Anne Leonard

Associate Biology Department Chair, Associate Professor
Headshot of Anne Leonard


Anne Leonard has been a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Nevada, Reno since 2012. Originally from Berkeley, California, she began her study of animal behavior while an undergraduate at Brown University. After receiving her Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, she received an NIH PERT postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Arizona and the Darwin Fellowship to study bee and spider behavior at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In addition to authoring numerous articles in scientific journals, Leonard’s research on interactions between bees and flowers has received coverage in The New York Times, NPR’s “Morning Edition”, Science News and Supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the USDA, her lab group asks basic questions about interactions between plants and pollinators and seeks out opportunities to share their research with the public.

Research interests

We study plant-pollinator interactions from nutritional and cognitive perspectives. We are interested in understanding how bees evaluate, learn about, and remember flowers. Likewise, we are interested in how the nutritional value of the nectar and pollen plants offer bees structures interactions with pollinators and co-flowering members of plant communities. An interest in understanding how human activities can perturb these interactions drives a parallel line of research, on how sublethal exposure to pesticides can affect bee behavior, sensory systems, and health. We address these questions using a combination of lab-based and field studies, often on bumblebees, at Sierra Nevada and Great Basin field sites.


  • Darwin Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2011-2012
  • PERT Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Arizona, 2008-2011
  • Ph.D., Animal Behavior, University of California, Davis, 2008
  • M.S., Animal Behavior, University of California, Davis, 2004
  • B.A., Biology, Brown University, 2001

Postdoctoral experience

  • Darwin Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2011-2012
  • PERT Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Arizona, 2008-2011


A complete list of publications can be found on Dr. Leonard's website: Leonard Lab publications

Select publications

  • Francis, J. S., Acevedo, C. R., Muth, F., & Leonard, A. S. (2019). Nectar quality changes the ecological costs of chemically defended pollen. Current Biology, 29(14), R679-R680.
  • Muth, F., & Leonard, A. S. (2019). A neonicotinoid pesticide impairs foraging, but not learning, in free-flying bumblebees. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-13.
  • Muth, F., Francis, J. S., & Leonard, A. S. (2016). Bees use the taste of pollen to determine which flowers to visit. Biology Letters, 12(7), 20160356.

Courses taught

  • BIOL 418 Sensory Systems: Ecology, Evolution and Diversity
  • BIOL 125h How Science Works
  • EECB 790 Biocareers Graduate Seminar (topics vary)

Dr. Leonard in the news

Learn more about Dr. Leonard in these articles where she and her research are featured.

Bees Rank Pollen by Taste—Scientific American
Bee on flower.
Unraveling the Pollinating Secrets of a Bee’s Buzz—The New York Times
Bee on yellow flower.
The Secret Buzz Only Bumblebees Know To Unlock Our Favorite Crops—NPR
Close up of bee leg with pollen on it.
Talking Bees, Bugs and Breaking Down Stereotypes—Discover Science Podcast
Woman holding bee inside a clear container

As bee populations decline, study aims to understand plant and pollinator interactions

In 2019, Anne Leonard received a $579,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund three years of her research on bumblebees and their reaction with Nevada state wildflowers.

Bees contribute at least $15 billion annually to pollination of agricultural crops, and their visits to wildflowers provide the foundation for many native plant communities. Despite their economic and ecological importance, surprisingly little is known about how bees evaluate the composition of the nectar (their source of carbohydrates) and pollen (their source of protein and fat) they collect from flowers.

Anne Leonard receives the 2020 Regents’ Academic Advisor Award

“Our ‘Honor the Best’ honorees represent the very best work, service and achievement that we have at our University,” President Marc Johnson said. “I wish to congratulate each and every one of them."