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Botany Seminar: Urban Reproductive Ecology of Asclepias curassavica by Dr. Kathryn Theiss

Abstract: The urban environment has the potential to become an important nutritional resource for insect pollinators. Insect pollinators may heavily rely on these resources, especially because plants tend to have longer blooming periods in an urban matrix. This increased blooming time may in turn affect the microbiome of floral nectar, which can have dramatic effects on pollinators. Nectar microbial communities consist of both yeast and bacterial species, and are both affected by, and can affect, floral visitors due to transference between the nectar and floral visitor, resulting in similar microbiomes of both the insect and the nectar. I am focused on the relationship of the nectar microbiome of milkweeds, Asclepias, and their pollinators in the urban environment. Milkweed species attract a highly diverse array of pollinators, and since these floral visitors vary dramatically in size and behavior, it is imperative to understand how they interact with the milkweed flowers, and especially in the context of the nectar microbiome, which body parts come into contact with the nectar.