Pollinator Watch

 

 

 

Join Us and Help to Reduce Global Pollinator Decline!

Recent studies have found insect populations to be declining globally at rapid and alarming rates, likely impacting the many vital ecological services they provide. Pollinator decline, in particular, is a massive concern because of the potential impacts it will have on food production, human health, and ecosystem functioning, including the capacity of plants to provide essential services such as sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.

The goal of Global Pollinator Watch, a home-based citizen science program, is to arm members of the public with the training and resources they need to collect data that will help us to better understand pollinator presence and abundance in regions around the world. These data will help us to track the critical timing of pollinator activity and the host plants that they rely upon for part of their life cycles, and ultimately, to help reduce pollinator decline.

 

 

Research Background

There are a number of drivers for pollinator decline, including habitat loss, overuse of pesticides and herbicides, regional declines in air and water quality, and, of course, a changing climate. But our knowledge about the decline in pollinators is limited to a few studies, in a few places, in a few different habitats. It is also limited to only a subset of species. We are prioritizing observations of four orders of insects: butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera), bees, wasps, ants and sawflies (Hymenoptera), flies (Diptera) and beetles (Coleoptera). Only four orders of insects, you ask? Collectively, these four orders represent over half of the described species of animals on earth.There are a number of drivers for pollinator decline, including habitat loss, overuse of pesticides and herbicides, regional declines in air and water quality, and, of course, a changing climate. But our knowledge about the decline in pollinators is limited to a few studies, in a few places, in a few different habitats. It is also limited to only a subset of species. We are prioritizing observations of four orders of insects: butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera), bees, wasps, ants and sawflies (Hymenoptera), flies (Diptera) and beetles (Coleoptera). Only four orders of insects, you ask? Collectively, these four orders represent over half of the described species of animals on earth. 

To be able to act with greater certainty, managers and scientists need access to more information about which species are being most heavily impacted, which threats need to be mitigated, and which solutions are most effective. To date, much of the existing data has been gathered by citizen scientists working together with researchers. Pollinator monitoring is an area where citizen science can be a really useful approach - as evidenced by the many Earthwatch projects that include insects and pollinators as part of their field research. We are now looking to further catalyse this citizen science effort to generate data useful to pollinator conservation efforts globally—by having people collect this flower visitor and pollinator data in their backyards, in nearby parks or as they travel. 

Data Collection

We are using the online platform iNaturalist to collect observations from citizen scientists (that’s where you come in!), and have created two levels of involvement in the project.

  • Level 1: Set up an account on iNaturalist and join the Global Pollinator Watch project. Any observations you submit of species within any of those four target orders of insects will automatically become associated with the project. Easy beezy.
  • Level 2: Set up an account on iNaturalist and join the project and—as above—those target observations become associated with Global Pollinator Watch. As we are also interested in the interactions with the host flowers they are found on—including mismatches in the timing of the flowers and their important pollinators—we provide some structure around connecting your insect observation with the species of flower it was photographed on, through some specific “Observational Fields” within iNaturalist, a process described on the Global Pollinator Watch project description page in iNaturalist. 

Both levels are actually pretty easy to contribute to, and both allow your contributions to expand upon the available data and thus our understanding of what is happening with these incredible and vital creatures around the world!

Stay Tuned!

Please note that we are currently in the final stages of building out this program, which will be free and openly accessible to the public. Please check back on this project page for more information and resources related to Global Pollinator Watch, including updates to the guidelines on how you can participate in the citizen science research program from your homes, schools or communities.

 


Elements of this program will also be built into the core curriculum for the Earthwatch at Home four-part climate change investigation course

In the meantime, if you have questions about the program, you’re welcome to contact us at info@earthwatch.org.

 

 

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