University of Guelph alumna Dr. Sabrina Rondeau has received the prestigious 2023 Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS)-ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award in the Engineering, Medical Sciences, and Natural Sciences category.  

The award recognizes Canadian doctoral dissertations that make unusually significant and original contributions to the academic community and Canadian society at large. 

Rondeau completed her PhD in the Ontario Agricultural College’s School of Environmental Sciences with Dr. Nigel Raine in fall 2022. 

Her dissertation, “Assessing Exposure and Impacts of Combined Pesticide Residues in Soil for Ground-Nesting Bees and Bumblebee (Bombus spp.) Queens,” was unanimously selected by a committee of eight expert judges from submissions from across Canada. 

Research on vital agricultural pollinators

A person smiles for the camera in a photo studio
Dr. Sabrina Rondeau

“We are thrilled to see Dr. Rondeau’s innovative and important research recognized nationally,” said Dr. Ben Bradshaw, assistant vice-president (graduate studies). “Her success speaks to the outstanding graduate training offered by the University of Guelph, the School of Environmental Sciences and, especially, her supervisor Dr. Nigel Raine.”  

Working closely with growers, Rondeau examined the role of soil in exposing ground-nesting bees or those that hibernate underground, such as bumblebee queens, to “bee-safe” pesticides. She found that pesticide-contaminated soil and pesticide mixtures can have subtle and unpredictable sublethal effects on wild bees exposed to them.  

Her findings have significant implications for the conservation of these vital agricultural pollinators and will help inform best management practices for promoting healthier bee communities on farms. 

“Many of the foods we eat rely in some way on bee pollination and without pollination we would not have the same diversity in our diet as we do today,” said Rondeau.  

“Understanding the causes and mechanisms responsible for global bee declines and working to mitigate them represent critically important steps to ensure the sustainable future of global food production and plant biodiversity.” 

Rondeau’s doctoral research was supported by an Arrell Food Institute graduate scholarship, a Fonds de recherche du Québec doctoral scholarship and several research grants from private sector foundations, provincial governments and non-profit research foundations. 

Rondeau completed an MSc at Université Laval and both a PhD and a postdoctoral fellowship at the U of G. She is now a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at the University of Ottawa, where she continues to explore the impact of global warming and agricultural practices, such as tillage and pesticide use, on wild ground-nesting bee communities. 

Rondeau and Dr. Célia Romulus of Queen’s University, winner of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences category, will each receive a $1,500 cash prize, a certificate of recognition and an opportunity to attend the 2024 Annual CAGS Conference in Toronto this November.