Nationwide study on bees seeks citizen scientists
San Francisco State University biology faculty conducts unprecedented research
SAN FRANCISCO, March 13, 2008 -- San Francisco State University Associate Professor of Biology Gretchen LeBuhn is soliciting the help of thousands of citizen scientists across the country to collect scientific data on the health of pollinating bees. The Great Sunflower Project is the first coast-to-coast study on bee pollination. The resulting data will be stored and analyzed at San Francisco State University.
"Our project is going to use information collected by the general public to produce the first real map of the state of bees in the continental United States," LeBuhn said. "We'll do this by giving out sunflower seeds to as many people as we can and having them keep records of the numbers and kinds of bees attracted to their sunflowers." The commitment of time is no more than 30 minutes, twice a month.
LeBuhn wants to involve citizen scientists of all ages who live in a variety of urban, suburban and rural environments from Alaska to Florida. She urges gardening clubs, civic groups, nature museums, universities and public school classrooms to get involved. SF State biologists will observe sunflowers planted on campus.
"We need to know where bees are pollinating well and how parks, gardens, natural areas and all sorts of habitats affect our bees," LeBuhn said. "It will be interesting to see what and how environmental factors may affect native bee populations."
Everyone who signs up for the project will receive a kit containing data forms for reporting the bees seen, a guide to gardening for pollinators, educational materials about bee species and a packet of sunflower seeds. Kits in English, Spanish and Mandarin are available at the project Web site http://www.greatsunflower.org/ or by calling (415) 847-1716.
Ten thousand kits are ready to send out to participants in time for the plants to flower by National Pollinators Week, June 23 to 28. Initial funding for the Great Sunflower Project was provided with a $4,000 grant from SF State. LeBuhn is seeking more funding for additional kits.
"Having healthy pollinators is important for both natural systems and our food supply," LeBuhn said. "We can thank bees for every third bite of food we take."
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