Collaborative list of all the science writing and public communication pieces I’ve done in 2020 so far (updated regularly to include new publications):

2020 Completed Pieces


Invasive species introductions can cause widespread loss of biodiversity and competition for native communities — so how do scientists stop the spread?

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A Kudzu blossom; Kudzo is an extremely successful invasive plant native to southeastern Asia, covering thousands of acres in the United States. Photo by Vicki DeLoach.

In southeastern Asia, a climbing vine in the pea family coils and trails its way across the landscape. The plant flourishes in wet environments, sprouting beautiful explosions of flowers, with deep scarlet centers and faded purple outer petals, attracting thousands of insects each year. …


Discovery of the Giant Asian Hornet in Washington State only highlights existing issues with the pollination system in the United States.

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Giant Asian Hornets have been identified for the first time in the US — but don’t believe the hype yet. Photo source: t-mizo on Flickr.com.

Yesterday I woke up to 3 text messages, 2 emails, 6 Instagram messages, and 4 Twitter mentions. The topic of all of these notifications? Giant Asian Hornets. While I did my best to reassure my friends and family, and remind them that I don’t study those bees — it seems there’s a lot of misinformation out there about the real threat to our honey bees.

Spoiler: it’s not the Giant Asian Hornet.

Monocultures put pressure on a single species

In the United States, we rely on…


People worldwide have voiced concern about wildlife during the COVID-19 quarantines. But will the shut down affect our favorite pollinators?

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Mount Rainier flowering alpine meadow — photo by liquidcrash on Flickr.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused stress — both personal and financial — across the globe. Governors in Washington, New York, and a number of other states have made shelter-in-place a requirement for a majority of the population. While humans are trapped indoors, animals and insects are still active and thriving. But how are pollinators like bees affected by a lack of humans on the landscape?

As a research scientist who studies pollinators in an urban setting, I was initially more…


With the University of Washington shutting down and fear of the virus growing, graduate students face a unique and frightening situation.

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The University of Washington cherry blossoms are expected to bloom at the end of March, and usually draws thousands of local, national, and international visitors. It’s unclear how severely visitation will be impacted by fears of COVID-19. Image source: GoToVan @ Flickr.com.

A few weeks ago, it was business as usual. I was responsible for teaching a laboratory section to students in my statistics course, while working on my own dissertation research. I was still tutoring undergraduate athletes in my off time, going to bars with my partner in the evenings, and planning a field season for my spring research. …


Introducing my PhD project to the outside world.

We talk a lot about ‘elevator pitches’ in science communication workshops. An elevator pitch is a short, under 3-minute description of what you do and why it matters. A good elevator pitch is clear, concise, completely without jargon, and understandable to both a Nobel Laureate and your favorite bartender. I want to practice writing to the general public about my work, and share what makes my research so exciting! I hope you enjoy learning more about my PhD project.

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Flowers contain much more than beautiful views; they also hold the key to their identification in the pollen they offer for bees. Source: personal photo.

Scientists usually have an interesting, highly-complicated technique or tool that they use to…


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These tiny, colourful bees make great pollinators — and they love the taste of human sweat.

I spend a lot of time convincing people that there are other types of bees besides honey bees and bumble bees. In fact, there are thousands of different types of bees in the world, some of them so unique and beautiful that I can’t believe they’re not as famous as the classic honey bee.

As a researcher, I’ve worked with big bees, medium-sized bees, and extremely tiny bees. I’ve run into yellow bees, blue bees, green bees, red bees, and multi-coloured iridescent bees. Bees that look like wasps, bees that look like flies, bees that look like nothing you’ve ever…


Introducing my PhD project to the outside world.

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We talk a lot about ‘elevator pitches’ in science communication workshops. An elevator pitch is a short, under 3-minute description of what you do and why it matters. A good elevator pitch is clear, concise, completely without jargon, and understandable to both a Nobel Laureate and your favorite bartender. I’m calling this series “My Elevator Pitch for Native Bee Science,” because I plan to break down my research project into bite-sized pieces. I want to both practice writing to the general public about my work, and share what makes my research so…


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Why solitary bee awareness should be the new ‘it’ item on everyone’s holiday wishlist.

Once upon a time, the only bee I could identify was a honey bee — and not all that well. (Have you seen how fast a bee can fly?). I knew researchers who could drop the scientific name of a bee after just a glance; meanwhile the best I could do was to try not to assume every bee was a honey bee.

I am a researcher, working on native solitary bee foraging behaviour and health. …


Constant failure in graduate school taught me about scientific research — and myself.

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Photo by Ian Kim on Unsplash

I like to think my scientific career began with my first research project. I was in northern Minnesota, bushwhacking through miles of brush and side-stepping knee-deep puddles to reach an old-growth red pine forest I had only ever seen on a map. I finally reached the plot, where a seemingly unending stretch of burnt-orange pine trees filled my view, and got to work taking samples of fungi at the base of each tree. I spent six hours in the plot collecting hundreds of samples to later plate…

lila westreich

PhD candidate in the UW School of Environment and Forest Sciences; I study PNW native bees via genetic analysis. Breaking down big ideas in science.

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