Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany


Nicole Miller-Struttmann, Ph.D.

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Nicole Miller-Struttmann, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Webster University

Research Interests
• Ecology and evolution of species interactions
• Responses to environmental change
• Plant-pollinator interactions


Adam Smith, Ph.D.
Assistant Scientist
Global Change Ecology
Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development

Research Interests
• Climate change vulnerability of threatened plant species
• Species distribution models
• Global change, conservation, biogeography, and macroecology

How can we design bee-friendly yards? Miller-Struttmann is an Assistant Professor at Webster University studying plant-pollinator interactions with a focus on bumble bees, and how these interactions are being altered in an increasingly changing world. Smith is an Assistant Scientists in Global Change Ecology who uses collections data and species distribution models to predict how climate change and human activities might affect threatened species. With over 163,000 sq km of lawn in the United States, backyard conservation has the potential to enhance biodiversity in cities. Urban environments create biological filters that favor some species over others. For instance, cavity nesting bees and generalist foragers are favored in cities. Backyard conservation initiatives can weaken those filters and increase bee diversity. However, it is unclear what the knock-on effects are for their interactions with plants. Since the majority of flowering plants (more than 85%) require animal pollination, understanding how pollinator behavior is affected by local and landscape features could be critical for urban plant reproduction. This project would leverage a citizen science project, Shutterbee! (, that is focused on bee pollinators across the Saint Louis region. The REU student would employ occupancy-detection models to assess the degree to which particular aspects of participants’ yards attract and affect bees and their interactions with plants. These aspects include amount of yard dedicated to flowers, presence of particular plants, amount of urban land cover (impermeable surface) in the surrounding neighborhood, inter alia. The REU researcher would work to develop models in the R programming language. The results are expected to help develop guidelines for “bee-friendly” properties. The successful participant would need to be comfortable with programming in R or another language (there is also an R teaching workshop at the beginning of the REU program).

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