Category Archives: Earth & Environment

Probing Question: Are bees suffering from malnutrition?

Christina Grozinger is distinguished professor of entomology, and director of Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research. Her research explores the biology and health of honey bees and other pollinators. Using a multidisciplinary approach, Grozinger and colleagues address the complex stressors facing pollinators. Listen in as she updates us on the crisis and notes some ways we might mitigate and reverse the downward trend in pollinator health.

For more information about Penn State’s efforts on developing and restoring landscapes and gardens to provide nutrition for pollinators, visit the Center for Pollinator Research website. The Center is an international leader in the area of pollinator health, and brings together scientists, educators, and stakeholders to address the pollinator crisis.

Probing Questions videos showcase our faculty as they share their views on the question of the day, ranging from scientific advances to social trends and pop culture. We invite you to follow along! Please email series producer Melissa Beattie-Moss at with ideas, comments and questions.

On the buds and the bees

Carl Sagan once wrote, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

By all rights, that invented universe would include the 20,000 or more acres of apple orchards now in bloom in Adams County, the heart of Pennsylvania’s Fruit Belt. Biglerville is the epicenter of the county’s apple growing activity and home to Penn State’s Fruit Research and Extension Center. 

Blooming apple trees in the Penn State research orchards in Biglerville, PA
Blooming apple trees in the Penn State research orchards in Biglerville, PA Image: M. Beattie-Moss

If you wish to invent a universe that will give rise to apple pies, you might also need some researchers to teach you a thing or two, and luckily the Center has some good ones. On a recent visit, I spent time in the orchards with Dave Biddinger, fruit tree research entomologist, and Ed Rajotte, professor of entomology and integrated pest management, and I learned some new things about the buds and the bees.  Continue reading On the buds and the bees

Adventures in research-land

A recent story posted on EOS (Earth & Space Science News) shows us the lengths — or rather, the depths — some scientists go to in their research. The story, illustrated by spectacular photos and an audio slideshow, follows Penn State graduate student Kiya Riverman as she probes the twisting chambers far inside a massive Norwegian glacier. Picture a slot canyon in Utah’s redrock desert, but in shades of black and white and espresso brown. That’s what her glacier cave looks like.

The cave inside the Svalbard glacier resembles Southwestern slot canyons. Photo by Ethan Welty, EOS.

Studying a glacier “from the inside out,” as Riverman puts it, enables her to see firsthand how the ice is changing as surface temperatures rise. She’s been doing research on glaciers and ice sheets for many years from atop the ice, and although she had enjoyed recreational spelunking for a long time, the hobby didn’t intersect with her research until 2010, when a colleague invited her to help him map a glacier cave in Svalbard, Norway. Since then she’s visited the cave many times to monitor its development, as meltwater from the surface spills through it, deepening the chambers, cutting new passages, and reshaping its walls.

Continue reading Adventures in research-land

Listening to data

Have you ever thought about taking data points and creating music with them? This is exactly what Mark Ballora does.

Ballora, a Penn State associate professor of music technology, translates data into music — also known as data sonification. He does this in part to emphasize that data may be interpreted aurally as well as visually.

As described in an earlier post this week, Ballora sonified Penn State Polar Center director Eric Post’s research on phenology and caribou and muskox populations. Phenology is the study of the timing of seasonal events — such as the onset of spring flowering or the arrival of migratory birds.
Continue reading Listening to data

Polar Day showcases cool research & art

Spring is coming earlier in the year than it used to, according to the Arctic.

Well, the Arctic can’t talk — but according to data that ecologist Eric Post and his team have gathered in that region, spring is arriving about two to three weeks earlier than it did in 2002.

We learned about this and more at the fourth annual Polar Day, hosted by Penn State’s Polar Center on Tuesday, March 22. A variety of activities and presentations throughout the day highlighted several aspects of polar exploration and research. Presentations ranged from an ROV — remotely operated vehicle — demonstration to photography to musical interpretations of data from polar regions.  Continue reading Polar Day showcases cool research & art