Pacific Centre for Isotopic and Geochemical Research
Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences,
The University of British Columbia

BeeHIVE Research Excellence Cluster launches new YouTube channel!

The BeeHIVE Research Excellence Cluster, headed by PI Dominique Weis, has launched a YouTube channel that showcases the cluster’s research activities and members.

In 3 new videos, you can learn about how the BeeHIVE cluster came to be, how honey can be used to monitor pollution in cities, best management practices for pollinators and crops, bee pests and parasites, and authenticating real versus fake honeys. In Part 1, Dominique and doctoral candidate Kate Smith discuss their honey biomonitoring research, which was undertaken at PCIGR.

BeeHIVE’s mission is to improve the health of honey bees and other pollinators, and in turn improve the environment and communities in which both people and pollinators live. For more information about BeeHIVE and what they do, visit their website at

The Research Excellence Cluster initiative was spearheaded by UBC’s Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation (VPRI), and brings together researchers from diverse backgrounds to work toward solving key challenges facing society.

BeeHIVE YouTube screenshot

PCIGR Research Featured at Goldschmidt Conference

A group from PCIGR attended the 2019 Goldschmidt Conference, held in Barcelona, Spain from August 18-23. Team members presented their research on Hawaiian lavas and the origin of enriched Hawaiian mantle signatures, the future of active learning and teaching in geochemistry, the efficacy of honey as an urban biomonitor for heavy metal distribution, and the use of isotopic analyses of salmon to assess lead sources in the ocean. PCIGR’s work on honeybees and salmon was chosen from among ~4000 submissions to be featured as a conference press release. Congratulations, team!

Canada’s Minister of Science and Sport Visits PCIGR

On June 14, 2019, PCIGR had the pleasure of hosting the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Canadian Minister of Science, Sports and Persons with Disabilities, accompanied by Dr. Gail Murphy, UBC Vice-President Research and Innovation.

PCIGR’s team of research staff and graduate students had the opportunity to introduce themselves and describe their research. The Minister asked many questions and was very excited about the diverse and wide-ranging research being carried out at PCIGR. Professors Juli Carillo (Land and Food Systems) and Camilla Speller (Anthropology) also joined us to discuss their work and collaboration with PCIGR through UBC’s Research Excellence Clusters.

The Minister’s visit was a very stimulating experience and a great opportunity to showcase PCIGR and the exciting research we are doing. Thank you to the Minister and to everyone who joined us!

Front row (left to right): Kathy Gordon, Kirsty Duncan, Dominique Weis, Gail Murphy, Evelyn Frères, Juli Carillo, Miling Li, Dave Daquioag; Back row: Rhy McMillan, Nicole Williamson, Kate Smith, Vivian Lai, Camilla Speller, Marg Amini (photo credit: James Scoates)
Front row (left to right): Kathy Gordon, Kirsty Duncan, Dominique Weis, Gail Murphy, Evelyn Frères, Juli Carillo, Miling Li, Dave Daquioag; Back row: Rhy McMillan, Nicole Williamson, Kate Smith, Vivian Lai, Camilla Speller, Marg Amini (photo credit: James Scoates)

Honey bees can help monitor pollution in cities: PCIGR work published in Nature Sustainability

In a study published today in Nature Sustainability, researchers from PCIGR analyzed honey from urban beehives in six Metro Vancouver neighbourhoods.  Since honey bees typically forage for pollen and nectar within a two- to three-kilometre radius of their hives, honey can provide a localized geochemical “snapshot” of the local environment.

Photo credit: K. Smith
Photo credit: K. Smith

They found that the honey in Vancouver is extremely clean, well below the worldwide average for heavy metals like lead.  In fact, an adult would have to consume more than 600 grams, or two cups, of honey every day to exceed tolerable levels.

However, the researchers found that the concentration of elements increased towards the downtown core, where hives are located near areas with heavy traffic, higher urban density and industrial activity such as shipping ports.  In other places like Delta, the honey showed elevated levels of manganese, which could be related to agricultural activity and pesticide use in the area.

PCIGR researchers also compared the lead isotopic compositions of the honey to those from other local environmental samples like lichen from around BC, rock from the Garibaldi volcanic belt, sediment from the Fraser River and trees in Stanley Park.  They discovered that the lead “fingerprints” of the honey did not match any local, naturally-occurring lead.  Rather, the honey from downtown and trees in Stanley Park displayed some striking similarities that pointed to potential manmade sources of lead.

The study reports four years of high-quality, consistent data that serves as a present-day baseline, allowing researchers to monitor small changes in Metro Vancouver’s environment as the city grows and evolves.  The PCIGR team will continue to study how honey analysis complements more traditional air and soil sampling techniques and test the efficiency of honey as an environmental biomonitor in other cities around the world.

The research was carried out in partnership with Hives for Humanity, a local non-profit organization that creates opportunities for people in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to engage in urban beekeeping.

Nature Sustainability article: view-only version

UBC Press Release: