Bruce Clarkson Scholarship

The Governance Group of Biological Heritage Science Challenge has established the “Bruce Clarkson Scholarship” in recognition of Bruce’s efforts as Interim Director of the Challenge during its early establishment phase. He has also been invited to co-supervise this scholarship.

Inaugural recipient

The inaugural recipient of this scholarship is Rachel Nepia. The scholarship will fund Rachel's work on "Understanding the role and impact of honey bees in a submontane indigenous forest ecosystem" over the next three years.

According to a recent report by Catherine Beard (DOC) the number of honeybee hives on public conservation land has been steadily increasing over the last 20 years, and increased by 60% in the last twelve months. There are too many gaps in our current understanding of the impact of honeybees on the functioning of New Zealand forest ecosystems.

The honeybee was introduced to New Zealand in 1839 and its population has doubled in the past five to 10 years.

Honeybees have been recorded visiting about 180 native plants. Although honeybees have the potential to supplement pollination of native plants they can cause mechanical damage to some species and a visit to a plant may not facilitate pollination as the honeybee may not be contacting the right parts of a flower during a visit.

Other potential risks associated with honeybees operating in indigenous ecosystems include plant stress, the result of plants producing too much pollen due to honeybee visits, and honeybees have a suite of diseases that could be harmful to other insect species.

Rachel will investigate what plants honeybees and native bees visit and how they overlap.

Rachel's research will assess the impact of honeybees on the functioning of New Zealand forest ecosystems and clarify a path forward toward more effective management of apiaries on public conservation lands. Her supervisory panel includes Professor Bruce Clarkson and Dr Mike Clearwater (University of Waikato), David Pattemore (Pollination Scientist, Plant and Food Research), and Catherine Beard (Science Advisor, Ecology, Department of Conservation).

About Rachel

Rachel completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Waikato specialising in forest ecology. After completing an 18 month mission in Orlando, Florida she returned to the University of Waikato to take up a position as a Research Assistant in the Environmental Research Institute. After a year and half of experience at the ERI and at Plant and Food Research and as a Research Administrator in the University’s Research Office, Rachel has now decided to undertake a PhD focussing on the impacts of honeybees on indigenous forest ecosystems to fill some knowledge gaps in the management of conservation lands.

Busy University Student Lands Sweet Scholarship

Newsroom Pacific

Young researcher's focus is how increasing numbers of honeybees in New Zealand forests are impacting biodiversity and conservation

Conference a real buzz

Mark Peters, The Gisborne Herald 15 November 2016

The impact of the honey industry on indigenous biodiversity was the focus of Waikato University student Rachel Nepia’s presentation. Gaps exist in the understanding of how honeybees function as part of New Zealand’s forests. It is hoped that Ms Nepia’s three-year research project will fill some of those gaps. The goal is more effective management of apiaries on public conservation lands.

My Pollen Nation

Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm 1:32 pm on 28 April 2017

New Zealand has about 30 different species of native bees. And while the media focuses largely on the decline of wild honey bee populations, our guest is focusing on our native species. Rachel Nepia is a PhD student in biological science at Waikato University, and she writes a blog called My Pollen Nation. And she's researching the impact of the honey industry on indigenous biodiversity, in the hope to manage hives on public land more effectively.

Check out Rachel on social media. She has a great blog — My Pollen Nation — as well as her twitter account — @mypollennation — and she has just started posting to Instagram.