Student Spotlight: Tobias Mueller

Tobias Mueller

December 6 , 2021

Tobias Mueller is a doctoral student in entomology from Austin, Texas. After attending the University of California, Davis as an undergraduate, he chose to pursue further study at Cornell due to the people.

What is your area of research and why is it important?

It’s often said that one third of the human diet is dependent on bees for pollination. When you hear the word bee, though, what comes to mind? Most likely a honeybee. In reality, there are over 20,000 species of bee (in New York alone we have over 400 species!). Next to nothing is known about wild bees, and even less about solitary bees which live their lives alone and include over 90% of bee species. I’m broadly interested in how solitary bees are impacted by pesticides applied in agricultural systems, especially antifungals and antibiotics that may impact bee microbiomes.

What are the larger implications of this research?

Better understanding how our choices and agricultural practices impact solitary bees would allow us to modify our behavior to support wild bees and ensure we don’t lose their pollination services. Already, we can see the effects of wild bee loss in places like southwest China where pesticide use and land development have killed off wild bees and farmers have to go from flower to flower with paintbrushes to pollinate by hand. Let’s make sure that’s not the future for the whole world!

What does it mean to you to have been awarded a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship?

It’s an honor to say the least. It’s also just a nice thing to look back on when self-doubt and questioning creeps in – like, hey, I did a thing and I’m really proud of it!

What will your fellowship allow you to do that you may not have been able to otherwise?

I think the biggest thing for me is it gives me the freedom to fail – to explore or try some high-risk things. It also gives me the opportunity to really focus on my own interests and take the time to discover what all those interests may be.

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your research or scholarship?

I love fixing up my truck (which conveniently is constantly breaking down). I’m also into going on walks in the woods to find lichens- the northeast just has incredible diversity! Cladonias all over campus!!

Why did you choose Cornell to pursue your degree?

It was the people here that really sold me on the place. I’m still geeking out about some of the people that work in my building. That I made it to a place where I get to talk to these people still blows my mind! My advisors Scott McArt and Bryan Danforth are both amazing people that I really respect and once I got to talking to them, I was hooked.