Faculty Profiles

Sheila R. Colla

Assistant Professor
PhD - Biology
BSc Honours - Biology

Areas of Academic Interest

  • Ecosystem services

  • Citizen science

  • Sustainable agriculture

  • Plant-pollinator ecology

  • Endangered species conservation

  • Resource management

  • Environmental policy

  • Science communication


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 (ENGOs), 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.

In collaboration with the Xerces Society and other partners, I help manage a continent-wide Citizen Science project, BumbleBeeWatch.org. This project will allow to monitor bumble bee populations and gather important natural history information for future conservation management.  The data will be used to further examine possible threats to our native species including climate change, pesticide use, invasive species, habitat loss and pathogen spillover. In addition, this project provides much needed educational and species identification tools for the general public and creates a community to foster learning about these important creatures.

My position at FES allows me to further develop my interdisciplinary research program and provide students with networking and real-world relevant conservation opportunities. My overall aim is for my research to fill critical knowledge gaps and to inform relevant environmental and agricultural policy.  Disseminating research findings and other forms of science communication to the public is also an important facet of my work.  In addition to the ‘The Bumble bees of North America: An Identification Guide” (Princeton University Press, 2014), I will continue writing books, blogs and using social media to continue educating the general public about important conservation issues.

Major research projects

Conservation management of at-risk native insects and insect-pollinated plants

BumbleBeeWatch.org: a collaborative citizen science project

Status assessments of native species

Examining effects of threats such as pesticide use, habitat loss, climate change and disease on native pollinators

Selected Publications

Colla, S.R. (2016). Status, Threats and Conservation Recommendations for Wild Bumble Bees (Bombus spp.) in Ontario, Canada: A Review for Policymakers and Practitioners, Natural Areas Journal, October 2016, Volume 36, Issue 4, 412-426.

J.T. Kerr, A. Pindar, P. Galpern, L. Packer, S.G. Potts, S.M. Roberts, P. Rasmont, O. Schweiger, S.R. Colla, L.L. Richardson, D.L. Wagner, L.F. Gall, D.S. Sikes, A.Pantoja (2015) Climate change impacts on bumblebees converge across continents. Science 349:177-180.

Colla, S.R., N. Szabo, L. Gall, D. Wagner & J. Kerr. (2013) Response: Pesticide impacts on bumblebees: A missing piece. Conservation Letters 6:215-216.

Colla, S.R., F. Gadallah, L. Richardson, D. Wagner & L. Gall (2012) Assessing declines of North American bumble bees (Bombus spp.) using museum specimens. Biodiversity and Conservation 21:3585-3595.

Szabo, N., S.R. Colla, D. Wagner, L. Gall & J. Kerr (2012) Is pathogen spillover, habitat loss or pesticide use responsible for North American wild bumblebee declines? Conservation Letters 5: 232-239.

Bartomeus, I., J.S. Ascher, S.R. Colla, D.Wagner, B.N. Danforth, S. Kornbluth & R. Winfree (2011) Climate‐associated phenological advances in bee pollinators and bee-pollinated plants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108: 20645-20649.

Colla, S.R, E.Willis, & L.Packer. (2009)  Can green roofs provide habitat for urban bees? Cities and the Environment (2):1 [Online] http://escholarship.bc.edu/cate/vol2/iss1/4/

Williams, P., S. Colla & Z. Xie. (2009) Bumblebee vulnerability: common correlates of winners and losers across three continents. Conservation Biology 23: 931-940.

Colla, S.R. & L. Packer (2008) Evidence for decline in eastern North American bumblebees (Hymenoptera: Apidae), with special focus on Bombus affinis Cresson. Biodiversity and Conservation 17: 1379-1391.

Colla, S.R., M.C. Otterstatter, R.J. Gegear & J.D. Thomson (2006) Plight of the bumblebee: Pathogen spillover from commercial to wild populations. Biological Conservation 129: 461-467.

Williams, P., R. Thorp, S.R. Colla & L. Richardson. (2014) A Field Guide to the Bumblebees of North America. Princeton University Press. 208 pp.

Colla, S.R. (2014) Ch.4. Bumblebees. Assessing Pesticide Exposure Routes for Wild Bees. Ed. D. Roubik, Pollinator Safety in Agriculture, UN-FAO Field Manual [Online] http://www.internationalpollinatorsinitiative.org/uploads/Pollinator_safety_webfile_02.pdf

Colla, S.R. & Alana Taylor-Pindar (2010) Recovery strategy for the Rusty-patched Bumblebee (Bombus affinis) in Ontario. Ontario Recovery Strategy Series. Prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Peterborough, Ontario. [Online] http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/stdprodconsume/groups/lr/@mnr/@species/documents/document/stdprod_086037.pdf

Schweitzer, D.F., N.A. Capuano, B.E. Young, and S.R. Colla (2010) Conservation and Management of North American Bumblebees. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia, and USDA Forest Service, Washington, D.C.