Where in the world are the Bee Lab grads?

Renata Borba

Renata Borba received her PhD from the University of Minnesota in 2015 after studying and doing research with Marla Spivak in the Bee Lab. She now lives four hours Northwest of Edmonton, Canada and is a post-doctoral researcher at the Agriculture Canada research farm in Beaverlodge, Alberta.

Renata is from Brazil and ended up in Minnesota when, as an undergraduate in Brazil studying animal science, she applied for the MAST International program with a plan to study bees.  She learned that most students were placed in Hawaii for the year with the remainder in Florida. Well … she found out that she was going to be sent to Minnesota at a point when it was too late to apply for other internships and still graduate on time. So she arrived in Minnesota, where she not only had to learn English but how to live in a cold climate!

She worked for Ames Farm and met Marla at a social gathering. She knew right away that she wanted to work for her in the Bee Lab. With Marla’s help, she ended up doing just that, and eventually worked with her on the therapeutic benefits of plant resins and a propolis envelope to honey bee immunity and health.  Renata recently published a paper on propolis envelope, which can be found at http://tinyurl.com/y9phvjmk.

She describes Marla as a “great scientist” whom “all the beekeepers love.” “She has a big heart,” says Renata, describing how Marla helped her get a visa and find funding to attend graduate school.

In March of 2016, Renata moved to Grande Prairie, Alberta, to work on a research project dubbed Bee’Omics.  They are examining 12 economically valuable honey bee traits that beekeepers find very important in five Canadian regions.

As researchers study the 12 heritable traits — honey production, brood production, hygienic behavior, grooming behavior, overwintering ability, aggression behavior, varroa (mite) resistance, healthy gut biome and several other innate immunity characteristics — they look for robust biomarkers that will be valid for several years so that beekeepers can use the information in bee breeding. Beekeepers in Canada can send a sample of bees from potential breeder colonies to be tested for the presence of the robust biomarkers and, based on results, can select which of their colonies they will breed to get the traits that they are looking for.

Renata is adapting well in Canada, where the people are friendly, she says. She’s a runner and triathlete and has been making friends and building community through a running club. She will continue her work there until February of 2019.