About Us

About Our Research
Since 2015

Saving Pollinators

Our History

Dr. Sheila R. Colla’s lab is found at York University, in Toronto, Ontario, and is comprised of members from both the Department of Biology and the Faculty of Environmental Studies. As a lab, we are interested in all aspects of native pollinator conservation. Our research is interdisciplinary, including ecology, conservation biology, policy and citizen science. Please take a look at our site, and hopefully learn a little more about our research, bumblebees, and conservation efforts in general.

Research projects have generously been funded by The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, The Province of Ontario, MITACS and The Liber Ero Fellowship Program. Research partners include BumbleBeeWatch.org, The Nature Conservancy of Canada, Friends of the Earth Canada, Wildlife Preservation Canada, Ontario Nature and The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

What Drives Us

Our Mission

We take an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to wild pollinator conservation. We aim to conserve biodiversity and the ecosystem services they provide through scientific research and outreach. We focus on bumblebees but also have side projects on at-risk butterflies, plants and other species of bees.


Our Lab Members


Principal Investigator

I am a classically trained Ecologist using scientific principles to address real-world conservation issues. My research thus far has focused on the conservation of lesser understood native species such as bees, butterflies and flowering plants. As pollinators and pollination have become important issues among policymakers and the public in recent years, my work has become more interdisciplinary. I work closely with environmental NGOs, landowners, academic partners and government agencies at the municipal, provincial and federal levels to implement conservation management based on the best available science. My research considers species with large ranges across the US and Canada but also local species which are at-risk here in Ontario.

Publications can be found here: Google Scholar


Briann Dorin

PhD Student

I am a PhD student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies interested in wildlife conservation, agroecology, and sustainable agriculture. My research focuses on enhancing biodiversity conservation within agricultural lands by studying the impact of various farm management practices on native bees and understanding farmer motivations and needs within the adoption of pollinator-friendly farming. Through an interdisciplinary approach and in collaboration with farmers, I hope to determine agricultural practices, policies, and initiatives that best support our native pollinators in farmlands.

Kennedy Halvorson

MSc Student

I am a first year Master’s student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies interested in native pollinators and conservation management. My masters project seeks to investigate the pollination systems of Nicotiana rustica, a wild species of tobacco that has cultural and traditional significance to many Indigenous peoples across Canada and the rest of the Americas. I aim to understand and identify the main ecological interactions between this plant and its preferred pollinators, research that is necessary to inform conservation plans to ensure the continued presence of both N. rustica and its floral visitors within their native landscapes.

Sarah MacKell

MSc Student

I am an MSc student in the Department of Biology investigating potential competition between honey bees and native bees, in Toronto. I will examine this by observing how honey bees and native bees interact on floral resources used for forage, measuring potential nectar and pollen depletion, and measuring the abundance of all bee species throughout Toronto. This study will provide some insight as to whether introducing honey bees into urban areas impacts native bees, and may lead to suggested conservation management practices in Toronto.




Hadil Elsayed

PhD Student

I am a Master’s student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies researching the impact of managed honey bees on wild bees in urban landscapes. I am approaching this from a functional diversity perspective. My research will compare the differences between wild bees between high and low honey bee abundance sites. I will be analyzing overall functional diversity using different life history traits, primarily body size, sociality and trophic position. This research will aid in the understanding of where non-native pollinators stand in our ecosystems and how to better manage them.

Rachel Nalepa

Postdoctoral Fellow

Rachel is social scientist researching the human dimension of pollinator conservation. Rachel’s research with the Colla lab was funded through a Mitacs fellowship with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and support from The W. Garfield Weston Foundation.

Taylor Kerekes

MSc Student


I am a first year Master’s student in the Department of Biology with interests in the conservation and ecology of bee species across Canada. I am interested in how to properly understand and conserve bee species due to their contribution to our ecosystems as important pollinators. I hope to gain a better understanding of bee ecology and behaviour, specifically in wild bees, to help in identifying species that are in need of conservation efforts based on which ones play important roles in their environments.


PhD Student

I am a PhD student in the Department of Biology interested in understanding and developing a sustainable agriculture system, with specific regard for biodiversity conservation in agricultural settings. I intend to use pollinators, specifically bumblebees, as a way to understand how certain sustainability policies and programs can influence the ability to conserve biodiversity in a particular landscape. I hope to use this information to study policies and programs that are not only environmentally sustainable, but economically and culturally as well.

Victoria MacPhail

PhD Student

I am a PhD student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies, and my research focuses on the value of citizen science programs, using Bumble Bee Watch as a case study. Citizen science is a growing field where volunteers can collect data similar to that of experts (depending on the field and the training provided) over a greater temporal and spatial scale than may otherwise be covered by a research team. This can have positive outcomes for conservation efforts with knowledge gaps being addressed and awareness being raised. Bumble Bee Watch participants submit photos of bumble bees from across North America through a website or app and assign a tentative id to their bee, which is then verified by regional experts like myself. I am interested in seeing how this program can fill knowledge gaps, increase conservation status assessments, recommend recovery actions, and influence policy for conservation actions, as well as its impact on participants.


Past Members

Melina Damian Flores

BES Student

Melina worked in the Colla lab during her Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES) degree, and her main area of interest was wildlife conservation. Her experience involved researching pollinator visitation frequency on American Ginseng at the Koffler Scientific Reserve, assisting with the native pollinator initiative of Wildlife Preservation Canada, and volunteering as a wildlife nursery assistant for Toronto Wildlife Centre.

Allison Nicholls

MES Student

Allison was a Master in Environmental Studies (MES) student whose research used the Ontario government’s proposal to reduce the use of neonicotinoid pesticides in the province as a case study. Allison investigated the citizen comments on this proposal to if she could elucidate what pushes people to exercise their right to comment, specifically when related to pollinator conservation.

Andres Jimenez Monge

Research Assistant

I am a biologist and have a Masters in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Business and Sustainability. I am passionate about herpetology and have a keen eye for photography and a strategic vision for problem-solving. I started working in conservation and environmental management when I was fifteen years old, and my efforts in the field awarded me the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leader nomination by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the United States Wildlife and Fisheries Service. I have taken an active role in political advocacy in Costa Rica towards the improvement and refurbishing of the Costa Rican fisheries management, shark fining regulations and the involvement of Costa Rica on the International Whaling Commission. My research wants to help redefine how humans relate with wildlife, focusing on well being and saving “the ordinary”. My personal photo blog is available at: www.razaverde.com

Meagan Tompkins

PhD Student

Meagan was PhD student in the Faculty of Science from September 2016-2019.

Kailey Michnal

MSc Student

Kailey was an MSc student studying under the co-supervision of Drs. Sheila Colla and Amro Zayed. For her MSc thesis, she used molecular tools to study pollinator decline and explore if pollinator habitat conservation and increased urbanization are simultaneously attainable.

Amanda Liczner

PhD Student

I am a PhD student, in the Department of Biology, working on conserving at-risk bumblebee species in southern Ontario by restoring their habitat. My work involves identifying specific habitat requirements for these species so as to inform future management plans for at-risk bumblebee species. Future goals for this project include identifying habitat to be protected that would be suitable for increasing the numbers of at-risk bumblebees, as well as addressing methods of improving, and expanding, at-risk bumblebee habitat.http://www.amandaliczner.ca/