Why pollinators are attracted to certain plants

Knowing how an ecosystem can tolerate the disappearance or reduction of certain species is valuable when deciding conservation strategies and policy.

Dr. Ayesha Ali works with students and collaborators to develop statistical models to help explain the connections between pollinators and plants. If one species disappears, another might take it's place, but this replacement has a ripple effect on the entire ecosystem and can have drastic effects.

Pollinators have individual preferences and characteristics that affect their choice of plant. Not all bees or butterflies make the same decisions! They are influenced by plant traits such as lifespan, flowering types, accessibility of nectar and number of flowers. Plants similarly market themselves to pollinators based on pollinator traits such as length, width, breadth, solitary behaviour and larvae feeding preferences.  Describing the extent to which they are influenced by these plant characteristics is the focus of Dr. Ali's work. 

Dr. Ali and her group have developed a network model to describe the probability of insects pollinating specific plants based on these traits. Using this model, they were better able to understand the choices that motivate pollinators and they hope to stimulate further interest and research in this field.

Hummingbird pollinating a flower

High school students interested in developing the mathematical and statistical skills to tackle a real world problem such as this should consider our Mathematical Science Major, with an Area of Emphasis in Biostatistical Modelling.

Prospective graduate students interested in working with Dr. Ali should visit her website, or read more about Graduate Studies at Guelph.