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SciComm Spotlight: Laurel Treviño

SciComm Spotlight: Laurel Treviño

By Madeleine Bullen, ATXSciWri summer 2020 intern

We are excited to introduce you to Laurel Treviño, the outreach coordinator for Jha Lab within the Department of Integrative Biology at The University of Texas at Austin. Research at the Jha Lab examines environmental drivers of pollinator diversity, shedding light on the complex nature of wild pollinator foraging and exposing how urbanization has become one of multiple serious barriers to plant and pollinator gene flow. Being the busy bee that she is, we were buzzing to get the chance to learn more about Laurel Treviño and what she does. 

Treviño’s background in teaching, education, art, science, and translation has been a wonderful toolkit for her role as a science communicator. She earned her B.S. in biology at the National University of Mexico, and then an M.A. in botany and a M.S. in wildland resource sciences from the University of California at Berkeley. She has taught both high school and college biology and environmental sciences, and has spent time working as an environmental educator at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. At the Jha Lab, Trevino leverages her communication skills combined with her science background to translate scientific research results for the general public. Along with increasing science literacy, this has helped many people learn about the pollination services that native bees provide in Central Texas. Talk about being the bee’s knees!

Currently, Treviño is working on an article for publication in a scientific journal covering the Jha Lab’s Texas Native Bees course, which educates participants about Central Texas pollinators and encourages them to apply their new-found knowledge and skills to conserving habit for these beneficial insects. The program is open to the general public, and is popular with landowners looking to adopt better conservation habits on their land. The curriculum focuses on the overarching topics of native pollinator ecosystems, history, diet and behavior, diversity, and conservation. Students attend lectures on these topics and then get to apply their new skills in two labs and a field exploration. They are taught how to distinguish native bees from western honey bees and other flower-visiting insects.

 Fun fact: there are over 800 kinds of native bee species in Texas!

Since Treviño’s work is not directly in the field, the recent coronavirus pandemic has not majorly affected her role. Her focus is mainly on the outreach program and she has adapted to being remote. She noted that the pandemic has been particularly hard for many students and professors who have had to change gears drastically in order to continue their work. 

Treviño’s love of bees and nature certainly isn’t left at the lab. Being a committed conservationist both at work and at home, in her free time Treviño enjoys working on erosion control projects, cultivating native wildflowers and grasses, and tending to her native pollinator and vegetable gardens. She has furthered her connection to all things botanical and apian through her work with illustration and photography, and has long enjoyed watercolors and contour drawings. She especially loves photographing and illustrating native plants, which she says gives her a sense of belonging to the land. You can often find her spending hours on her stomach observing and documenting native bees nectaring, pollinating, and nesting. You can see examples of her work on the UT Austin Biodiversity Center blog.

As a parting thought, consider this: When a bee is in your hand, what’s in your eye? Beauty. Because beauty is in the eye of the bee-holder.

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