Our next café will happen on Tuesday, October 29th at 7:30pm in the back room at Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Leonard Foster from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UBC.

Breeding stronger bees by shortcutting nature

Dr. Leonard Foster’s laboratory at UBC has been involved in a Canada-wide project aimed at bringing modern molecular technologies to bear on the selective breeding of honey bees that are better able to resist disease and stress. They use molecular fingerprinting and genomics to identify stronger bees, enabling their selective breeding. This brings up several controversial topics, including whether these bees are “natural”, whether selectively bred bees could/should be patented and how far away direct genetic modification of honey bees will be. Dr. Foster will describe the state-of-the-art in bee genetics and where the future may lie here.

Dr. Leonard Foster is a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Foster comes from a family of beekeepers and got his introduction to academic bee research at Simon Fraser University while doing his Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry – at SFU he worked with Drs. Winston and Slessor on honey bee pheromones, particularly the components of queen mandibular pheromone. He then did a Ph.D in Toronto a post-doctoral studies in Denmark before starting his current position in 2005. The first independent operating grant that Dr. Foster secured was to study how bee pathogens were able to manipulate the protein machinery within bee cells. Since that time he has led three very large-scale projects that have investigated some of the molecular mechanisms behind disease resistance in bees. This effort has recently moved into trying to apply this knowledge by using the information they have learned to guide selective breeding for hygienic behavior in honey bees. He is very active in extension and frequently engages the public on various aspects of honey bee biology. He currently lives in Richmond and keeps bees himself.


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