Life On The Job


Life on the Job

Wild Bee Scientist - Dr Kit Prendergast

Other titles: Native Bee Entomologist, Native Bee Scientist, Native Bee Ecologist, Wild Bee Ecologist

Kit Prendergast
(Source: Forrest Research Foundation)

Summary

Dr Kit Prendergast, nicknamed "The Bee Babette", is a wild bee ecologist from Perth, Western Australia.

She studied at Curtin University and gained her PhD after researching the biodiversity of native bees and pollination networks in urban areas, along with how to conserve them and the impact of honeybees on native bees. Prendergast has also researched and written about urban area issues for bees, focusing on Perth and the south west of Western Australia.

Prendergast goes under the moniker "The Bee Babette" when performing as a science communicator and has published material about how to create bee sanctuaries. Her other areas of research include undertaking biodiversity assessments, pollination ecology, critiquing methods for surveying pollinators, native bee ecology and behaviour and citizen science.

She discovered a new species of native bee, Leioproctus zephyr, named after her dog Zephyr. Prendergast also has a large tattoo of two bees having sex on her right shoulder. She describes the bees, Amegilla dawsoni, as her favourite bee species.

Prendergast is also the author of Creating a Haven for Native Bees and Abuzz About Dawson’s Burrowing Bee.

Creating a haven for Native Bees
(Source: Bee the Cure)

Outside of her scientific work, Prendergast is a circus performer. She also has an arts degree.

In 2019, Prendergast was named as a finalist for Young Scientist of the Year.

Introduction

The following information is from ABC Gardening Australia 19 May 2023

ABC Gardening Australia
(Source: ABC Gardening Australia)

"Kit grew up in Perth and Kings Park is one of her favourite places. She played there as a kid and now she loves to go there to do practise her circus skills but, as a wild bee scientist, she also goes there to observe our Australian native bees.

A perfect time to find them is when the melaleucas are in flower, as they are highly attracted to its blooms.

One of the first bees she finds is a Waroona cuckoo bee, which lays its eggs in the nest of a host bee – in this case the host is often a blue-banded bee. When its egg hatches, the larvae will eat both the pollen sac left by the blue-banded bee for its larva, as well as the larva itself. They visit the melaleuca to eat the nectar and pollen but don't collect it for their young.

Kit finds another bee, the Megachile monstrosa. The male of this species has very large forearms, which it uses to cover the eyes of the female during sex.

Kit always had a lot of pet animals as a child and always loved bees but never thought they would end up being her life's passion. At school she loved biology. After her undergrad degree, she knew she wanted to study more and was inspired by a talk at the WA Naturalists club on native bees. "I was blown away by how many species there were," she says and was keen to look at the biodiversity of bee in south-west WA, which is well known as a biodiversity hotspot. She also wanted to look at the interaction between native and introduced honey bees.

She found that honey bees outcompete the native bees for pollen and nectar in areas where resources are limited, such as city gardens.

During her research she identified and described a previously unnamed species of bee, which specialises in feeding form one particular pea plant, Jacksonia sericea. She named the bee Leioproctus zephyr after her dog, Zephyr.

There are 1661 species of bees in Australia that have been named, but there are hundreds more that are still undescribed, yet only about four are on the Federal threatened species list, which means most of our native bees are not protected. Kit believes its crucial to teach and fund taxonomy better in Australia to catch up on the long list of species that needs to be formally identified, described, and named. Without this knowledge you can't properly understand an area's biodiversity or protect the diverse range of animals and plants living there."

Featured Bees 

WAROONA CUCKOO BEE

Thyreus waroonensis

BLUE-BANDED BEE

Amegilla chlorocyanea

Megachile monstrosa

EUROPEAN HONEY BEE

Apis mellifera

Leioproctus zephyr

Featured Plants 

Melaleuca sp.

WALDJUMI

Jacksonia sericea

 

Education

Kit was educated at Methodist Ladies College and then went on to The University of Western Australia [2008 - 2014].

Kit has an Arts Degree as well as a PhD.

Her degrees: PhD, BSc Arts and Science (First Class Honors)

Her PhD involved investigating the impact of honeybees on native bees and pollination networks , and the impact of urbanisation on native bees.


Employment

Dr Kit Prendergast is employed at the Curtin School of Molecular and Life Sciences.

Kit's past employment:

Wildlife and Nature Journalist
Freelance Animal and Nature Writer
2011 - Present · 12 yrs 6 mos
  
I regularly publish articles on wildlife, conservation, and animal biology, ecology and evolution in a range of magazines, including the Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia's magazine "Australian Wildlife", WA's Department of Parks and Wildlife magazine "LANDSCOPE", Australia Zoo's magazine for youths "Crikey!", "Wildlife Australia", "Scales & Tails", and "Wildlife Secrets." I also write for "BirdKeeper.
  
Journalist
Australian BirdKeeper Magazine
2013 - Present · 10 yrs 6 mos
  
As a regular contributor to BirdKeeper, I have my own section 'About Birds' as a consistent feature of each magazine publication, providing readers with each bimonthly edition insights into the biology, ecology, behaviour and evolution of birds.
 
Biology Tutor
A1 Tutoring Services Limited

A1 Tutoring Services Limited
2014 - Present · 9 yrs 6 mos2

Marine Invertebrate taxonomist
Private
Dec 2010 - Present · 12 yrs 7 mos

Classifying marine invertebrates, assigning specimens to phyla, family, and morphospecies. Diagnosing taxonomic classification for marine organisms from samples taken from marine benthic communities. Describing diagnostic features of the specimens.
 
Species Profile Writer
ARKive
Nov 2010 - Present · 12 yrs 8 mos
Researching and writing profiles for species, detailing the species characteristics, range, habitat, biology, threats, and conservation status.

Awards

She has conducted research on using bee hotels as a recovery tool for native bees after bushfires through a grant she was awarded through the Federal Government. During her PhD she was a FameLab finalist, Amplify Ignite Finalist, featured on Gardening Australia, and winner of the ESA Outstanding Outreach Award. Dr Kit has published 53 articles (as of 3 Oct 2022, with three more accepted in press) and been cited over 470 times.

In the field
(Source: ABC News)


Links

ABC News 5 November 2022

ABC News


Kids' News 10 November 2022

Kids News
Issuu - January 2022

Issuu


ResearchGate

Taxonomy Australia
John Little interview (audio) 30 November 2022

John Little


WA Parks Foundation 30 January 2023

WA Parks Foundation



YouTube: Australian native bees with Dr Kit Prendergast - bee scientist
https://youtu.be/kq4rO5Kn8J8

 

YouTube: Make a native bee hotel and attract native bees into your garden
https://youtu.be/zH7YorqNeXY

 

YouTube: Bee hotel for native bees | Beneficial animals and insects | Gardening Australia
https://youtu.be/6cbDc3jwJL8

 

 

Activities

Timeline of Bees in History

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle 

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

CriticalAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and creative thinking

NumeracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Numeracy

 

1. Read through the following article from The Conversation 27 January 2022 and note down the times and events.

The Conversation

2. You are going to create a timeline of these times and events. To create this timeline:

a. Organise the dates sequentially.
b.
Select your time increments carefully to show all the dates provided in the article.
c. Add details and information about each event
d. Add a title for your timeline.

 

 

Get familiar with a native bee!

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