The common goal uniting Corby-Harris’s research is understanding the ecological and physiological mechanisms that enable organisms to respond to their environment. Honey bees are a fantastic study system for understanding such mechanisms and for applying what is learned because their populations are experiencing a period of rapid decline. Poor nutrition is a major factor underlying honey bee colony losses and areas of rich native vegetation where honey bees can forage are in shorter supply every day. To improve honey bee nutrition and colony survival it is certainly important to increase the number of these natural foraging sites, but we must also identify other methods to mitigate malnutrition in spite of landscape fragmentation and loss. The causes and consequences of poor nutrition are complex and the solutions to these problems will require the intersection of many approaches.
Corby-Harris, PhD uses a diverse set of tools from the worlds of insect physiology, genomics, microbiology, molecular biology, and evolutionary ecology to study nutritional stress in honey bees. Some of her most recent projects are centered on how nutritional stress at early life stages impacts aspects of colony performance such as nursing ability and immunity and how the bacteria naturally found in the hive and passed through feeding behaviors impact larval and whole colony health. She hopes to translate what is learned from these projects into methods that increase colony health and buffer bee populations against environmental stressors.
Vanessa graduated from North Carolina State with a B.S. in Animal Science and then from the University of Georgia with a Ph.D. in Genetics. She then moved to Tucson for an NIH postdoctoral fellowship working on insulin signaling, immunity, and nutrition in mosquitoes. This piqued her interest in nutrition and physiology and she continues working on these topics today. She is now a Research Physiologist at the ARS’s Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, where she was recently named the Pacific West Area’s Early Career Scientist of the Year for 2019. Her current projects include how stress influences honey bee physiology and development and how nutrition might offer a way to counteract the negative effects of stress on individuals and the hive.