Undergrad Spotlight: Patrick Hurley

Patrick Hurley is a senior EES with a concentration in Aquatics and Wetlands Ecology, a minor in Sustainable Food Systems, and is in the Honors College. As a Maine Land & Sea Grant University, UMaine provides students with numerous research opportunities and experiences, and many students find their passion and drive through these avenues. For Hurley, he discovered his passion while participating in research about bees. This summer, he was awarded the Sweet Spot Fellowship through the Sustainable Food Systems Research Collaborative (SFSRC). The Sweet Spot Fellowship is an interdisciplinary team of social and natural scientists focused on examining the challenges and opportunities of both maple syrup production and beekeeping in Maine.

Hurley will focus his honors thesis on varroa mites, a pest that specifically attacks honeybees, and the various treatments beekeepers use on their hives in Maine. Lincoln Sennett, the head beekeeper and owner of Swan’s Honey, has agreed to collaborate on the project to test different organic acid treatment methods on his hives. Organic acid treatments are one way that scientists may help save honeybees from varroa mites.

One important lesson that Hurley has learned while participating in research is to be flexible. He says, “Not everything works out exactly as planned in the field and it’s important to be able to adapt on the spot, even if it means changing methods or staying calm through a swarm of (very) angry bees.” As Hurley continues to work on his thesis, he plans to reach out to bee clubs across Maine to spread the word about his honeybee research and create focus groups.  In the long term, he hopes to contribute to preserving honeybees, which are currently facing declining populations.

Hurley states that he would not be able to pursue and continue his research on bees if it weren’t for his university experiences through the Honors College and the EES program. UMaine has taught him to have an open mind about different aspects of learning, especially when conducting research. He also says that UMaine has allowed him to pursue his own interests in research, which has made his education more enjoyable.

In the future, Hurley hopes to work with honeybees in a commercial beekeeping business or maintain a few of his own hives. Graduate school is among his goals, as he hopes to earn an advanced degree in entomology.