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WCVM graduate student Michael Zabrodski. Photo: Christina Weese.

WCVM student receives bee health research scholarship

Project Apis m., an international bee research organization, has awarded a $10,000 scholarship to Dr. Michael Zabrodski (DVM) of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) for his work in bee health research.

Zabrodski was a runner up for the Christi Heintz Memorial Scholarship Award, named in honour of the organization’s founder. Four graduate students from across North America received a total of $55,000 in support of their research targeting different aspects of bee health.

Zabrodski is a Master of Science (MSc) graduate student and part of the college’s bee health research group that’s led by Dr. Elemir Simko of the WCVM’s Department of Veterinary Pathology. A 2015 graduate of the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Zabrodski’s goal is to obtain board certification as a veterinary anatomic pathologist and to complete his master’s program that focuses on American foulbrood disease (AFB) in honey bees.

AFB is caused by the spore-forming bacterium Paenibacillus larvae, which is highly pathogenic and capable of surviving in the environment for decades. Once the bacterial disease wipes out a colony’s population, foraging bees can rob the empty, unprotected hives and bring back honey contaminated with AFB spores to their own hives.

Zabrodski is part of a team that’s tracking the spread and intensity of AFB infection throughout Saskatchewan. The researchers are also investigating how the honey bee population is affected by differences in management practices among beekeepers in the province.

The ongoing AFB surveillance project aims to identify management practices as pre-disposing factors for increased risk of infection, as well as those that reduce them. Researchers are evaluating how beekeepers handle their bees as well as the impact of buying used equipment, bringing in bees from outside sources and antibiotic usage.

“All of those different aspects when it comes to management — those are the things we are trying to look at,” said Zabrodski in a previous WCVM Today story.

As a veterinarian working in the field of honey bee health, Zabrodski is uniquely positioned to establish and strengthen collaborative connections between the veterinary profession and beekeepers in the development of evidence-based approaches to control AFB.

“Why am I passionate about this project? It’s practical and builds needed bridges between beekeepers, apicultural specialists, and the veterinary profession ...” said Zabrodski in his award application.

In addition to his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree, Zabrodski earned a Bachelor of Science degree (honours) in animal biology from the University of Alberta. He spent several years practising as a small animal veterinarian in the Maritimes before returning to Western Canada in 2019 to pursue specialized training at the WCVM.  

Project Apis m. (PAm) is named after Apis mellifera, the Latin name for honey bee. Christi Heintz, the founding leader of PAm, created the non-profit organization in 2006. Heintz died suddenly on May 11, 2020.

In the past 14 years, PAm has invested over $8 million in 118 practical research projects and over $2 million in restoring habitat to provide nutrition to honey bees. Its mission is to fund and direct research to enhance the health and vitality of honey bee colonies while improving crop production.

Visit the PAm website to view the original awards announcement.

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