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Researcher to take over for UC bee expert

Tim Hearden

Capital Press

On Sept. 1, Elina Lastro Nino will step into the shoes of the retiring Eric Mussen, a nearly 38-year extension apiculturist at the University of California-Davis. Nino has her own extensive background in honey bee research.

DAVIS, Calif. — For entomologist Elina Lastro Niño, the decision to come to California was, in her words, a “no-brainer”.

“California is such a beekeeping Mecca that it was not a difficult decision to make,” said Niño, a honey bee scientist at Pennsylvania State University known for her expertise on queen biology, chemical ecology and genomics.

On Sept. 1, the 33-year-old Niño will start as extension apiculturist at the University of California-Davis. She will be taking over for the retiring Eric Mussen, who during nearly 38 years as an apiculturist became a go-to person for California beekeepers and crop producers alike.

“I’m really glad he’s staying on as an emeritus professor,” Niño told the Capital Press. “I’m glad he’ll be there to help me out in the beginning and guide me.”

While Mussen has achieved an almost legendary status in the Golden State, Niño has a reputation of her own. She is internationally recognized for her work in queen biology and has collaborated with several key honey bee researchers around the country, noted Christina Grozinger, director of Penn State’s Center for Pollinator Research.

A native of Bosnia, Niño came to the United States after high school and earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Cornell University in 2003. She received her master’s in entomology at North Carolina State University and her doctorate at PSU.

Holding a postdoctoral fellowship at Penn State funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Niño examined how different components of the mating process drive different post-mating changes in honey bee queens, which in turn can affect the performance of the hive, Grozinger explained in a news release.

Niño said she hopes to use that research to help bee producers improve breeding.

“My hope is to help the beekeepers first and foremost and to figure out how to improve … honeybee hive survival,” she said. “Hopefully I will have good support among the beekeepers and will be able to do some good, quality applied research to contribute to solving this issue.”

As the extension apiculturist, Niño will remain involved in basic honey bee biology studies while devoting a majority of her time to conducting problem-solving research with beekeepers and industry representatives, the UC-Davis release explained.

“I’m very excited to step into that position,” Niño said. “I’m ready to take on the challenge and ready to learn a lot from the beekeepers and other people in the industry.”

Online

UC-Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology: http://entomology.ucdavis.edu

PSU Center for Pollinator Research: http://ento.psu.edu/pollinators



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