UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State research on honeybee health and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) will receive a boost as a result of a $100,000 gift from the E.B. O’Keeffe Foundation. The award will fund a competitive graduate fellowship that will pair a student’s area of study with a leading researcher already working on that problem. The search for candidates will be conducted nationally beginning this fall.
The foundation specifically targeted goal-oriented research in honeybee decline, stipulating that studies supported by the gift should focus on pesticide exposure, parasites and viruses affecting honeybee populations. The foundation identified Penn State as a recipient based on its reputation as a leader in this field.
The gift, according to Gary Felton, professor and head of entomology in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, is large enough to extend beyond tuition costs to fund the actual research and enable the student to attend meetings, purchase equipment and fund presentation of research results.
“We’re attracting excellent students,” Felton said. “The incidence of CCD and the prominence of Penn State in this field have generated more momentum for funding. CCD is a real problem. It has worldwide impact and people can relate to finding a solution — students are attracted to that.”
Candidates for the fellowship will be evaluated on the basis of grades, Graduate Record Exam scores, letters of reference, the quality of any published research articles to date and a statement of why they are interested in this field and the research associated with it, Felton said.
Felton noted that his department “had really good success” selecting two graduate students for pollinator health fellowships sponsored by ice cream maker Haagen-Dazs. Those students were also paired with senior researchers working on specific CCD questions.
“These gifts allow us the flexibility that will really contribute toward the health and welfare of our pollinators,” Felton said. “They enable us to do things we couldn’t otherwise afford, such as purchase specialized equipment.”
Felton said that government grants sometimes don’t fund major equipment purchases or maintenance costs. However, private gifts have been used to purchase equipment that has helped make his department a national leader in CCD research. That leadership, he said, has enabled Penn State to resubmit some grant proposals and qualify for flagship, multistate research programs.
“One of the goals of our department is to recruit the best possible students,” Felton said. “This type of gift will attract the very best students to us, will help us do the research in the short term and will help us continue our leadership role in the future.”
The E.B. O’Keeffe Charitable Foundation, located in Palm Beach, Fla., was created primarily to support the arts, medical arts, education and science research.