We’re buzzing with excitement! The Bee Conservancy (TBC) is thrilled to announce the recipients of TBC’s scholarship to eCornell’s Master Beekeeping Certificate Program. The scholarship for this 15-month program for mid-level beekeepers was made possible through a donation by Texas Roadhouse.
We believe that building beekeeping skillsets helps to ensure the health of colonies and local ecosystems and advances community-engagement opportunities that inspire new generations of bee stewards. This year’s TBC scholarship recipients were selected for the amazing work they are doing to leverage beekeeping to actively advance environmental stewardship, community resilience, and food justice. With this award, these mid-level beekeepers will gain the skills and knowledge they need to maintain healthy and productive colonies, improve the production of bee products, pursue business opportunities in the beekeeping industry, and build their teaching skills.
Camille Kalama’s interest in beekeeping started when her elementary school teacher, a beekeeper, showed Camille’s classroom a honeycomb. The complex, beautiful structure opened her eyes to the fascinating world of bees. Over the next several years, her passion for protecting these pollinators and the environment blossomed under the work of a mentor who taught her how to house and care for bees.
“[Since then],I have gone on to join Bee Hui — a volunteer group with the University of Hawaii’s Urban Garden Center — whose mission is to educate the public about the importance of pollinators,” says Camille. After 15 years working as a lawyer focused on Hawaiian land and water rights issues, she now runs Koʻihonua: a nonprofit that includes a land restoration site, Hawaiian carving revitalization program, and training program in community advocacy.
Camille believes the Master Beekeeping Certificate Program at Cornell will fuel her goal to create an educational youth program centered around the several colonies that sit on the Koʻihonua’s 4-acre land base Hanakehau. “This year, I will be taking on a college student intern to learn beekeeping with me so I can host a program for youth interested in bees and beekeeping,” says Camille. “It will also support my role as lead inspector with the Bee Hui at the Urban Garden Center.”
And, she says, her development as a beekeeper is key to her advocacy for environmental restoration and justice in her agricultural community, which sits near a Superfund site in Pearl Harbor. “The success of the bees in this area is an important part of the story [and] the fact that this area once supported abundant food production and still can if we work to protect and restore it.
Learn more about Camille’s work by visiting the Koʻihonua website.
EdMiles Harvey, Arizona
It wasn’t until EdMiles noticed native bees flying around an open soda can that he decided to buy a hive body and nucleus from a local farmers association. “I began duplicating the hive body and crafted my own bee boxes from scratch,” he says. “In total, I crafted 12 hives and settled them in random locations. Although I didn’t capture any native bees, I did see curious bees check out the newly placed hives.”
His interest — and knowledge — of the pollinators grew as he built more hive bodies and monitored feral colonies’ health and honey production. A member of the Navajo community in Salina Springs, Arizona, EdMiles’ enthusiasm for beekeeping aligns with his work as a program and project specialist with the Department of Agriculture. There, he identifies and mitigates the effects of drought on Navajo Nation Tribe farming and rangeland communities.
In addition to becoming a commercial beekeeper, EdMiles wants to develop a local bee business, Salinas Sweet Bees, that makes his community a destination for bee and honey production. The Master Beekeeping Certificate Program, he believes, will help him reach that milestone.
EdMiles’ development as a beekeeper for this tribe also ties into his efforts to improve the availability of vegetation for livestock owners during extreme drought conditions. “I’ve always understood bees’ exponential relationship to the land,” he says. “I am highly confident in the bees’ capabilities to stimulate land resiliency and highly motivated to progress in apiary education, allowing me to optimize the health of all colonies.”
Learn more about EdMiles by visiting the Salinas Sweet Bees website.
Megan Ryan, Indiana
Sheer curiosity prompted Megan Ryan to learn how to care for honeybees; initially, she combed through online research, watched videos and documentaries, and even read how-to-books on maintaining hives. Her hobby flourished once she got hands-on under a year-long mentorship at her local beekeeping association and with participation in field days with local- and state-level beekeeping organizations and conferences.
“A fun fact that I like to share is that some of my beekeeping equipment is from one of the largest commercial beekeeping organizations in the state,” she says. “They gifted me with a smoker, hive tool, and some other supplies, [so] I guess they must have liked me!”
That insatiable curiosity drove Megan to cofound Southwest Honey Co., which helps protect and conserve the bee population in Fort Wayne, Indiana through community events, programs, and classes for K-12 children and adults. Southwest Honey’s science-based curriculum is an interactive learning experience that explores topics ranging from the intricacies of beehives and bee communication to conservation minded thinking and living. Megan hopes to continue their partnerships with organic farms and conservation and beekeeping organizations, as well as advance projects such as the handmade cedar hives they created with their local Scout Troops.
eCornell’s Master Beekeeping Certificate, she believes, will also better prepare her as a mentor for future beekeepers and advocate for pollinators and local food communities. “As an educator, I adamantly believe that we are never done learning,” says Megan. “The deeper I can help people connect to the food they eat, where it comes from, and how the tiny pollinators are essential to our food security, the more that I can make positive changes in the realm of food justice and help facilitate community conversations around this topic.”
Learn more about Megan by visiting the Southwest Honey website.
Sarah Taylor, Connecticut
In 2016, Sarah Taylor was first introduced to beekeeping while seeking local beeswax suppliers who engaged in sustainable and ethical operations. “At [the] time, I intended to develop a social enterprise that employed youth aging out of foster care and made/marketed hand-made candles made from local beeswax,” she says.
Within a year, Sarah built her first two beehives, working under the mentorship of local Connecticut beekeeper Ted Jones of Jones Apiaries and master beekeeper Bill Hesbach. A former clinical social worker with experience in trauma-focused child and family therapy, Sarah is now executive director at Huneebee Project and partners with local nonprofits to promote healthy, equity, and justice, oversee urban community gardens and farm stands, and support community training and education.
Sarah views the Master Beekeeping Certificate Program as key to her growth and impact as a beekeeper. “[The program] will allow for me to teach and model reputable, responsible beekeeping practices to Huneebee Project involved youth and to increase the number of community members who have access to free, Huneebee-hosted community-based workshops on beekeeping and environmental conservation,” says Sarah.
Furthermore, Sarah aims to bring more young people from underrepresented minority groups into a field that has been predominantly white and male. “I hope that my development as a beekeeper, participation in beekeeping associations, and success in attaining a Master Beekeeping certificate will inspire our youth beekeepers who hold marginalized identities. Because it is our goal that, in time, Huneebee youth, alongside leadership staff, will change the face of beekeeping.”
Learn more about Sarah by visiting the Huneebee website.
Scott Dorbin, Florida
When not working as a honeybee scientist and assistant professor of biology at Eckerd College, Scott Dorbin has maintained honeybee colonies in North Carolina, Maine, and now Florida — a passion he’s pursued for the past 15 years.
“I began keeping bees in 2006 as a graduate student in a honey bee research lab” he says. “I took a day-long workshop run by the community beekeeping group and worked closely for several seasons with our full-time beekeeper as well as the postdoc in the lab, both of whom had over a decade of experience.” Today, he engages in community outreach and public speaking about honey bee biology and the importance of pollinators to healthy ecosystems.
Throughout his career, Scott has merged his love of neuroscience with beekeeping, establishing a research apiary and collaborating with local beekeepers to improve honey production and colony health. At Eckerd College in Florida, he currently leads a group of undergraduate students on the behavioral and neuroanatomical brain changes in honey bees due to long-term, low exposure to pesticides.
Becoming a master beekeeper is critical to Scott’s work, and he’s excited about learning new chemical-free approaches to maintaining his colony, conducting better research experiments, and broadening his outreach efforts. “I am ‘the bee guy’ at Eckerd College — a badge I wear proudly,” says Scott. “Broadening my knowledge to becoming a true master beekeeper, and not a scientist who knows a lot about bee brains, will allow me to become the expert that my title infers and have the knowledge to back it up.”
Steve “Mac” McNair, Illinois
After attending a master beekeeper seminar with his wife at a local junior college, Steve “Mac” McNair became hooked on beekeeping. In 2012, he created an apiary called Salem4youth that teaches at-risk boys about pollinators’ importance to the environment and how to cut and harvest honey. The nonprofit also sells its local raw honey to help fund the program.
“Initially the boys are afraid of bees” he says. “Once I convince them to don a bee suit and introduce them to beekeeping, they are hooked!” Outside of Salem4youth, Mac is heavily involved in the Central Illinois Beekeepers Association and is a frequent speaker and mentor in the local community.
Since his entry into beekeeping nearly a decade ago, earning a master beekeeper certification has always been Mac’s goal. Among the many milestones he hopes to accomplish with his eCornell certificate are modeling the Salem4youth program for similar youth initiatives and developing a queen rearing program for the nonprofit’s apiary. That includes becoming a better steward of bees, spreading honey bee awareness, and promoting food justice for underserved youth.
“How I ‘amplify environmental, community and food justice’ is a pretty tall order,” he says. “I can do that by continuing to develop my skill set related to beekeeping; I can be that pebble dropped into the pond who’s ripples emanate out.”
Learn more about Steve by visiting salem4youth.com.