MSU hires new farm manager for Pollinator Performance Center
Dan Wyns will take over daily operations at the newly renovated center dedicated to pollinator research, education and outreach.
East Lansing, Mich. — Michigan State University has hired a new farm manager for its Pollinator Performance Center, a recently developed on-campus station dedicated to pollinator research, education and outreach.
The center, which is located on the south side of campus off College Road, originates from a partnership among the Department of Entomology, MSU AgBioResearch and MSU Extension. It joins a cohort of several on-campus research facilities, as well as 15 off-campus facilities, that MSU AgBioResearch supports through funding and operational assistance.
Since renovation began in 2021 on the former MSU farm building used for indoor animal air quality research, Wyns has been involved in the process of converting the space to accommodate honey bees and allow for meaningful pollinator-related experiments and teaching opportunities to occur. His efforts included coordinating with contractors to identify building needs for a modern honey house and honey extraction facility, while simultaneously carrying out his duty to provide graduate students and industry partners with mentorship and expertise in beekeeping practices.
In addition to his academic role at MSU, Wyns also served as a field specialist for the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving honey bee health through data-driven research. This work took him to over 40 commercial honey bee enterprises across the U.S. to assist with field operations, inspecting honey bee colonies for disease and imparting beekeepers with ways to evaluate and improve colony management practices.
Through his latest experiences, Wyns said he’s ready to collaborate with colleagues and partners to promote the center’s mission of advancing studies into honey bees and other pollinators. He said officially being a part of MSU’s campus farms will guarantee the proper capacity to care for honey bees, which in turn will safeguard them for novel research, instructional and outreach endeavors.
“I’m really pleased with the center’s transition toward becoming a university farm,” Wyns said. “It brings honey bees in line with other livestock. Honey bees are managed animals — they’re semi-domesticated. There’s a whole industry based around their care and management, and the beekeepers that look after them support many other agricultural producers by providing pollination services.
“We’re in a great place now that we have an operational structure where a dedicated farm manager and staff care for the honey bees and look after the facility.”
Wyns’ first objective as farm manager is to ensure that the facility remains a safe and enjoyable place for faculty, staff and students to work. Eventually, he said he’d like to add more honey bee colonies to the farm and develop a potential breeding program so researchers can have a larger pool of bees to work with.
“With the greater university mission, we want to support research and outreach activities that support our stakeholders,” Wyns said. “We have a nice facility where we can host field days and host groups of beekeepers for instructional activities using our on-site hives.”
James Averill, who oversees the on- and off-campus research facilities as assistant director for MSU AgBioResearch, said Wyns’ prowess at managing honey bees and coordinating fieldwork will position the center for success.
“We’re excited to have Dan as the farm manager for the Pollinator Performance Center,” Averill said. “He’s a proven expert in the industry, and the experience he’s had at MSU — along with the valuable relationships he’s built inside and outside the university — are critical to maintain MSU’s status as a premier pollinator research hub.”
Wyns graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in natural resource management and a graduate certificate in spatial data analysis.
Prior to joining MSU in 2017, he held several positions outside the U.S. as a beekeeper, apiary inspector and operator at pollination service providers in New Zealand and Canada. He returned to the U.S. in 2014 as a faculty research assistant in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University, where he began his association with BIP.
In 2019, he launched and became co-owner of Beehavior Ranch, a small-scale beekeeping operation based in Williamston, Michigan, that he and his wife still run today. Though he noted that taking care of honey bees as a business has different priorities from keeping them for research and educational purposes, he said there are similarities between the models that will help him in his new role.
“Having our own colonies to manage keeps us tapped into what’s actually happening on the ground, and it also gives us the ability to try different things and gain firsthand experience into what works and what doesn’t,” Wyns said. “It also helps motivate us to be well-read and up-to-speed on industry trends so we can pair them with direct observations to support our colony management decisions.”
Michigan State University AgBioResearch scientists discover dynamic solutions for food systems and the environment. More than 300 MSU faculty conduct leading-edge research on a variety of topics, from health and climate to agriculture and natural resources. Originally formed in 1888 as the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, MSU AgBioResearch oversees numerous on-campus research facilities, as well as 15 outlying centers throughout Michigan. To learn more, visit agbioresearch.msu.edu.