My research program focuses on four areas:
1. Biodiversity, ecosystem services, and global environmental change
Human well-being relies on ecosystem functions such as biomass production, nutrient cycling, and pollination, which may be at risk due to biodiversity loss driven by global environmental change. The study of how biodiversity influences ecosystem functioning has largely been an experimental field, and hundreds of experiments have established that communities with fewer species have lower levels of function. However, we don’t yet know whether the same is true at the larger scales of real-world landscapes. In our lab we use bees and the pollination they provide as a model system for developing an empirical and conceptual understanding of biodiversity’s role in ecosystem services in the real world. We ask such questions as, what are the roles of dominance and species turnover (beta diversity) in determining the biodiversity-ecosystem services relationship at large scales? Does the magnitude and reliability of pollination depend on the number of pollinator species present, or is pollination largely provided by a small subset of functionally important species? Are the different bee species complementary to each other in providing pollination, or are they largely redundant? We combine landscape-scale field work with statistical and simulation modeling to investigate these questions.
2: Biodiversity measurement
The lab is increasingly engaged in the theory and practice of biodiversity measurement, which is not at all trivial when working in real-world systems.
3: Plant-pollinator networks
The network of interactions among plants and their pollinators provides a powerful tool for investigating questions about mutualism at the community scale. How do plant-pollinator networks change when species are lost due to human disturbance? What is the role of plant and insect phenology in structuring plant-pollinator networks? Can analytical methods that are robust to sampling effects be developed for network data, which can contain hundreds of species, with many of them being rare (and thus poorly sampled)? We explore these questions with both models and data, in systems ranging from Illinois prairies, to pollinator restoration plantings on private lands in New Jersey, to deciduous forests in the Great Lakes National Parks.
4: Pollinator conservation and restoration
Our goal in this part of our work is to provide evidence-based guidelines for the government agencies and conservation organizations that work to conserve and restore pollinators. Collaborators (and funders) in this work include the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP), and the National Park Service (NPS).
Selected Recent Grants
United States Department of Agriculture, NIFA Pollinator Health Program. Spring Fruit Crop Pollinators and Northeastern Forests: High-value Bees in Overlooked Habitats. R Winfree (PI), B Danforth (CoPI). Rutgers amount $695,410, 2023-2026
NSF DEB Population & Community Ecology. Broadening biodiversity-ecosystem functioning research to include mutualist networks. R Winfree (PI). 2020-2023. $219,930
NSF / Belmont. OBServ: Open Library of Pollinator Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. N Bartomeus (lead PI) with R Winfree (USA PI), L Garibaldi (Argentina PI), D Kleijn (Netherlands PI). 2019-2023. Rutgers amount $180,000
NSF DEB Population & Community Ecology. Synthetic analysis of the importance of species richness to ecosystem services in natural systems. M Genung (PI) with R Winfree (Co-PI). 2018-2020. Rutgers amount $149,998
National Park Service. Forest bee-plant networks at Great Lakes National Parks, R. Winfree (PI). 2017-2021. Rutgers amount $98,992
NSF DEB Population & Community Ecology. The role of species dominance in mediating biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships across spatial scales. R Winfree (PI) with NM Williams (Co-PI). 2016-2019. Rutgers amount $433,238 (including REU supplement 2017 $6,250 & 2018 $12,148)
US Fish and Wildlife Service. Comprehensively evaluating New Jersey’s bee pollinators for the State Wildlife Action Plan. R Winfree (PI) with T Harrison (Ph.D candidate) (PI), R Somes (PI), G Fowles (PI), D Jenkins (Project Manager). 2015-2016. Rutgers amount $75,000
Conservation Innovation Grant, Federal NRCS. Next steps in pollinator restoration. R Winfree (Co-PI) with Xerces Society (PI). 2012-2015. Rutgers amount $175,402
NSF DEB Dimensions of Biodiversity program. Genomics, functional roles, and diversity of the symbiotic gut microbiotae of honey bees and bumble bees. R Winfree (Lead senior investigator) with N Moran (PI) and J Evans (Co-PI). 2011-2016. Rutgers amount $97,528
USDA-AFRI. Strategies for Promoting Reliable Crop Pollination by Native Bees. R Winfree (PI) with NM Williams (Co-PI). 2009-2013. Rutgers amount $400,000
NSF DEB Population & Community Ecology. Community disassembly and ecosystem function: pollination services across agro-natural landscapes. R.Winfree (Co-PI) with C Kremen (PI) and NM Williams (PI). 2005-2009
Other Cool Biologists
My brother Erik Winfree (Cal Tech) and my cousins Kristin Laidre (University of Washington) and Mark Laidre (Dartmouth).