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News Release


Great Sunflower Project seeks 100,000 gardeners

First coast-to-coast study on bee pollination enters second year of data collection


SAN FRANCISCO, January 5, 2009 -- The Great Sunflower Project, an unprecedented study on bee pollination in Canada and the U.S., is looking for thousands of citizen scientists for its second year of data collection. Last year, 1,200 volunteers across the United States and Canada planted sunflowers and recorded the bee species and frequency of visits. This year, project organizers hope to involve 100,000 volunteers. Resulting data, which will be stored at San Francisco State University, will be used to analyze the health of bee populations in North America.

"So far, 45,000 people have signed up for 2009," said Gretchen LeBuhn, associate professor of biology at SF State and director of the project. "The more participants we have, the more detailed our data will be." The project is the first coast-to-coast study on bee populations. Data collection in 2008 involved public school classes, gardening clubs, civic groups, nature museums and gardeners from cities, rural areas and suburbs who planted a total of 25,000 sunflowers. Of 4,000 total bee sightings reported, 60 percent were honeybees and 30 percent bumblebees.

"We want to find out which populations are thriving and which are not," LeBuhn said.  "It would be very helpful to know what environmental factors may affect native bee populations."

The project welcomes two new partners this year.  Discover Life, an online shared data site, will enable participants to submit photos of the bees and their sunflowers to create online digital vouchers and contribute to an online collection of images as well as the project's database. A partnership with the National Phenology Network will help the researchers determine whether climate and environmental changes lead to disruptions of plant pollination.

Everyone who signs up for the project will receive a free kit containing data forms, a guide to gardening for pollinators, educational materials about bee species and a packet of sunflower seeds. The kits can be obtained through the Great Sunflower Project Web site http://www.greatsunflower.org/ or by calling (415) 405-2409.


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