At the International Congress of Entomology on Sept. 25, York University Professor Amro Zayed in the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, received the 2016 C. Gordon Hewitt Award from the Entomological Society of Canada. The award honours outstanding contributions to entomology in Canada by an emerging researcher.
Zayed, also a Tier 2 York Research Chair in Genomics, studies the genetic basis of honey bee behaviour. He completed a BSc at York, including an honours thesis project in Professor Laurence Packer’s lab in the Faculty of Science. Following his bachelor’s degree, he immediately began a PhD with Packer; his doctoral research focused on the application of genetic theory and methodology to bee conservation. After completing his PhD in 2006 and moving on to a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Illinois, Zayed returned to York University in 2009 as a faculty member in the Department of Biology.
Since then, he has developed a world-leading research program on honey bee genomics. His work has provided insights on the fundamental relationships between genetics and caste divergence in bees. He completed a large-scale study of the population genomics of honey bees, and his lab’s research has overturned the popular hypothesis that managed bees have reduced genetic diversity. In addition, his team played a major role in an international consortium that sequenced and analyzed the genomes of 10 bee species; the results were published in Science in 2015.
Zayed’s lab also conducts applied research on honey bee health. In 2015, he and his Australian colleagues developed a genetic test that can greatly reduce the risk of accidentally introducing Africanized honey bees to Canada. He is currently working on identifying specific mutations that are associated with the hygienic behaviour of honey bee colonies – a trait that enhances honey bees’ resistance to several pests and pathogens. He is co-leading a Genome Canada-funded project to develop marker-assisted breeding in honey bees. Finally, his group is carrying out a large-scale study on the effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on honey bee health in Ontario and Quebec.
“Amro is a most deserving winner of this award,” says Packer. “Not only is he an excellent scientist doing cutting-edge genomic research, but he also has a broad understanding and remarkable aptitude in natural history; these two things rarely occur together in a young investigator.”
To learn more about Zayed’s research, visit his lab web page.