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The Pollinator Bulletin Board: Public Engagement Projects

From the BeeMonitoring listserv:

From Nancy Lee Adamson, 8 January, 2011:

From Sam Droege, 16 January, 2011:

The recent article on Bumblebees done with the contribution of 8-10 year-olds got me thinking about the role of students and schools in the study of bees. The bumblebee article passed through peer review and I am sure the students got a great introduction to science from the experience, but in the end the scientific contribution is like most research questions...it will be a contribution, cited a few times and then be subsumed in 10-20 years by more advance work and will not be heard of again.

In contrast the less lauded process of inventorying and monitoring bees (or any other natural history group for that matter) is something that retains its value over time and, indeed, increases with age. Information and specimens collected about any bee population anywhere on earth is a permanent contribution and will be cited over and over again until civilization itself disappears (or at least their interest in bees).

To illustrate this point I just want to show you a table of specimens collect by fifth graders at Sidwell Friend's School in Washington D.C. I have worked with this group now for about 8 years and each year they enthusiastically do experiments with my help on various aspects of catching bees in bowls and a general inventory of their grounds. This is incorporated into their classes and their collection of bees is something that gets highlighted to parents when tours are made of the school. I have a learned a lot from them and some of their results contribute to how we use bowl traps these days. They do their own pinning and labeling and I look over the specimens each year and they then enter the data into a spreadsheet and update their collection. It takes only a few hours of my time.

They have captured a nice diversity of 68 species and among those were a good number of new District of Columbia records. Some specimens have been placed in the Smithsonian, others have been sent to researchers (Jason Gibbs used some of their specimens in his revisions of Lasioglossum) and it has given me a good feel for what bees occur in DC urban areas (not to neglect the contributions of several bee people who also trap in their backyards in this region).

Ultimately we will do a little publication of these results and their contribution will be locked into place. In my mind this worked well not because these were special kids, but simply because there was a good partnership and enthusiasm between teachers (Margaret Pennock and Dave Wood) and someone who could ID their bees. The work on my part was not onerous and, in fact, I haven't even visited their school, though I plan to do so this year.

So, here you go, an interesting list of species, and a more replicatable, more valuable, less time consuming model for how to make a contribution to science with bees while working with kids.

P.S. Despite being yeoman technicians we won't be putting their names on the subsequent paper!

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