Dear Citizen Scientists... Yeah, That Means You!
“We are all in it together.”
Ready for a new summer hobby? How about one that will have a positive impact on the earth, humanity and… BEES?
Sounds like a serious undertaking, but it’s not. In fact, it can be fun and help make us all feel empowered by being part of the solution to the declining bee populations, instead of being frustrated and feeling as helpless as the bees.
I’m talking about stepping into the Citizen Science arena, particularly as it relates to bumble bees.
What is Citizen Science?
It refers to the collaboration between everyday citizens like you and me with professional scientists, for the purpose of gathering and collecting data that they can analyze. Since it involves people all around the area scientists are interested in, it gives access to a broad set of information about the natural world, and hopefully helps the scientists arrive at some bee-happy insights.
One of the leading organizations in this field of discovery is The Xerces Society. They make it easy for you and me to get involved in local research all over North America to help save pollinators, with a huge focus on helping to save the bees.
The general public can participate in several programs listed on their website. Let's focus on the imperiled bumble bee with their Bumble Bee Watch -- a particularly exciting project. We are sharing this today because it is an easy and fun way we can all make a difference and feel interconnected.
They have a bumble bee page so you can decide how you want to get involved depending on your lifestyle, location and the amount of time you can devote to a project.
This is a North American project, hosted by The Xerces Society, Wildlife Preservation Canada, the University of Ottawa, the Montreal Insectarium, the Natural History Museum of London, BeeSpotter, and bumble bee experts around the world. Through this project, you can upload your photos, start an inspired virtual bumble bee collection, have experts verify your identifications, and communicate with other citizen scientists. Visit BumbleBeeWatch.org.
There is a DONATE link on most of their pages, and we encourage you to donate directly to them. The reason we are spotlighting them is because they provide us all with a well-run platform where you can become part of the bee movement and help make a difference on the ground.
It can be frustrating to always read and hear about how bees are on the verge of extinction, and to feel helpless when it comes to doing anything about it. This is a great outlet for those who like to take action, and you can track progress directly on the Bumble Bee Watch page.
One of the most beautiful things about the Bumble Bee Watch is everyone can get involved. Whether you are a homeschooling parent who is educating little ones on the importance of bees and looking for some science activities, or a retired senior with plenty of time on your hands, you are interacting with
the bees and each other.
Other Citizen Science projects, depending on your location:
For those in or around New York the Great Pollinator Project website provides a list of projects you can get involved with here.
According to https://cbc.ca Newfoundland and Labrador beekeepers are stepping up the citizen science participation in an effort to learn more about the bumble bee with its Snap A Pic Save A Bee focus on bumble bees. They say it is virtually impossible to get funding for baseline scientific research on bumblebees, so they are trying to stoke interest in getting ordinary citizens mobilized to do the leg work by working with Bumble Bee Watch. They quote the non-profit Xerces Society as stating that 28% of North American bumblebees are threatened with extinction. Researchers at York University in Toronto, Canada are warning that the North American bumblebee is facing imminent extinction from Canada, where it has lived for a very long time, and that it will impact how plants are pollinated.
If you’re in New Zealand this looks like a great place to link in and find out what is going on in the world of bees and bee preservation, especially if you are a student, but for general citizen science projects in New Zealand this may be a better place to look.
Scientific American magazine recently wrote an article about the best APPS for citizen scientists, although not all these apps are suited to bee research. Still it is interesting to see what is available.
For those who are looking for a new hobby or just want to spend some time enjoying fresh air and the outdoors, you can now be useful to our treasured little bees at the same time, so please consider becoming a Citizen Scientist.
Wherever you are in this world, please share what sorts of Citizen Science projects are available in your area. We want to hear what you are up to!