Photo of Michael J M Harrap

Dr Michael J M Harrap

BSc, MscR, PhD

  • BS8 1TQ

20172020

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Research interests

My interests are within the field of pollination ecology and pollinator behaviour. I am fascinated by the interaction between pollinators and plants, especially how pollinators learn floral displays.

The reproductive success of animal pollinated plants depends on pollen transport, which requires consistent visits by pollinators to flowers of the same species. Likewise the success of pollinators depends on their ability to find flowers in a complex environment, learn which flowers are the most rewarding available and recognise them later. To ensure visitation plants produce floral displays which pollinators can use to locate flowers and learn their identity. These displays are ‘multi-modal’, they present a variety of different kinds of signals, modalities, at once. The different modalities of floral signals include: colour, smell, texture, electrostatic and temperature cues. For the most part research has considered how pollinators respond to individual modalities, focusing primarily on scent and colour cues.

My PhD project looks at why flowers produce many different kinds of signal at once. Using learning experiments with bumblebees in the Bristol Bee Lab, I investigate what factors of the floral display bumblebees can detect and learn. I also investigate the different ways bees can use these cues and how they use different cues when presented together in a multimodal floral display. Alongside Bee Lab experiments, at my field site at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, I investigate how the weather may interfere with different signals at different times, investigating the possibility flowers produce multimodal displays to ensure detection across different conditions. My project aims to expand our understanding of how pollinators use flowers and the evolution of floral displays.

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