As an ecologist I study the interactions between different species and I’m especially fascinated by pollination. My research investigates the outcome of these interactions between animals and flowering plants. Thousands of species of bees and other insects benefit from pollen and nectar produced by flowers and the plants benefit from the pollination service these visitors provide. However, the outcome of these interactions isn’t always easy to predict. The likelihood of successful pollination can depend on the species of visitor and the composition of the surrounding plant community. So a certain species of bee might be an excellent pollinator of one plant species, but a terrible pollinator of another. Similarly, a species of hoverfly may be a great pollinator of a plant species in one habitat, but not very effective in another. Understanding this variation in pollination ability involves studying the outcomes of flower visits by many different species in many different contexts, including urban environments which are becoming increasingly important worldwide.
I’m passionate about the work for two main reasons. Firstly, it gives me the chance to familiarise myself with a wide variety of different plant and insect species in Scotland and around the world. My research touches on such a wide range of topics, from the learning abilities of bees, to the evolution of flowering plants. Secondly, we are totally dependent on pollination ecosystem services that these plants and animals provide for us. Understanding how vulnerable these interactions are to change and how they can adapt to the human modified environments is essential for our own security and wellbeing. Ideally we need to support a wide variety of potential pollinators, from many different bee species, to hoverfly and butterfly species and to do this we need as much information as possible about their ecology and the ecology of the plants that support them.
Research Gate: www.researchgate.net/profile/Gavin_Ballantyne