In celebration of National Pollinator Month, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is highlighting NIFA-funded researcher Dr. Ramesh Sagili, who serves as an associate professor at Oregon State University.
Tell us your journey and how your interest in agriculture developed.
I am originally from India, which is highly dependent on agriculture. The agriculture sector provides more than 50% of jobs. My grandparents were farmers, and hence I had the opportunity to witness the challenges and plight of agriculture/farmers face since I was young. My formal interest in agriculture started after enrolling into a Bachelor of Science degree in an agriculture program in India. Entomology (especially apiculture) was my passion, while pursuing my bachelor’s degree. I later enrolled at Texas A&M University to pursue my doctoral degree in entomology, focusing on honey bee research. After completing my Ph.D. and a short post-doctoral stint, I joined Oregon State University as an assistant professor in 2009. My current research program aims to address current and emerging problems pertaining to commercial beekeeping industry. The three focus areas of my research are honey bee nutrition, honey bee health, and pollination.
Describe your involvement with NIFA and your role.
I have been fortunate to receive a few research grants from NIFA over the past 12 years to conduct critical honey bee research. I have also had the opportunity to serve on NIFA grant panels.
Could you catch us up on one of your NIFA-funded projects? What is the goal of your project and what impact do you hope it has on your institution and trainees?
The most current NIFA-funded project is an exciting project with the long-term goal of improving bee nutrition by building a first-of-its-kind database of pollen nutritional compositions and understanding phytosterol requirements of bees. This pollen nutritional composition database will serve as robust tool for stakeholders (beekeepers, conservation groups, and growers) in selecting plants for developing bee habitats in a scientific way. Many citizen scientists from across the nation have expressed great interest in this project and agreed to volunteer and collect pollen for the project. We have also established several interdisciplinary collaborations at Oregon State University for this project. We are also providing training to graduate and undergraduate students who are involved in this unique research project. We hope that these trainees will have successful careers at research institutions soon. The post-doc (Dr. Chakrabarti) in my lab who is a co-project investigator on this project recently joined a faculty position at Mississippi State University (MSU) and is now collaborating on this project from MSU and is also training students at that university.
How has NIFA funding shaped your professional development as a scientist?
NIFA funding has not only helped me advance the body of knowledge in key areas of honey bee health and nutrition but has also been instrumental in fostering long-term productive interdisciplinary collaborations both at Oregon State University and across the nation. NIFA-funded research has yielded tangible solutions for our stakeholders, such as best management practices that have increased profitability and sustainability of their enterprises.
What advice do you have for current students who may be interested in pursuing a similar career path?
There are currently numerous challenges facing beekeepers, pollinators and broader agriculture; hence, there exist many opportunities to assist our agricultural stakeholders. Current students should pursue research that they are passionate about and be persistent in their endeavor. Many of the problems facing our stakeholders are complex and need interdisciplinary effort; hence, there is greater need for interdisciplinary collaborative research than before. The new researchers should be proactive and foster interdisciplinary collaborations to be successful in their careers and effectively serve stakeholders (beekeepers and farmers). You will derive immense satisfaction when you realize that your efforts have benefitted your stakeholders even on a small scale.
Photo: Dr. Sagili’s current research program aims to address current and emerging problems pertaining to commercial beekeeping industry. Image provided by Dr. Sagili.