Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program

S35. Ecology and conservation of rare bumblebees


Closing Date: July 1, 2019

This Research Opportunity will be filled depending on the availability of funds. All application materials must be submitted through USAJobs by 11:59 pm, US Eastern Standard Time, on the closing date.


Global declines in bumblebees have prompted an effort to understand the habitat requirements for bumblebee taxa along with the factors, such as pathogens, habitat loss, pesticides, habitat change through invasions, and competition with introduced bees, that are thought to have caused their decline (Cameron et al 2011). 

The recent decline and Endangered Species Act listing of the Bombus affinis, the rusty patched bumblebee, along with declines in other regional pollinator species have focused the attention of pollination ecologists on the American Midwest (Colla and Packer 2008).  As part of this effort, it is useful to conduct long-term and landscape level surveys to determine the habitat requirements of B. affinis and other midwestern bumblebees. 

We seek a Mendenhall Fellow to advance our fundamental scientific understanding in the field of bumblebee biology and to conduct research that guides the recovery strategy for B. affinis.  Research is expected to result in habitat assessments to determine if and what factors have caused the decline of B. affinis, how those factors are distributed over the previously large range of this species, and what steps should be taken to establish viable habitat for B. affinis in the future.  Moving beyond critical work on this endangered bee, the Mendenhall Fellow will be expected to make advances to basic bumblebee ecology, including, but not limited to the interaction of bees with nectar plants, pollination biology, nesting biology, impacts of invasive plants, and interactions with other bees and parasites. 

The postdoctoral scientist will have the opportunity to engage a research team of both USGS scientists and academic collaborators, with skill sets including quantitative ecology, entomology, plant biology, and pollination biology.  Additionally, the project will involve high levels of engagement with the collaborators at the US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of Agriculture, and regional partner organizations.  The researcher will have data and tool sets available via the Illinois Natural History Survey, such as long-term plant monitoring datasets (Zaya et al 2017), entomological collections, and ongoing biotic surveys.  The research will be guided by scientific and management needs.

Research under this Opportunity will also allow the postdoctoral fellow to engage with other, ongoing and complementary research programs within the USGS.  These include: the INHABIT project to model the distribution of invasive species in the continental US as well as work on plant-insect interactions, invasive species, and quantitative ecology.

The approach and tools developed to work with B. affinis should be applicable to the conservation of a wide variety of pollinators, and applicants for the Fellowship are encouraged to think broadly about the threats to pollinators and the role of science in guiding conservation of pollinator habitat.

Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Research Advisors early in the application process to discuss project ideas.


Cameron SA, Lozier JD, Strange JP, Koch JB, Cordes N, Solter LF, Griswold TL. 2011. Patterns of widespread decline in North American bumble bees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108:662–667.

Colla SR, Packer L. 2008. Evidence for decline in eastern North American bumblebees (Hymenoptera: Apidae), with special focus on Bombus affinis Cresson. Biodiversity and Conservation 17:1379.

Zaya DN, Pearse IS, Spyreas G. 2017. Long-term trends in Midwestern milkweed abundances and their relevance to monarch butterfly declines. BioScience 67:343–356.

Proposed Duty Station: Fort Collins, CO

Areas of PhD: Ecology and evolutionary biology, entomology, or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).

Qualifications: Applicants must meet the qualifications for: Research Ecologist

(This type of research is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above.  However,Ia other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant's background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of the position will be made by the Human Resources specialist.)

Human Resources Office Contact: Leah Lor, 916-278-9394,



Ian Pearse, Ph.D.

Research Ecologist
Fort Collins Science Center
Phone: 970-226-9145