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Colla, Sheila R.

 Colla_Sheila R.

Colla, Sheila R.

Assistant Professor

York Research Chair (Tier 2) in Interdisciplinary Conservation Science

PhD , Biology
BSc Honours , Zoology

Pollinator conservation; Endangered species; Community science; Environmental policy; Bumblebees.

I am a Conservation Scientist working to conserve wildlife including native pollinators. I am part of York University’s Bee Research Organization BeeC, which aims to address pollinator health and sustainable agriculture from an interdisciplinary perspective. My lab’s research uses ecological studies and community science programs to better understand species declines and design conservation management plans. Studies include assessing habitat requirements, relationships to flowering plants, and studies to better understand stressors (i.e. climate change, pathogen spillover, habitat loss and invasive species). My lab’s research also delves into the human dimensions of conservation including biocultural knowledge systems and evidence-based environmental decision-making. I am cross-appointed in the graduate program to supervise students from Biology as well. I work closely with ENGOs and government agencies to conserve wildlife and inform land management. I helped create the Toronto Pollinator Strategy, BumbleBeeWatch and is the North American Coordinator for the IUCN Red List Bumblebee Specialist Group.  I previously co-authored the Award-winning book “The Bumblebees of North America: An Identification Guide) (Princeton University Press 2014).


  1. Understanding differential vulnerabilities to environmental stressors among native North American bumblebee species.  NSERC Discovery Grant 2016-2022. Website: savethebumblebees.ca  
  2. A biocultural & interdisciplinary approach to pollinator conservation through ecology, art and pedagogy (Co-PI Lisa Myers, York University) New Frontiers in Research Fund. Website: findingflowers.ca
  3. Developing a framework for a national pollinator strategy for Canada. Funding by The W. Garfield Weston Foundation.
  4. BumbleBeeWatch.org: A North American Citizen Science Project. In collaboration with Wildlife Preservation Canada and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


  • York University Research Leader Award
  • FES Dean's Community Engagement Award
  • York University Research Leader Book Award

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

MacPhail, VM, R. Hatfield, S. Gibson & S.R.Colla. (in press) Using Bumble Bee Watch to investigate the accuracy and perception of bumble bee (Bombus spp.) identification by community scientists PeerJ.

Liczner, A & S.R. Colla (In press) Think big: Landscape variables predict at-risk bumble bee habitat more than local-scale variables Insect Diversity and Conservation.

Nicholls, A, G. Epstein & S.R. Colla (In press) Understanding public and stakeholder attitudes in pollinator conservation policy development. Environmental Science and Policy.

MacPhail, V.J., S. Gibson, & SR Colla (in press) Community science participants gain environmental awareness and contribute high quality data but improvements are needed: insights from Bumble Bee Watch. PeerJ.

Shiffman, D.S., Pollom, A., Coristine, L., Macdonald, C., Colla,SR, Cashion,M., Orobko,M., O'Ferrall, M., Bittick, SJ, Derrick, D., Gow, EA, Dulvy, N, & J Provencher (In press) Inaccurate and biased global media coverage underlies public misunderstanding of shark conservation threats and solutions iScience.

McCune, J.L., S.R. Colla , L.E. Coristine, C.M. Davy, T. Flockhart,  R. Schuster, D. M. Orihel (2019) Are we accurately estimating the potential role of pollution in the decline of species at risk in Canada? FACETS DOI https://doi.org/10.1139/facets-2019-0025.

Liczner, A & S.R. Colla (2019) A systematic review of the nesting and overwintering habitat of bumble bees globally. Journal of Insect Conservation 23: 787-801.

MacPhail, V.J., L.R Richardson, S.R. Colla (2019) Incorporating citizen science, museum specimens, and field work into the assessment of extinction risk of the American Bumble bee (Bombus pensylvanicus De Geer 1773) in Canada. Journal of Insect Conservation 1:15.

Gibson*, S., A. Liczner & S.R. Colla. (2019) Conservation conundrum: At-risk bumble bees (Bombus spp.) show preference for invasive tufted vetch (Vicia cracca) while foraging in protected areas Journal of Insect Science 19:10.

Coristine, L., S. R. Colla, J. McCune, N. Bennett, A. Carlsson, C. Davy, K. Davies, B. Favaro, T. Flockhart, K. Fraser, D. Orihel, J. Pittman, J. Polfus, S. Otto, W. Palen, O. Venter, & A.T. Ford (2019) National contributions to global ecosystem values. Conservation Biology 33: 1219-1223.

Johnson, S., H, Tompkins, M. Tompkins, & S.R. Colla (2019) Artificial domiciles as a supplementary monitoring method for bumble bees in Ontario, Canada Journal of Insect Science 19 (1) 7 https://doi.org/10.1093/jisesa/iey139.

Kent, C., Dey, A, Patel, H., Tsvetkov, N, Tiwari, T., MacPhail*, V., Gobeil, Y., Harpur, B., Gurtowski, J., Schatz, M., Colla, S., Zayed, A. (2018) Conservation genomics of a declining North American bumblebee, Bombus terricola, reveal inbreeding and selection on immune genes. Frontiers in Genetics 9: 1-12.

MacPhail*, V.J, Ferguson, S., Tompkins, H., Colla, S.R. (2018) The missing link: A case for increased consideration for plant-pollinator interactions for species at-risk recovery in Ontario, Canada. Journal of Nature Conservation 42:1-6.

Colla, S.R. & J.S. MacIvor (2017) Questioning public perception, conservation policy, and recovery actions for honeybees in North America. Conservation Biology 31: 1202–1204.

McCune, J., A. Carlsson, S.R. Colla, C. Davy, B. Favaro, A.T. Ford, K. C. Fraser, E.G. Martins (2017) Assessing public commitment to endangered species protection:  a Canadian case study. FACETS DOI https://doi.org/10.1139/facets-2016-0054.

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 36: 412-426.

DeKeyzer, C., Colla, S, Kent, C, Rafferty, L., Richardson, L & J. Thomson (2016) Delving deeper: Questioning the decline of long-tongued bumble bees, long-tubed flowers and their mutualisms with climate change. Journal of Pollination Ecology 18: 36-42.

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.

Book Chapter

Colla, S.R. (2020) Conservation of Social Insects in Encyclopedia of Social Insects Ed. Christopher Starr. Springer Nature Press.


Williams, P., R. Thorp, S.R. Colla & L. Richardson. (2014) A Field Guide to the Bumblebees of North America. Princeton University Press. 208 pp. *Winner of 2015 Outstanding Reference Source Award, American Library Association.


ENVS 2400 Foundations of Environmental Management: Policy, Resources and Conservation

ENVS 4445 Ontario Environmental Policy

ENVS 4446 Protected Areas Management

ENVS 6119 Environmental Resource Management