Luke was the 2019 winner for the collaboration award at the University of St Andrews public engagement conference and award ceremony.
Luke is a PhD candidate working in the Evans lab in the School of biology, and researches a parasite deadly to honey bees called Varroa. The Varroa parasite attaches itself to honey bees and feeds on their haemolymph (bee blood) and fat body. This not only weakens the bee, but also results in the transmission of viruses and other diseases. Therefore, Luke and his colleagues are investigating biological controls which are affordable to bee keepers, as this mite has caused many losses of honey bee colonies around the world.
This research is of particular interest to the Arran Beekeepers Group, who were badly affected by the varroa mite, losing all their colonies in 2013, and are keen to learn how best to save their bees. Key to preventing the mite from spreading is the coordination of treatments between bee colonies, but this is not widely understood or practiced by beekeepers. This project aims to show what benefits can come out of a good working relationship between the two communities of beekeepers and scientists, and the difference this established relationship can have on the mite treatment regime. Therefore, the Arran Bee Group and Luke have committed to a 4-year project in which together they will coordinate bee keeping knowledge, with the science, in a way which is accessible and affordable to the beekeepers. The beekeepers take an active role in collecting the data and field samples, which Luke can analyse and then give science communication talks on his findings.
So far, both Luke and the Arran Beekeeping Group, have found this mutually beneficial dialogue and relationship to work well, and this project has also peaked interests within the Scottish government, as a case study for demonstrating the efficacy of a coordinated, rational Varroa treatment regime within a geographically isolated environment. Luke has therefore also given science communication talks with policy makers within the Scottish government, responsible for the health of all Scottish honey bees.