News and updates

There's been lots happening in the Rader Lab recently!

Dan Bickel from Australian Musuem visited us at UNE late last year to teach us all the art of Diptera identification. Flies are awesome. While we were in the taxonomic mood, Toby also took the opportunity to test his new ID key for native bees with us, which we are looking forward to seeing out!

We also had a visit from Simon Haberle from ANU, who taught the lab valuable skills in pollen acetolysis and identification.

Emma has just returned from her field season in the alpine region around Mt Kosciuszko. See this previous post with some pictures of her gorgeous field sites! She is on the home stretch now, and is looking forward to getting into her data analysis and writing up the honours thesis.

Carolyn notes the Smart Farm bee hives are doing really well. So far they've produced about 100 kg of honey, which is not a huge harvest but there's lots left to keep them going over winter. All four hives have young queens and are set up well for winter although they won’t be getting much time off work because they are about to start a pollination project!

Liam has just returned from Europe. He spent some time in Spain with Rader Lab collaborator Ignasi Bartomeus, where they worked on developing an R package to help with measuring pollinator traits, like body size and foraging distance. He then met up with collaborators in Switzerland. Stay tuned for a blog post on Liam's travels coming soon.

Romina spent some time at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney promoting our crop pollination research. UNE was allocated a large section of the agricultural pavilion and produced an awesome display featuring some of the agricultural research happening here at UNE, including Rader Lab's pollination research. And congratulations to the UNE team who put it together, as the display won the Gold Award for Commercial Exhibitor in the agricultural section!

Mark has just finished up field work in berry farms near Coffs Harbour, where he designed a protocol for assessing stingless bee flower visitation rate inside polytunnels. He is now on leave to knock off the last bit of writing to finish his PhD!

Jose and Juan both received a CSIRO top-up scholarship for their PhD research projects. Congratulations!

We farewelled Charlie (from Canada) and Malou (from France) at the end of 2017, but collaborations continue and we hope to see them again soon!

New member: Greg Bible (page coming soon) has just started his honours looking at how heterospecific pollen affects seed growth.


Willcox BK et al. (2017) Absence of small hive beetles from flowering plants. Journal of Apicultural Research, 56:643-645.

Lobaton JD et al. (2017) Resequencing of Common Bean Identifies Regions of Inter–Gene Pool Introgression and Provides Comprehensive Resources for Molecular Breeding. The Plant Genome, doi:10.3835/plantgenome2017.08.0068.

Birkhofer K et al. (including R Rader) (2018) Relationships between multiple biodiversity components and ecosystem services along a landscape complexity gradient. Biological Conservation, 218: 247-253.

Lanuza JB et al. (2018) Opposing effects of floral visitors and soil conditions on the determinants of competitive outcomes maintain species diversity in heterogeneous landscapes. Ecology Letters.


The Rader Lab at the University of New England, Armidale are investigating the efficiency of individual wild pollinators and the diversity of insect communities in melon fields and mango orchards in the Northern Territory and Queensland. 

Four temporary field technician positions are available for approximately 3.5 months, starting around mid-May and ending around the end of August 2018. These four field technicians will use field and lab techniques to assess pollinator efficiency and diversity in watermelon fields and mango orchards in the Darwin, Katherine, and Cairns areas. The team will primarily conduct hand-netting and observations of pollinator species, focusing on native bees, butterflies, flies, and wasps.  The team will also collect pollen samples from plants and insects, plant samples for identification, and weather and geographical information. See more about our research at

Applicants with un-restricted availability and an inclination for travel to all three locations will be highly considered. However, please apply even though you may be available for 1 – 2 months as our schedule is somewhat flexible. Travel to field sites, field lodging, and food will be provided during the field season. The field housing is close to major towns, where field workers can shop and enjoy a nice café on their days off. Field workers should be prepared to have limited mobile phone and internet access during field work. An internet hotspot is provided and is available at all field accommodations. Mobile phone service is generally reliable at the accommodations as well.


-   Strict adherence to biosecurity and safety procedures on large farms

-   Field monitoring and collection of pollinators

-   Processing insect specimens in the lab including pinning bees and labeling samples

-   Preparing and slide mounting pollen samples

-   Data entry into Excel spreadsheets

*Desired Qualifications*

-   Ability to be trained and take instruction in field and lab settings

-   Previous field or lab experience with a diverse group

-   Attention to detail and willingness to take leadership of and responsibility for their work

-   Highly motivated and able to work independently

-   Basic computer skills (Word, Excel)

-   Ability to remain upbeat and patient in hot, dry, and uncomfortable conditions

-   Valid Drivers License with 4WD certification*

-   Valid First Aid Training*

*Applicants will be enrolled in a 4WD and/or a First Aid course at UNE if not already certified.

*Beneficial Qualifications*

-   Previous experience with pollinators, especially native bees, and/or monitoring other insect populations

-   Previous field experience in agricultural areas

-   Experience living in remote locations for extended periods


To Apply: As a single PDF, send a brief cover letter explaining why you are interested in this position and details of your availability, a resume, and names and contact information for two references to: Lindsey Kirkland, Please place “Seasonal Hire” in the subject line of the email. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the positions are filled.

Summer research in the Australian Alps!

Rader Lab Honours student Emma Goodwin is spending January enjoying peak wildflower season in Kosciuszko National Park. Emma is supervised by Romina and Manu, as well as Francisco Encinas-Viso and Juanita Rodriguez from CSIRO in Canberra.

Emma is investigating pollinator networks in the Australian alpine region near Charlotte Pass, Kosciuszko National Park. The project involves insect visitor observations to explore the interactions between alpine flora and pollinators. Pollen from visitations will be sampled to look at both the quantity and diversity that specific insects are carrying. This will contribute to a greater understanding of pollination ecology of alpine Australia.

After her stint on top of Australia, Emma will return to Canberra to analyse some data with her CSIRO colleagues, and then back to UNE Armidale in March to write up her honours thesis. Stay tuned for more of her project!


Looking for pollen tubes

The Rader Lab team has spent a couple of days learning new lab techniques from Jan Grant from Plant and Food Research New Zealand. An important part of pollination research is finding out if the pollen grains transferred by different pollinators have fertilised the plant's ovaries. This is a lot trickier than it sounds! The team learned how to extract stigmas from fresh flowers, prepare microscope slides, and find the magnified pollen tubes under the lens. Practice makes perfect!

New pollination team member

This week we also welcomed another new team member, Charlie Bailey! Charlie is a Masters student from University of Regina, Saskatchewan, studying wild pollinators in sour cherry crops in Canada. She will be with the Rader Lab for a few months to explore what goes on in Australian apple orchards!

New postdoc: Mark Hall

Welcome to our new postdoc Mark Hall, who started with the Rader Lab this week! Mark and his family have just moved up from Melbourne, where he completed his PhD at Latrobe University on birds and bees in native vegetation remnants in agricultural landscapes.

PhD confirmation passed: Jose B. Lanuza

Congratulations to Jose for passing his PhD confirmation today! Jose will be using glasshouse experiments and desktop analysis to answer some interesting questions about how heterospecific pollen can influence fruit set. Jose is supervised by Romina and Ignasi Bartomeus at the Donana Biological Station in Seville, Spain. And 10 out of 10 for his awesome research timeline slide!

Watermelon pollinators

Access to watermelon farms has been very restricted in the Northern Territory with the recent mosaic virus scare. We are lucky to partner with some farmers around Katherine to study the insect community on their farms this year. We've seen native bees, flies, and of course honey bees on watermelon so far! Looking forward to studying this crop more in the coming years.

How does pollen move around mango orchards?

The team are currently in Australia's Northern Territory, where mangoes are flowering in the tropical winter, investigating this question (see previous posts here). Collecting insects is the key to answering it. After an insect is collected, pollen is scraped off the body using scalpels and tape. The collected pollen is mounted on a slide and the pollen sample is checked in the lab to see how much and what kinds of pollen are present. The pictures below show research assistants Jim and Jeff working in the lab. The magnified grains are mango pollen at 160x magnification!

First sightings of mango pollinators!

Some of our team are enjoying the tropical winter in northern Australia, all in the name of pollination ecology! Read our previous posts as the team arrived in Katherine NT and did some cool field science on mango stigmas. The latest update from Lindsey has some exciting news, including a video of a native Homalictus sp. bee pollinating a mango blossom!

From Lindsey: We are observing mango flowers to identify the visiting insect community. We've seen and collected at least 40 different insect species across 6 orders.  We hope to create a reference collection for mango and to quantify the proportions of the different insect species to determine which are the most influential visitors in pollination.

New paper: pollinators visit wind-pollinated plants

Some wind-pollinated plants are an important pollen source for insect pollinators, but there is limited knowledge of how pollinator communities interact with wind-pollinated plants in their environment. Manu has just published a systematic review collating documented records of bees and hoverflies visiting wind-pollinated plants.

Saunders ME (2017) Insect pollinators collect pollen from wind-pollinated plants: implications for pollination ecology and sustainable agriculture. Insect Conservation & Diversity

A closer look at mango stigmas

Testing stigma receptivity in the field can be tricky, but it is important component of pollination ecology projects. To test mango stigma receptivity, we collect mango flowers and submerge their stigmas in hydrogen peroxide. If the stigmas are receptive, they will produce bubbles rapidly. As receptivity falls so does the rate of bubble creation.


New paper on pollinator community effectiveness

Bryony's new paper, co-authored with Romina, Margaret Mayfield (University of Queensland), Saul Cunningham (Australian National University) and Marcelo Aizen (Universidad Nacional del Comahue), is now online at Current Opinion in Insect Science. The paper presents a conceptual review of recent literature on pollinator effectiveness and identifies pros and cons of current methods. The paper argues for greater acknowledgement of the role plant-pollinator community interactions play in pollination effectiveness. The paper is open access.

Willcox BK, Aizen MAA, Cunningham SA, Mayfield MM, Rader R. (2017) Deconstructing pollinator community effectiveness. Current Opinion in Insect Science.

Mango pollination road trip

Some of the Rader Lab team are in sunny Katherine in the Northern Territory for the mango flowering season! The team, including Lindsey, Amy and new honours student Brent, will be identifying mango pollinators and working out pollination efficiency for different insect species. The team then head off to North Queensland to do it all again. Stay tuned!

Drones for pollination research?

Amy recently attended a two day UAVair drone course at UNE SMART farm to learn how this technology can be applied to pollination ecology research. From this, the Rader lab are hoping to use drones to map and identify vegetation around orchards and farms in an effort to better understand the interaction between plants and pollinators within agroecosystems. Amy was surprised at how much training and certification is required before a drone can be used in the field, let alone the experience needed to accurately map useful data!

Bees and blueberries

Some of the Rader Lab team, led by PhD student Liam, are working in the blueberry growing region on the beautiful north coast of New South Wales coast as part of our fruit crop pollination project. The evergreen blueberry varieties here are in flower from April through to June/July. The main purpose of this field work is to establish a link between pollinator efficiency (floral visit number and composition - including species order) and fruit set and quality. We have also been assessing bee and hoverfly diversity in and around blueberry farms. So far we have found roughly 15-20 bee species in the vicinity of blueberry farms. Interestingly, these bees (including native blue-banded bees, teddy bear bees and leaf-cutter bees) have no interest in blueberry flowers – instead they love the flowering weeds (eg. farmer's friend Bidens pilosa)!

Horticulture industry connections

Bryony was in Adelaide earlier this week to present at HortConnections 2017 as part of the Precision Agriculture Research Group. The presentation team included two other PhD students (Surantha Salgadoe and Aaron Aeberli) and Research Fellow Jasmine Muir, and their presentation was titled "Emerging technology for managing Australian tree crops". The team are all part of the "Multi-Scale Monitoring Tools for Managing Australian Tree Crops- Industry meets Innovation" project being led by Assoc. Prof. Andrew Robson (UNE). Bryony spoke about her own PhD project and the work being done by other collaborators on the project.

Bryony has also just had a paper accepted in Current Opinion in Insect Science - stay tuned to find out when it's available online!

Bryony K. Willcox, Marcelo A. Aizen, Saul A. Cunningham, Margaret M. Mayfield, and Romina Rader (in press) Deconstructing pollinator community effectiveness. Current Opinion in Insect Science

Our honey bees have arrived!

We've just bought six nucleus hives from Calla Tessling and combined them to make four new honey bee colonies. We are building up each colony to use in our glasshouse pollination experiments in September. The hives made it safely to Armidale and are set up on UNE's SMART Farm. After a crash course in basic beekeeping from Bruce White a few weeks ago, our team, led by Carolyn, are making sure they stay safe over winter.