Yesterday was my first day at the USDA in Dr. Johanne Brunet’s lab at UW-Madison. I’ll be working with bees and alfalfa plants helping to figure out how bee behavior influences the rate of gene flow from transgenic crops into wild plants. I’m going to be learning a ton about gene flow, bees, and alfalfa. For example, honey bees ball up pollen on their hind legs to take back with them. This pollen is used as food and does likely not contribute to gene flow. However, pollen that is stuck to their bodies after visiting transgenic plants can be left behind in wild plants thus resulting in potential gene flow. Different species of bees (especially solitary vs social) behave differently. Some bees randomly search for new flowers to get pollen while others search with some directionality (e.g., East to West). Check out Johanne’s paper about this topic here.
Additionally, plants that are grown in a solution containing glyphosate (an herbicide) respond differently depending on whether or not they are genetically engineered (transgenic). Non-transgenic plants grow without secondary roots and root hairs while transgenic plants tend to grow with secondary roots and root hairs in a solution containing glyphosate. See the great paper by Molly, Fabiana, and Johanne on this process here.
Here’s my artist’s rendition of some of the topics above: