Archive for the ‘Food’ Category
Next week is National Pollinator Week!
Pollinators, like bees, birds, and butterflies, play an important role in all of our lives. They aid in flowering plant reproduction, help ensure the health of national forests and grasslands, and work together with famers and ranchers in the production of fruits and vegetables. National Pollinator Week is a yearly effort to build more awareness about the need to maintain a healthy pollinator population.
Today, we’re highlighting one of the many National Pollinator Week events taking place all over the nation: the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Pollinator-Palooza.
To celebrate National Pollinator Week, the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Sophia M Sachs Butterfly House is connecting people with pollinators in a whole new way. On Father’s Day, families in the Greater St Louis Area and beyond are invited to join games and crafts (designed for kids ages 2-11), observe bee hives, and ask a trained entomologist about pollination or the pollinators themselves.
I had a chance to chat with Laura Chisholm, a program specialist and entomologist at the Sophia M Sachs Butterfly House, about what we can expect at this weekend’s Pollinator Palooza. Laura knows her bugs! She runs the Pollinator-Palooza event and Bug Hunt which occur during the June and July. She also assists with other special events throughout the year, including October Owls and Orchids, March Morpho Mania, Booterflies, and Hot! Hot! Hot!
A new partnership between Microsoft and the European Environmental Agency is combining detailed scientific information on air and water quality with observations made by citizen scientists.
Ever wondered about the air quality in Copenhagen? Or perhaps the water quality in Paris?
Eye on Earth uses Microsoft’s Bing Maps to combine goespatial and environmental data from 22,000 bathing sites and 1,000 air quality monitoring stations throughout Europe. An “air quality model” provides the air pollution situation between air quality monitoring stations.
Citizen scientists can contribute their knowledge by clicking on simple user feedback icons. For each location, the map displays the average yearly value of all ratings submitted by citizen scientists. Users can then overlay the environmental data with their own observations with the click of a mouse.
Think you can spot the difference between and a honey bee and a bumble bee? Well, there’s one day left to test your bee knowledge with the online Bee Challenge, brought to you by the folks at the Great Pollinator Project!
A collaboration between the Greenbelt Native Plant Nursery and the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, the Great Pollinator Project calls upon citizen scientists to help researchers better understand the 200 species of bees that live in New York City by observing and recording data on bees in their urban backyards, community gardens, or rooftops. Why? For one thing, declines in certain bee populations may be affecting food production. Pollination–a primary function of bees–contributes to one-third of our food (fruits and vegetables)!
Looking for a great way to contribute to science while becoming an “A” Bee Student? Why not participate in the Great Pollinator Project?
The major rivers and estuaries along the northeastern coast of the U.S. are preparing for peak spawning season of herring, eels, shad, and other fish.
Aquatic dwellers in the Hudson River, situated between NY and NJ, are fortunate to have the Hudson River Estuary Program and Scenic Hudson organizations looking out for them. Now through June 1, they are teaming with citizen scientists to monitor herring and American eel in Ulster County’s Black Creek Preserve.
Herring volunteers will observe the creek to see if, where, and when spawning runs occur. Those interested in eels will use nets and trap devices to catch juvenile glass eels, which are counted, weighed, and released unharmed. This data may help biologists discover why populations of these important fish are declining.
And if it’s spawning season, it’s time to celebrate the American shad, embarking on their long return from the ocean to the river where they will spawn at their own birthplace. For the Lenape Indians, the annual shad run delivered hundreds of thousands of shad–a staple of their diet–into their rivers, symbolizing the start of spring. Today, when shad return to the rivers to spawn, it’s a reflection of the vitality of the water: in the 1970s, polluted waters kept shad away, resulting in a sharp population decline. Rivers are much healthier today but shad numbers remain low, despite valiant restoration efforts. Researchers are turning to citizen scientists to help and we’ll report on those efforts here, shortly.
In the interim, this mighty fish is being celebrated and digested at annual Shad Fests! Philadelphia, PA and Lambertville, NJ just honored his remarkable fish at their annual shad festivals. On May 16, Boscobel-Garrison, NJ will play host to the 20th annual Shad Fest . If you’d like to learn more about the shad, here’s a related article I wrote for Discover magazine.
Before I headed to Austin, TX last week for the SXSW music, film, and interactive conference (I helped put together a panel discussion there on the Future of Gaming for Discover Magazine and the National Science Foundation), I Googled “citizen science in Austin” and came upon the Texas Beewatchers. The organizer of this citizen science effort, Kim Bacon, and I had the opportunity to chat about her project which originated as a simple observation effort and now challenges her fellow Texans to plant 52 “bee friendly” gardens in 52 weeks. You can read more about that, here.
Listening to Kim’s enthusiasm and genuine desire to create healthy bee habitats–coupled with news about bee colony collapses and its impact on the $14 billion worth of U.S. crops dependent upon pollinators–opened my eyes to even more recent buzz about bees. Today, in San Francisco (where I am now, meeting with the founders of the Coalition for Public Understanding of Science ), the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting featured some troubling news about bees. Christopher Mullin and his colleagues at Pennsylvania State University report that their research* demonstrates “unprecedented levels” of mite-killing chemicals and crop pesticides found in hives across the United States and parts of Canada. In this Science News article, Mullins adds: “The biological impacts of these materials at their dietary levels on other honey bee larvae or adults remains to be determined.” Some suspect these contaminants play a role in the mysterious colony collapse.
None of this sounds good for the future of honey bees, so this year I’m committing to participate in another Bee citizen science activity: The Great Sunflower Project. Simply plant and nurture sunflower seeds as directed in the ScienceForCitizens.net project description, and watch a bee pollinate roughly every 2.6 minutes! By synthesizing such observations, the organizers of this activity hope to standardize the study of bee activity while providing more resources for bees.
*The 19-page report can be found in the March PLoS ONE.