Our research focuses on three broad areas:
1. Biodiversity, ecosystem services, and global change
It is well-known that in experimental settings, biodiversity loss strongly reduces ecosystem functioning. These findings, however, have remained largely untested in real-world, larger-scale systems. Understanding of the role of biodiversity in maintaining real-world ecosystem services is an important goal given high rates of biodiversity loss due to global change worldwide, and the reliance of much of the world’s population on ecosystem services. We use animal-mediated pollination as a model system for testing current theory about the role of biodiversity in ecosystem service provision at the spatio-temporal scales typical of real-world systems. For example, 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 mathematical modeling to investigate these questions.
2: 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 deciduous forests in the eastern USA, to pollinator restoration plantings on private lands, to communities of rare montane plants along the Montana-Idaho border.
3: Pollinator conservation and restoration
Our lab uses the data we collect on habitat use by pollinators, plant-pollinator relationships, and the functional importance of particular pollinator species to develop recommendations for state and federal agencies who implement pollinator conservation and restoration. A current research focus is determining whether both rare bee species and species that provide ecosystem services to crops can be restored via the same protocols. We are also collaborating with the Department of Environmental Protection in the State of New Jersey to develop what will be the first comprehensive state-wide list of rare bee species for any state in the USA.
Selected Recent Grants
NSF DEB Population & Community Ecology. Collaborative Research: The role of species dominance in mediating biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships across spatial scales. R Winfree (PI) with N M Williams (Co-PI). 2016-2019
US Fish and Wildlife Service. Comprehensively evaluating New Jersey’s bee pollinators for the State Wildlife Action Plan. R Winfree (PI) with Tina Harrison (Ph.D candidate) (PI), Robert Somes (PI), Gretchen Fowles (PI), David Jenkins (Project Manager), Somes, Fowles, and Jenkins all with NJ Dept of Environmental Protection. 2015-2016
Conservation Innovation Grant, Federal NRCS. Next steps in pollinator restoration. R Winfree (Co-PI) with Xerces Society (PI). 2012-2015
NSF DEB Dimensions of Biodiversity program. Dimensions: 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
Conservation Innovation Grant, Federal NRCS. Development and validation of protocols for assessing functioning of pollinator plantings for agricultural settings. R Winfree (Co-PI) with N.M. Williams (PI) and R. Isaacs (Co-PI). 2010-2013
USDA-AFRI. Strategies for Promoting Reliable Crop Pollination by Native Bees. R Winfree (PI) with N. Williams (Co-PI). 2009-2013
NSF DEB Population & Community Ecology. Collaborative research: Community disassembly and ecosystem function: pollination services across agro-natural landscapes. R Winfree (Co-PI) with C. Kremen (PI) and N. M. Williams (PI). 2005-2009