How One Entomologist’s Multidisciplinary Work Aims to Improve Bee Health
By Carly Tribull, Ph.D.
Editor’s Note: This is the next post in the “Standout ECPs” series contributed by the Entomological Society of America’s Early Career Professionals (ECP) Committee, highlighting outstanding ECPs that are doing great work in the profession. (An ECP is defined as anyone within the first five years of obtaining their terminal degree in their field.) It is also the final in a set of four posts featuring ECPs selected to present their work during the ECP Recognition Symposium at Entomology 2021, taking place in-person and online, October 31 – November 3, in Denver, Colorado. Learn more about the work ECPs are doing within ESA, and read past posts in the Standout ECPs series.
Priyadarshini Chakrabarti Basu, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of pollinator health and apiculture in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology at Mississippi State University. She also holds a courtesy faculty position in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University. Her lab focuses on understanding the impacts of multiple stressors on bee health and how best to formulate strategies to mitigate or counteract such stressors. She uses an array of transdisciplinary tools and approaches across various fields such as bee physiology, bee nutrition, bee toxicology, bee neuroethology, multiomics, pollinator biology, and apiculture practices.
Chakrabarti Basu received her Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Calcutta in India in 2016 and was a postdoctoral research associate at Oregon State University prior to joining Mississippi State University. She also received the 2020 Excellence in Early Career Award by the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America, in addition to numerous other national and international awards. She is currently the Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology Section representative to the ESA Early Career Professionals Committee and also chairs the Entomology Today “Standout ECP” series subcommittee.
Chakrabarti Basu was selected to present her research at the ECP Recognition Symposium at Entomology 2021, taking place in-person and online, October 31 – November 3, in Denver, Colorado. Her presentation in the symposium, titled “Using a multi-omics approach for improving pollinator health,” is slated for 3:30 p.m. Mountain Time on Tuesday, November 2.
Tribull: Can you briefly describe the research you’ll be presenting at the Early Career Professional Recognition Symposium?
Chakrabarti Basu: I will be discussing the research that I have been developing over the past years and the research that I am developing and leading as a new principal investigator in my lab at Mississippi State. The “omics” methods are a new and modern tool, very useful for deciphering various aspects of bee developmental physiology, stress response and overall functional biology. Multiomics tools are also beneficial for understanding the nutritional landscape (pollen and nectar nutritional quality) available to all bee pollinators. In fact, I am leading a project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, in collaboration with Oregon State University, to build the first pollen nutrition database for bee-pollinated plants across North America.
My lab uses a wide array of transdisciplinary approaches and collaborations and looks into understanding how biotic and abiotic stressors (poor nutrition, field realistic multiple pesticide exposures, environmental stressors, pests/parasites/pathogens, etc.) affect individual as well as overall colony health in bees. These stressors can act either alone or in synergy with each other. I also work with stakeholders, policy makers, and collaborators to formulate effective strategies to mitigate or counteract such stress.
How is this research important to other entomologists in ESA’s Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Section, entomologists as a whole, and non-entomologists?
This symposium gives me an opportunity to connect with entomologists across the four sections including Physiology, Biochemistry, and Toxicology Section, exchange ideas, share novel aspects of bee research, and build potential partnerships and collaborations. My research can also show how multiomics can be a versatile and potent tool for addressing a lot of our research questions in entomology, especially bee research. In addition, the symposium platform is helpful for me to invite fellow entomologists as citizen scientists and volunteers to help us build the pollen nutrition database by contributing plant pollens.
What’s your favorite part of your research? And what’s the most challenging or annoying part of your research?
My favorite part of my research is to challenge myself and my thinking. Trying to find innovative approaches to solving a research problem, building fruitful collaborations that work, and trying to succeed at the interphase of both basic and applied sciences have taught me to also appreciate the little successes when working toward a research problem.
I think one of the most challenging parts of my research, like any bee researcher, is the short window of annual experiment opportunities. We often have to think ahead about the logistics and experiments, to be able to conduct studies, in a short spring/summer window each year.
What’s your favorite part of your current job?
My favorite part of my job is to be able to find questions that are still unanswered and keep trying to solve them. Most importantly I get to do this with a fantastic group of students (both graduate and undergraduate students) who are as committed and driven as I am. I also have the opportunity to mentor and work with minority students, first-generation college students, and students representing the LGBTQ community. This itself is a learning curve for me, and I take immense pleasure in being able to train, teach, and mentor students.
In addition, I get the opportunity to work closely with our stakeholders and extension partners, which gives me various possibilities to work on problems that matter for both beekeepers and growers.
What is a memorable experience you’ve had or impactful challenge that you’ve overcome as an Early Career Professional?
My most memorable experience as an Early Career Professional so far is to be able to help guide graduate students and postdocs. Even though I was a postdoc myself, I started the “graduate student mentoring by a postdoc initiative” at OSU to be able to help the graduate students navigate Ph.D. and also give the postdocs a chance at mentoring and giving their best to the students. I also started an immigration awareness event to help fellow immigrants at OSU navigate the complex paperwork for immigration, create a supportive network of immigrant students and postdocs, and provide helpful resources for those who needed them.
What advice would you give to other ECP members?
My suggestion would be to think ahead of time as to what career path you would like to take. Establishing yourself independently takes time and a fantastic mentor to help guide you. To be aware of what is needed (for example, for academia you need publications, grants, collaborations, etc.) is the first important step to achieving your desired career goals. Networking, building relationships, and pushing your intellectual limits will also help in molding and sharpening you further. It is never too late to learn. I am a lifelong learner and I also encourage you to continue to learn new things and hone your skills.
Entomology 2021, in-person and online, October 31 – November 3, Denver, Colorado
Carly Tribull, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of biology at Farmingdale State College and 2020-2021 chair of the ESA Early Career Professionals Committee. Email: email@example.com.