Picture of zoomed in hive frame, with several honeybees crawling within the frame

About us

Picture of the Canadian Bee Gut Project team members outside. From left to right: Amira Bouchema, Julia Lacika, Liz Mallory, Shenella George, Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe, Dr. Brendan Daisley, Anna Chernyshova,  Dr. Graham Thompson.

We are a dedicated collaborative research team from University of Guelph and Western University, aiming to explore the honeybee gut microbiome and improve the health of the honeybee. Our Guelph counterparts focus on microbiome characterization and restoration, whereas our Western team focuses on the microbiome’s impact on honeybee behaviour.

Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe, Professor

Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe holds the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Gut Microbiome Function and Host Interactions and has extensive experience in big data microbiome processing and deciphering microbiome-associated disease interactions in both humans and animal models. Dr. Allen-Vercoe began her research career with undergraduate and graduate studies at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the Health Protection Agency in the UK. Dr. Allen-Vercoe relocated to Canada in 2001 to start a postdoctoral position at the University of Calgary, and then transitioned into a faculty position at the University of Guelph in 2007. Since then, she has pioneered several revolutionary tools in the microbiome field including a bioreactor-based gut model system for interrogating microbe-diet-xenobiotic interactions, and NMR spectroscopy-based approaches for profiling microbial-derived molecules relevant to host health. Dr. Allen-Vercoe is closely connected with the leaders of previously successful human microbiome crowdsourcing initiatives (e.g. American Gut Project) which allows for cross-disciplinary knowledge. Learn more here: Allen-Vercoe lab website.

Dr. Graham Thompson, Professor

Dr. Graham Thompson is a leading expert on insect social behaviour with wide-ranging knowledge on honey bee biology, reproduction, and foraging within agricultural habitats. Dr. Thompson completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Zoology at the University of Guelph, before going on to complete his PhD in Genetics and Evolution at LaTrobe University. He then completed postdoctoral fellowships at James Cook University, Simon Fraser University and the University of Sydney. For the past ten years, he has been a Professor of Biology at Western University. His work has focused on using insects as a model to study evolutionary and genetic aspects of social behavior, particularly in terms of reproduction and social structure. Dr. Thompson is well-versed in all things ‘honeybee’ and is well-connected to beekeeping communities as an active member of the Ontario Beekeeper’s Association (OBA), the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA), and the Pollination and Apiculture Advisory Committee of Ontario (PAACO). Learn more here: Thompson lab website.

Dr. Brendan Daisley, Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr. Brendan Daisley is a postdoc co-supervised by Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe (University of Guelph) and Dr. Graham Thompson (Western University). He graduated from his PhD in Microbiology & Immunology at Western University in 2021, during which he received several national awards including the Armand Frappier Outstanding Student Award, adjudicated by The Canadian Society of Microbiologists. Brendan has a broad range of experience studying the gut microbiome of animals and is passionately interested in understanding how the presence and/or absence of host-adapted bacteria, fungi, and archaea influence disease incidence. During his PhD, he helped coordinate several large field trials across North America (mostly in Ontario and California) testing how supplementation of beneficial lactobacilli to honey bees could impact disease incidence. Currently, he holds a prestigious Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship and is developing a host-free chemostat model of the honey bee gut microbiota – tentatively referred to as ‘The RoBeeGut’ – that will serve as a high-throughput screening platform to evaluate microbe-xenobiotic interactions relevant to agriculture and bee health.

Liz Mallory, MSc Student

Liz Mallory is a first year MSc student at the University of Guelph, specializing in microbiology. Since recently joining our team, Liz has been working to kick-start and maintain our project’s social media and communications by reaching out to beekeepers for The Canadian Bee Gut Project. Her research project in the lab focues on elucidating molecular mechanisms between honey bee symbionts and bacterial pathogens such as Paenibacillus larvae and Melissococcus plutonius.

Christine Macpherson, MSc Student

Christine Macpherson is a first-year MSc student in the Allen-Vercoe Lab at the University of Guelph. During her undergraduate studies, Christine contributed to several pollinator-focused initiatives, worked as an entomology intern, and successfully completed an undergraduate thesis in the Young Lab (University of Guelph). Her thesis focused on investigating the impacts of companion planting in horticulture on insect biodiversity. Since joining the Canadian Bee Gut Project Team, Christine has began her MSc thesis, focusing on the study of native Ontario bumblebees. In her project, she hopes to establish a novel bumblebee gut cell line in order to provide greater insight into bumblebee-microbiome relationships.

Dylan Brettingham, BSc Student

Dylan Brettingham is a fourth-year BSc student majoring in microbiology. Dylan worked as an undergraduate researcher in the Allen-Vercoe lab in the summer of 2023, isolating different bacteria from the honey bee gut. Dylan also set up and ran some simulated honey bee gut experiments to test the reaction of the honey bee gut microbial community to glyphosate exposure using the RoBEEGut bioreactor system. For his fourth-year research project, he is looking at different strains of Bombella spp., which generally inhabit the midgut and their potential cross-feeding activity with ileum and hindgut microbes. Dylan has previously worked in the Raizada lab, helping with various projects dedicated to finding beneficial plant microbes, such as helping to reduce agrochemical use and aiding crop plants’ adaptation to climate change, such as increased drought events.

Anna Chernyshova, PhD Candidate

Anna Chernyshova is a current PhD student under Dr. Graham Thompson at Western University. Anna completed her Master’s of Biology at Western University in 2020, where she was awarded the Ruth Horner Arnold Fellowship in Biology. In her research, Anna strives to bridge the gaps in our understanding of genomics, the evolution of eusocial species, and the adaptive value of their behaviours.

Julia Lacika, MSc Student

Julia Lacika is a first-year MSc student in the Thompson lab at Western University. Her research project focuses on how the gut microbiomes of honey bees impact foraging and defense behaviour. Julia is also working on a project that aims to explore the effects of probiotic exposure on queen bees by inoculating bee candy with bacteria cultured in the lab.

Amira Bouchema, BSc Student

Amira Bouchema is a fourth-year BSc student, majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in computer science. Amira holds an Undergraduate Research Assistantship position at the University of Guelph in the Allen-Vercoe lab, specifically helping out The Canadian Bee Gut Project. In this position, Amira focuses on studying the honey bee microbiome to isolate novel strains and test stability of the microbiome against external pressures. Amira has previously worked under Dr. Rebecca Shapiro to study the pathogenesis of Candida albicans through the utilization of multiple synthetic biology techniques such as CRISPR.