https://www.quadrat.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2022/11/Tegan-Gaetano.jpg
Academic Year 2022-2023
Email t.gaetano.22@abdn.ac.uk
Institution University of Aberdeen

Biography

School: School of Biological Sciences

Project: Importance and sustainability of endangered communities of bee pollinators in the machair, a changing coastal ecosystem

Supervisors: Fabio ManfrediniPaul Williams, Lesley Lancaster, Robin Pakeman (The James Hutton Institute), Richard Comont (Bumblebee Conservation Trust)

Undergraduate Education: BA (HONS) Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA

Postgraduate Education: MS Anthropology, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA

Research: A rare and complex habitat distinctive of the northwest coasts of Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, machair grassland is a product of both a unique set of physical conditions and a long history of human management. Over hundreds of generations, machair soils have been treated to low intensity grazing and rotational cultivation. These traditional crofting practices support a high diversity and density of herbaceous groundcover and wildflowers, which in turn support many birds and invertebrates prioritised for national conservation, including the charismatic Great Yellow bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus). Once prevalent throughout the UK, this important pollinator is now only found in the machair of northwest Scotland.

Adopting a combined landscape ecology and insect physiology perspective, this project seeks to:

  • Quantify marine nutrient uptake by machair vegetation,
  • Understand historical changes in wind- and animal-pollinated machair flowering plants, and
  • Assess potential pollinator preference for micronutrient rewards – particularly sodium – conferred by machair flowers.

While partly a product of human influence, the unique ecological and cultural services of the machair are under threat by intensifying anthropogenic pressure both directly through increasing use of inorganic fertilizers and agricultural silage production in agriculture and indirectly through the lasting effects of climate change. As a final aim of this project, I intend to combine data from previous aims with the historical record to develop predictive models for how changing environmental conditions are expected to affect the machair, its vegetation and its endangered bee pollinators. Working with crofters and other community stakeholders, I hope these models will offer strength to local and national strategies aimed at mitigating these effects and preserving this unique ecosystem for all that depend on it.

  • Find me on Twitter at @tegangaetano

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