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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Alicja Witwicka


PhD student



Project title: Molecular responses to pesticide exposure in solitary bees

Summary: Effective pollination is crucial for the stability of natural ecosystems and our agriculture. In recent years, however, we have observed unprecedented declines in populations of insect pollinators. This phenomenon has been linked, among others, to the extensive use of pesticides. This has been demonstrated by comprehensive research of bees’ behaviour and survival, nonetheless not enough evidence has been gathered on the diversity of biological processes influenced by pesticides at the molecular level. There is an urgent need to find a way to effectively evaluate the impact of existing and newly emerging pesticides. Making use of the 50,000-fold drop in the cost of DNA sequencing over the past 10 years, this project aims to apply modern molecular tools to understand how exposure to commonly used pesticides influences gene expression in insect pollinators. This approach will help us to develop a toolkit to interpret and predict the exposure effects on different pollinator species. It will contribute to our understanding of how pesticides influence the health of insect pollinators. The results will provide direct pathways to change how pesticide safety evaluation takes place as well as dramatically reduce the number of animals needed to test the effects of pesticides.




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