Age: 18Omaha, NE
Project Title: Resilin Distribution and Abundance in Apis mellifera Wing Joints across Biological Age Classes
Audrey’s research is the first to demonstrate a relationship between the abundance of resilin and honeybee age class, thus, identifying resilin as a potential age-dependent marker of honeybee health. Colony Collapse Disorder and other complex factors are contributing to the decline of global honeybee populations, which has negative ramifications to the world’s food supply. Understanding and establishing markers of honeybee health are valuable to assessing the health of the colony, and will hopefully allow scientists and beekeepers to develop preventative measures against environmental stressors. Resilin, an elastic protein found in insect wing joints, is essential to bee flight and has the potential to become an important marker of honeybee health.
Audrey Anderson is a graduate of Omaha North High Magnet in Omaha, Nebraska. Her love of animals and curiosity about the natural world at an early age developed into a passion for STEM and conservation ecology. She is interested in designing systems that allow humans and the natural environment to mutually benefit from each other. Audrey is greatly honored to be named a 2020 Davidson Fellow. She is grateful for the Davidson Institute’s support of high-achieving students and the opportunity to join this prestigious community.
Audrey investigated resilin in honeybee wing joints to address the decline of honeybee populations, especially in regard to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The magnitude of honeybee loss is straining the global agricultural sector that is dependent upon honeybee pollination services. The defining characteristic of CCD is the disappearance of foragers, which jeopardizes colony health, and subsequently leads to the loss of all worker bees. Foragers, the oldest honeybee age class, collect the pollen necessary to feed the colony. Audrey recognized that wings were crucial to the role of the forager and decided to study resilin, an elastic protein found in insect wing joints. Resilin is essential to honeybee flight because it provides the wing flexibility during flapping flight. Despite its importance, there was only one previous study regarding resilin and honeybee wings. This gap in scientific knowledge was the inspiration behind her project to determine if the distribution and abundance of resilin is age-dependent, potentially explaining why some foragers fail to return thereby precipitating colony collapse events. Audrey developed novel fluorescence microscopy procedures to quantify resilin abundance and discovered that there is a strong relationship between resilin and honeybee age class. She believes resilin is a promising candidate for a physiological, age-dependent marker of honeybee health, and hopes increased understanding of honeybee physiology will lead to the creation of CCD warning systems to allow beekeepers to take preventative action.
Limited information on the biological implications of resilin and the microscopy techniques by which to study it were the project’s greatest challenges. Additionally, Audrey’s mentor was unavailable due to medical reasons during this stage of the project, thus she independently designed her methodology based on derivatives of previous studies and through procedural trials. As her first collegiate-level research experience, this rigorous challenge of creating a project entirely of her own idea, design, and implementation provided many opportunities for her to grow as a research scientist.
Audrey’s achievement was made possible with a large community of support. She would foremost like to thank Dr. Carol Fassbinder-Orth for her invaluable mentorship and the unwavering belief that not only could Audrey complete the research, but also compete on the national level. The Haddix STEM Corridor program at Creighton University gave Audrey her first opportunity to work in a research lab, and it is only because of this support that she has been able to achieve national recognition. Audrey is appreciative of all her teachers at Omaha North, especially her guidance counselor, Allison Iles, who advocated for Audrey to have the opportunity to continue her research during the school year. Additionally, she thanks the Omaha Public Schools Student Science Research Team for their support since her first pollinator research project on Monarch butterflies in eighth grade. They have helped hone her research skills, taught her how to effectively communicate scientific ideas, and have instilled in her a deep love of the scientific process. Finally, she would like to thank her family. They have all played a role - editor, photographer, and enthusiastic supporter - in her success.
Identifying markers of health in honeybees is the first step in mitigating the effects of Colony Collapse Disorder. The European honeybee is the single most important species of pollinators to human agriculture, having an economic impact of $20 billion USD in the United States alone. As the world’s population continues to grow, the increased need for food will make understanding the declines in honeybee populations and how to prevent them paramount. Audrey’s research is a key first step in using resilin as a marker of honeybee health. Her motto…“If we want the world to be healthy, we need healthy bees!”
A recent graduate of Omaha North High Magnet, Audrey has taken many advanced STEM courses including AP Physics 1 & 2, AP Environmental Science, Environmental Engineering, Calculus 3, and Differential Equations. During her junior and senior years, she attended the High School Zoo Academy at the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo where she had the opportunity to focus her education on conservation. Additionally, in her senior year, she continued her research project at Creighton University as an independent study class. Audrey will attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a Regents Scholar to study Biological Systems Engineering.
Besides the Davidson Fellows Scholarship, Audrey’s research on honeybees has earned additional recognition at the state and national levels. Other awards include: first place in the Life Sciences category at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, Top 300 Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar, Nebraska Junior Academy of Sciences Finalist and winner of six special awards, and Earth Day Omaha’s “Friend of the Environment” youth award. Additionally, Audrey is the 2020 Nebraska National Youth Science Camp delegate and a 2020 Coca-Cola Scholar for her outstanding academics, leadership, and community service.
Audrey’s passion for STEM and conservation translates into her extracurricular activities. She is a member of the Omaha Public Schools Student Science Research team, the captain of her school’s Science Bowl team, and a volunteer judge for middle school science fairs. To empower young, female scientists, Audrey founded a Women in STEM program at her school, participates on the IF/THEN Girls Advisory Council, mentors middle school science students, and gives speeches at local schools and non-profit organizations. A nine-year volunteer at the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo, Audrey has educated the public about animals and their environment. In high school, she was selected to join the Zoo Crew Leadership Team where she has used her talents to design a conservation-focused curriculum for youth volunteers. She has completed two summer internships at Fontenelle Forest and promoted pollinator conservation through the 4-H “Monarchs on the Move” program. She enjoys reading fantasy and sci-fi novels, watching Star Trek with her brother, traveling, outdoor adventures, and spending time with her hamsters.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope to be using my scientific research and engineering skills to restore degraded habitats across the world.
If you could have dinner with the five most interesting people in the world, living or dead, who would they be?
Dr. Jane Goodall, Chief Standing Bear (Maⁿchú-Naⁿzhíⁿ), Rachel Carson, Dr. Wangari Maathai, and Dr. Marie Curie.
In the News
OMAHA TEEN AWARDED $25,000 FOR RESEARCH PROJECT IDENTIFYING FACTORS LEADING TO BEE COLONY COLLAPSE DISORDER
Audrey Anderson to be Named a 2020 Davidson Fellow Scholarship Winner
Omaha, Neb. – The Davidson Fellows Scholarship Program has announced the 2020 scholarship winners. Among the honorees is 18-year-old Audrey Anderson of Omaha. Anderson won a $25,000 scholarship for her project, Resilin Distribution and Abundance in Apis mellifera Wing Joints across Biological Age Classes. She is one of only 20 students across the country to be recognized as a scholarship winner.
“I am greatly honored to be named a 2020 Davidson Fellow,” said Anderson. “I am grateful for the Davidson Institute’s support of high-achieving students and the opportunity to join this prestigious community.”
Anderson’s research is the first to demonstrate a relationship between the abundance of resilin and honeybee age class, thus, identifying resilin as a potential age-dependent marker of honeybee health. Her research is an important step to understanding and establishing markers of honeybee health, which are valuable to assessing the health of the colony and will potentially allow scientists and beekeepers to develop preventative measures against environmental stressors leading to Colony Collapse Disorder.
Anderson will be attending University of Nebraska-Lincoln as a Regents Scholar in the fall where she plans to study biological systems engineering with the goal of using her scientific research, and engineering skills to restore degraded habitats across the world.
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