Sometimes, finding a direction involves luck--being in the right place at the right time. For Beck Devine that “right place” was Prof. Chris Felege’s Concepts of Biology course. After that, Beck switched his major to Fisheries and Wildlife Biology. I met Beck when he enrolled in General Biology II during the 2014 summer session. I knew immediately that Beck should join my lab, because of the honeybee tattoo on his shoulder! My luck proved to be good as well; Beck is an excellent student researcher who has a promising career in Entomology. Beck’s work is an important first step in his career, allowing him to work with project that builds on the work of previous McNair scholars. Through this collaboration and his work, Beck is able to make a unique contribution to what is known about prairie fauna.
Beck is interested in pollinators and conservation. Pollinators are key to the success of plant species, acting as matchmakers for plants as they reproduce. Pollinators are also economically important to agriculture. North Dakota depends more on pollinators for crop production more than any state in the U.S. Unfortunately, pollinator health has suffered due to a variety of factors including: global climate change, habitat fragmentation, reduced diversity of plant species, and pesticide use. Little is known about the health of North Dakota pollinators; Beck’s research addresses this key question.
Beck collaborates with other McNair students, Leslie Yellow Hammer and Tiffany Huwe, and their advising team, Drs. Yurkonis and Goodwin for his research project. In summer 2014, Leslie and Tiffany (along with others from the Yurkonis/Goodwin team) collected pollinators from a variety of plants in Meckinok, ND. Currently, Beck is using genetic sequence data to identify these insects. With this information, Beck will be able to provide a list of the pollinators found at this site, and will be able to examine the genetic diversity of these species to determine if pollinators are susceptible to environmental changes and other factors. During this process, Beck is able to learn study design, methods of data collection and analysis, and presentation skills. The McNair program, through its support services, has been essential to Beck’s development as a researcher and professional scientist. I am grateful to be working with Beck as he pursues his dream of becoming an Entomologist.