but near the city. 

When: The study will be completed over a three or four-year period starting in the summer of 2021. Each year, your site could be expected to be visited 2 or 3 days in each of 2 different months. 

What we’ll do: If you volunteer your farm or garden as a potential study site, we’ll ask some questions about your property to make sure we’ll be able to complete the study there (if not, we will still have other ways you can get involved). If everything looks good, we’ll visit your site 2 or 3 days, in each of 2 months, each summer. On days that we visit your site, we’ll arrive early in the morning and take various measurements throughout the day. For example, we will measure how often pollinators visit cucumber flowers, how well those flowers are pollinated, the body temperature and hydration of bees, and other metrics. We will collect a limited number of bees for testing and identification, and we’ll leave a small temperature sensor on site throughout the study to monitor the local climate. 

What you’ll do: Coordinate with us to determine the best dates to visit your property and let us know about any off-limits areas. Optionally, you might also choose to participate in citizen science activities such as completing pollinator counts and uploading iNaturalist photos. For our iNaturalist project, see:

Interested in participating or want to learn more about the project? Please fill out the survey at:

We hope you will consider this opportunity to help us prepare for the future and protect our pollinators!

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Updates at McCluney Lab Facebook page

For most recent news, see the McCluney lab Facebook page:

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MS student John Woloschuk launches crowdfunding campaign for his work on spillover predation

Please consider donating to John Woloschuk’s project, which focuses on how agricultural ditch management influences bat and spider activity, which could help reduce crop pests:

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Differential sensitivity of urban bees to heat and dehydration

Have you ever wondered at how some animals, like kangaroo rats, can survive in hot or dry places? New research from our lab suggests that some bees can be quite good at tolerating heating up or drying out, but not both at the same time.

In a recent paper published in Scientific Reports (, PhD student Justin Burdine and Dr. Kevin McCluney found that honeybees are very sensitive to drying out, but can handle the heat, while striped sweat bees can tolerate dehydration, but can’t take the heat. Thus, different aspects of climate change, like changes in precipitation or temperature, are expected to have different effects on different species.

Honeybees drinking from a fountain

These findings are important for people living in cities. Pavement makes eastern US cities hotter and sometimes drier than surrounding undeveloped areas. Think about walking through a parking lot on a hot day. You can feel the heat and that causes sweating and thus loss of water. We found that urban honey bees in Toledo, OH were drier than their rural counterparts, being very close to their dehydration limits. Urban sweat bees on the other hand, were closer to overheating, although it is important to point out that they were not very close to these temperature limits in Toledo, OH. In this city in a cool climate, urban heat may actually help them.

These findings have important implications for urban farmers and gardeners. They suggest that to maximize pollination from multiple species of pollinators, it may be important to provide water or dilute nectar sources and shade and sun, allowing different bees, with different physiology, to achieve the best body temperature and hydration. This may be even more important as cities face increased temperatures and changes in precipitation associated with climate change.

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We’ve been so busy doing science, we forgot to update our lab web page! But we have been posting over on our Facebook page.

Here are some recent updates…

First, we received funding from the Lake Erie Protection Fund to support the MS work of Rachel Paull, investigating how agricultural ditch restoration influences nutrient cycling via plants and animals! She started sampling last week. We are also collaborating with the Hood Lab at Ohio State and are lucky to have some great undergraduate research assistants helping with the work!

Second, we received an internal grant supporting research by MS student Missy Seidel, on climatic effects on pollinator food webs. And then, a short time later, she received a Sigma Xi research grant as well! She is rapidly preparing for an ambitious field experiment! And we also have an undergraduate CURS student doing related work!

Third, PhD student Melanie McLaughlin Marshall and PI Kevin McCluney presented two talks each at the Society for Freshwater Science annual meeting. MS student John Woloschuk also presented a poster at the meeting. All were well received.

Fourth, MS student John Woloschuk is gearing up for his work investigating how predators consuming emergent insects along agricultural ditches may influence crop pests.

Last but not least, PhD students Justin Burdine and Melanie Marshall have been rapidly writing papers with some exciting results!

Stay tuned!

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Sigma Xi Award

Congratulations to Missy Seidel for being awarded a Sigma Xi research grant for her work on climatic effects on pollinator food webs!!

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Oman Awards

April 19th, 2018

Congratulations to PhD students Melanie Marshall and Justin Burdine on their BGSU Biology Oman awards!!

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Honors Thesis

April 10th, 2018

Congratulations to undergraduate Ashley Everett on her successful honors thesis presentation on the effects of fluoride on freshwater biofilms and snail foraging!

We wish her luck next year as she starts dental school!

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Thesis Defense

January 13th, 2018

Congratulations to Gabrielle Metzner on a successful MS thesis defense!

She gave a very nice presentation on her work on phosphorus fluxes via emergent insects from conventional and restored agricultural ditches and streams.

And she starts a new job Monday!

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Thesis Defense

Congratulations to Jamie Becker on her thesis defense!

Jamie gave an excellent presentation on her work showing how climate influences animal water and nutrient demand across landscapes influenced by urbanization.


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Recent publications

The lab has published several papers this year, related to either animal water content and ecology, urbanization, or both.

Kevin McCluney, Justin Burdine, and Steve Frank published a paper showing that mean arthropod water content in Raleigh, NC, Phoenix, AZ, and Orlando, FL becomes more similar with increasing urbanization. Highly urban Raleigh arthropods are drier, while highly urban Phoenix and Orlando arthropods are wetter. Other research has documented how changes in arthropod water content can influence trophic interactions and food web dynamics. Thus our results suggest that urbanization can change food webs by altering arthropod water balance (in vs out).

Undergraduate alumni Edward Lagucki, advised by PhD student Justin Burdine, and Kevin McCluney published a paper showing that gardens and parks in more urban settings of Toledo have fewer flying insects, including groups of insects that include pollinators like bees, and predators important for controlling pests. Higher soil moisture seems to help alleviate some of these declines. Although more research is needed to better identify particular species that are highly affected and confirm mechanisms, this research contributes to growing evidence that urbanization can alter food webs in ways that influence humans.

Kevin McCluney published a sole-authored opinion paper, laying out the evidence that arthropods may be widely water-limited and exploring how variation in animal water balance (in vs out) might influence food webs. Email Dr. McCluney if you would like a copy of this paper (not open access).

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McCluney lab outreach: women in science

The McCluney lab participates in Imagination Station’s “Girl Power!” event which is designed to support women in science. Jamie Becker demonstrates the Urban Heat Island effect, where areas with large amounts of impervious surface are generally hotter and drier than areas with vegetation.

IMG_3815    20170211_125951_resized


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“The Journal” interviews Dr. McCluney about Lake Erie water quality research

“The Journal,” a talk show on WBGU-TV, the local PBS station, recently interviewed Dr. McCluney (along with collaborator Dr. Bob Midden) about the lab’s research on phosphorous sources and sinks in the watersheds leading to Lake Erie. Here’s a link to the interview:

Of course, there are many people that are contributing to research discussed by Dr. McCluney and Dr. Midden, including collaborators Laura Johnson at Heidelberg University, Mark Williams and Kevin King at the USDA, and PhD student Melanie Marshall and MS student Gabby Metzner, within the McCluney lab. Many other scientists within and outside of OH are also contributing important information about the causes of Lake Erie’s algal blooms.

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Paper published! Animal water balance drives top-down effects

Dr. McCluney recently published a paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Science that extends his previous work and tests if animal water balance can drive top-down effects in open-air food webs [download post-print here or email Dr. McCluney for a free copy of the published manuscript]. This research highlights the importance of moisture availability in altering the effect of predators on prey, with cascading effects on vegetation. The work was conducted by Dr. McCluney as a post-doc at Arizona State University and subsequently revised and published while at BGSU. Ongoing research by Dr. McCluney and by PhD student Jamie Becker is expanding on this work.

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PhD Student Justin Burdine Wins Scholarship

Justin Burdine received notification that he will be awarded an Annie’s Homegrown Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship for his work on the ecology of bees in urban gardens! Congrats Justin!

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Honors students graduate!

In the spring of 2016 our first two honors students presented their theses and graduated! Congrats and good luck as they move on to graduate programs!

Nadejda Mirochnitchenko!

Haley Ingram!

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New grant for studying age of phosphorus running off fields

In the spring of 2016 we received additional funding from the Ohio Department of Higher Education to expand our ongoing research on Phosphorus sources to Lake Erie (note, P loading has been implicated in the recent toxic algal blooms). With this new research we will examine the age of the P running off agricultural fields in addition to expanding our efforts to trace sources of P to Lake Erie. Both of these projects employ stable isotopes of phosphate. These subprojects are part of a larger effort at understanding P sources to Lake Erie led by Laura Johnson at Heidelberg University and in collaboration with Bob Midden (BGSU), Paula Mouser (OSU), Jay Martin (OSU), and Rem Confesor (Heidelberg). Graduate students Melanie Marshall and Gabby Metzner are working on this project and are also connecting in their own research by examining effects of stream/ditch restoration efforts and trace chemicals on fluxes of P through linked aquatic-terrestrial food webs.

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Catching up

We were so busy doing research and teaching that we got a little behind with our posts. Here are a few key news items from the past year!

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Nadya Mirochnitchenko receives best poster award

Undergraduate Nadya Mirochnitchenko receives the CURS Glass award for her poster presentation on the spatial and temporal variation in concentrations of trace chemicals and macroinvertebrates in the Portage River watershed in NW Ohio. The hand-blown glass award was presented by university president Mary Ellen Mazey.



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Undergraduates Receive Research Awards!

Nadya Mirochnitchenko and Haley Ingram, undergraduate honors students working in the McCluney Lab, have both received summer research scholarships from the BGSU Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship.

Nadya Mirochnitchenko received funding to study the effects of washed-up algal blooms of varying toxicity on lakeshore food webs along Lake Erie.

Haley Ingram received funding to examine the relationship between riverine ecosystem condition (e.g. water quality) and human perception of those conditions within different socioeconomic groups, as well as the effects of exposing study participants to different types of written statements about local ecosystem condition.

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