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Volunteer pollinator monitoring

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  • Alison Parker
    Hello, I m a graduate student studying *Claytonia virginica* (spring beauty) and its oligolectic pollinator, *Andrena erigeniae*. You might remember my post
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 15, 2011
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      Hello,

      I'm a graduate student studying Claytonia virginica (spring beauty) and its oligolectic pollinator, Andrena erigeniae. You might remember my post last year asking about good locations for fieldwork - thanks for all of the helpful responses!

      I am very interested in how Claytonia's pollinator communities vary throughout its range, and implications for those variations on plant reproduction. In my fieldwork last year, I observed some very interesting differences between populations - some populations seem to have very heavy visitation by the oligolectic Andrena, while others seem to have minimal visitation by the Andrena and are much more heavily visited by bombyliid flies. If these differences can be attributed to geography or some sort of habitat characteristic, that would be a really interesting avenue for my research to take. However, I have very little time to explore geographical variations, since the flowering time of Claytonia is so short (~3 weeks in early spring).

      In order to learn more about the pollinator communities that visit Claytonia, I am thinking of beginning a small-scale citizen science operation - advertising for volunteers to do some short observations (an hour or two at the most) of Claytonia plants throughout its range (essentially the eastern half of the US). Several aspects of the Claytonia system make this seem feasible - the visitors I am interested in are relatively easily distinguishable from one another (the main visitors are bombyliid flies and the specialist Andrena), Claytonia is easily found in a variety of different landscapes, and the spring is a lovely time to be observing pollinators. I think the data would be interesting from a diversity and monitoring perspective, as well as helpful for my own research. If the first year is successful, I would hope to continue for a number of years.

      Therefore, I have the following questions/requests:

      1) For those that have attempted similar projects, do you have advice for involving the public in monitoring or data collection projects? Is it reasonable to expect that a non-entomologist might be able to distinguish relatively reliably between a bombyliid fly and a bee? Do you have any advice for recruiting volunteers, training volunteers (presumably from a distance), or organizing data? Do you have any other ideas for obtaining data using volunteers (i.e., using photography or video, collections, etc)?

      2) Do you all know of organizations that might be able to help me advertise for volunteers (for example, by forwarding on an email to people that might be interested)?

      3) Do you all know of anyone (yourselves included!) that might be interested in spending an hour or two observing local pollinators in sunny spring weather?

      Thanks very much for your help!
      Alison Parker



      Alison Parker
      PhD student, Thomson lab
      University of Toronto
      25 Harbord Street
      Toronto, ON M5S 3G5 Canada
      (416) 978-0387
    • Dave Barr
      Hi Alison, Sounds like an interesting project. I have led a team of volunteer citizen scientists in pollinator monitoring at the Evergreen Brick Works last
      Message 2 of 5 , Feb 15, 2011
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        Hi Alison,

        Sounds like an interesting project.

        I have led a team of volunteer citizen scientists in pollinator monitoring at the Evergreen Brick Works last summer, and am just putting together a few of my thoughts on the subject.

        It is my experience, and that of some others I have talked to, that non-entomologist volunteers can indeed be taught to distinguish between flower-visiting insects like bombyliids and bees. Most of the bombyliids should be especially easy because of the characteristic orientation of the wings at rest.

        I would be interested in doing some monitoring for you this Spring, provided it is within say 160 km (100 mi.) from Toronto.

        Best wishes with this work,
        -Dave Barr

      • Doug Yanega
        ... Having written a field guide intended for use by citizen scientists , the nature of any training or ID keys depends in part on how accurate the IDs *need*
        Message 3 of 5 , Feb 15, 2011
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          >1) For those that have attempted similar projects, do you have
          >advice for involving the public in monitoring or data collection
          >projects? Is it reasonable to expect that a non-entomologist might
          >be able to distinguish relatively reliably between a bombyliid fly
          >and a bee? Do you have any advice for recruiting volunteers,
          >training volunteers (presumably from a distance), or organizing
          >data? Do you have any other ideas for obtaining data using
          >volunteers (i.e., using photography or video, collections, etc)?

          Having written a field guide intended for use by "citizen
          scientists", the nature of any training or ID keys depends in part on
          how accurate the IDs *need* to be, and ESPECIALLY to focus on those
          entities which are the most likely to be confused with one another.
          Deciding what you need to teach people, then, for this system,
          requires knowing the answers to the following questions:

          (1) Are there any plants that can be confused with Claytonia? If so,
          what is the minimum diagnostic information needed to be *certain*
          they're observing the right plant?
          (2) Are the only taxa you are gathering data on Andrena versus
          Bombyliidae versus "everything else"? If so, that greatly simplifies
          the teaching task.
          (3) Is there just one species of specialist Andrena involved? If so,
          are there any other bees, or mimetic syrphids (e.g. Blera, etc.*),
          with which that species could be confused? If so, what is the minimum
          diagnostic information needed to be *certain* they're observing the
          right bee?
          (4) Is there just one species of Bombylius involved? If so, are there
          any flies (Bombyliid or otherwise) with which that species could be
          confused? If so, what is the minimum diagnostic information needed to
          be *certain* they're observing the right fly?

          If your goals are modest, accomplishing this much with relatively
          limited teaching is certainly possible.

          *Blera is a syrphid genus which contains several astonishingly good
          Andrena mimics, notable for the very realistic false pollen loads
          that are positioned precisely where Andrena carry pollen. This nice
          page shows three of the most outstanding Andrena mimics:
          http://www.canacoll.org/Diptera/Staff/Skevington/Syrphidae/Blera/Blera2.jpg
          Note especially the photo of B. badia at the top of this page; from
          even a short distance away, it can be very difficult to tell that is
          NOT an Andrena with full corbiculae.

          Peace,
          --

          Doug Yanega Dept. of Entomology Entomology Research Museum
          Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0314 skype: dyanega
          phone: (951) 827-4315 (standard disclaimer: opinions are mine, not UCR's)
          http://cache.ucr.edu/~heraty/yanega.html
          "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
          is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82
        • Jesse Duff-Woodruff
          Alison-- I would be happy to make some observations on the Delmarva this spring. A friend and I did a (rough) undergrad study in the southern Appalachians last
          Message 4 of 5 , Feb 17, 2011
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            Alison-- I would be happy to make some observations on the Delmarva this spring. A friend and I did a (rough) undergrad study in the southern Appalachians last March-April to look at flowering ephemerals and their pollinator relationships; if we get around to doing our side of the followup research (the statistics are in the able hands of Sam Droege) we can share that with you.

            --Jesse Duff-Woodruff

            On Tue, Feb 15, 2011 at 2:11 PM, Alison Parker <alisonjparker@...> wrote:
             

            Hello,

            I'm a graduate student studying Claytonia virginica (spring beauty) and its oligolectic pollinator, Andrena erigeniae. You might remember my post last year asking about good locations for fieldwork - thanks for all of the helpful responses!

            I am very interested in how Claytonia's pollinator communities vary throughout its range, and implications for those variations on plant reproduction. In my fieldwork last year, I observed some very interesting differences between populations - some populations seem to have very heavy visitation by the oligolectic Andrena, while others seem to have minimal visitation by the Andrena and are much more heavily visited by bombyliid flies. If these differences can be attributed to geography or some sort of habitat characteristic, that would be a really interesting avenue for my research to take. However, I have very little time to explore geographical variations, since the flowering time of Claytonia is so short (~3 weeks in early spring).

            In order to learn more about the pollinator communities that visit Claytonia, I am thinking of beginning a small-scale citizen science operation - advertising for volunteers to do some short observations (an hour or two at the most) of Claytonia plants throughout its range (essentially the eastern half of the US). Several aspects of the Claytonia system make this seem feasible - the visitors I am interested in are relatively easily distinguishable from one another (the main visitors are bombyliid flies and the specialist Andrena), Claytonia is easily found in a variety of different landscapes, and the spring is a lovely time to be observing pollinators. I think the data would be interesting from a diversity and monitoring perspective, as well as helpful for my own research. If the first year is successful, I would hope to continue for a number of years.

            Therefore, I have the following questions/requests:

            1) For those that have attempted similar projects, do you have advice for involving the public in monitoring or data collection projects? Is it reasonable to expect that a non-entomologist might be able to distinguish relatively reliably between a bombyliid fly and a bee? Do you have any advice for recruiting volunteers, training volunteers (presumably from a distance), or organizing data? Do you have any other ideas for obtaining data using volunteers (i.e., using photography or video, collections, etc)?

            2) Do you all know of organizations that might be able to help me advertise for volunteers (for example, by forwarding on an email to people that might be interested)?

            3) Do you all know of anyone (yourselves included!) that might be interested in spending an hour or two observing local pollinators in sunny spring weather?

            Thanks very much for your help!
            Alison Parker



            Alison Parker
            PhD student, Thomson lab
            University of Toronto
            25 Harbord Street
            Toronto, ON M5S 3G5 Canada
            (416) 978-0387


          • Rob J
            Alison, Sounds like an interesting project and I too would try to help this spring as I have some spring beauty in my nearby woods and may be able to visit
            Message 5 of 5 , Feb 17, 2011
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              Alison,
              Sounds like an interesting project and I too would try to help this spring as I have some spring beauty in my nearby woods and may be able to visit some of those populations I studied for my masters research. I did want to throw in that several other Andrena species visit Claytonia in Indiana and Illinois at least, although A. erigeniae is often the most common, A. carlini can also be common, as well as a few halictids and even Osmia. In terms of flies Bombylius major is quite common and distinctive but tachinids such as Gonia and Epalpus signifer can also be common.
              Let me know if I can help in any way. I could probably get pictures of all of these fairly readily.
              Talk to you soon,
              Rob Jean



              On Feb 15, 2011, at 1:11 PM, Alison Parker <alisonjparker@...> wrote:

               

              Hello,

              I'm a graduate student studying Claytonia virginica (spring beauty) and its oligolectic pollinator, Andrena erigeniae. You might remember my post last year asking about good locations for fieldwork - thanks for all of the helpful responses!

              I am very interested in how Claytonia's pollinator communities vary throughout its range, and implications for those variations on plant reproduction. In my fieldwork last year, I observed some very interesting differences between populations - some populations seem to have very heavy visitation by the oligolectic Andrena, while others seem to have minimal visitation by the Andrena and are much more heavily visited by bombyliid flies. If these differences can be attributed to geography or some sort of habitat characteristic, that would be a really interesting avenue for my research to take. However, I have very little time to explore geographical variations, since the flowering time of Claytonia is so short (~3 weeks in early spring).

              In order to learn more about the pollinator communities that visit Claytonia, I am thinking of beginning a small-scale citizen science operation - advertising for volunteers to do some short observations (an hour or two at the most) of Claytonia plants throughout its range (essentially the eastern half of the US). Several aspects of the Claytonia system make this seem feasible - the visitors I am interested in are relatively easily distinguishable from one another (the main visitors are bombyliid flies and the specialist Andrena), Claytonia is easily found in a variety of different landscapes, and the spring is a lovely time to be observing pollinators. I think the data would be interesting from a diversity and monitoring perspective, as well as helpful for my own research. If the first year is successful, I would hope to continue for a number of years.

              Therefore, I have the following questions/requests:

              1) For those that have attempted similar projects, do you have advice for involving the public in monitoring or data collection projects? Is it reasonable to expect that a non-entomologist might be able to distinguish relatively reliably between a bombyliid fly and a bee? Do you have any advice for recruiting volunteers, training volunteers (presumably from a distance), or organizing data? Do you have any other ideas for obtaining data using volunteers (i.e., using photography or video, collections, etc)?

              2) Do you all know of organizations that might be able to help me advertise for volunteers (for example, by forwarding on an email to people that might be interested)?

              3) Do you all know of anyone (yourselves included!) that might be interested in spending an hour or two observing local pollinators in sunny spring weather?

              Thanks very much for your help!
              Alison Parker



              Alison Parker
              PhD student, Thomson lab
              University of Toronto
              25 Harbord Street
              Toronto, ON M5S 3G5 Canada
              (416) 978-0387

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