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

Meet the Research Team

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.

Headshot of Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe

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.

Headshot of Dr. Graham Thompson

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).

Headshot of Dr. Brendan Daisley

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 an NSERC 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.

Headshot of Anna Chernyshova

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.

Headshot of Shenella George

Shenella George, Undergraduate Student

Shenella George is a fourth-year Integrated Sciences student, specializing in biology, who holds a Western Undergraduate Student Research Internship. Shenella works alongside faculty and graduate students to learn, and contribute to, research methods, techniques and discoveries. Shenella is focused on the honeybee brain-gut axis and is working in the field and in the lab to measure how changes to a bee’s gut microbiota affects its brain function and social behaviour.  In the lab, Shenella specifically conducted a literature review on the use of RFID systems to monitor the foraging behaviour of honey bees and is currently working on a project to measure behavioural changes in honeybees when given bee candy-delivered probiotics.

Headshot of Julia Lacika

Julia Lacika, Undergraduate Student

Julia Lacika is a fourth-year BSc Honours Specialization in Biology student with a Minor in Genetics. She holds a Western Undergraduate Student Research Internship (USRI) and is working to devise and implement experiments that test how the make-up of gut microbiomes predict foraging and defense behaviour of worker bees. 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.

Headshot of Liz Mallory

Liz Mallory, Undergraduate Student

Liz Mallory is a fifth-year BSc 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. Once September arrives, Liz will be switching roles within the project and moving into the lab for a Guelph Undergraduate Research Internship. Liz will be working alongside faculty and graduate students to learn and contribute to sample processing, as well as microbial isolations and characterization of the bees received from across Canada.

Headshot of Amira Bouchema

Amira Bouchema, Undergraduate 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.