Measuring pollinator diversity at urban parks.

Pollinator gardens are an important addition to urban landscapes as they provide a green-way corridor that connects pollinators to their habitats. Two of Atlanta’s newest urban parks; Lindsay Street Park and Vine City Park have  recently had pollinator gardens designed and installed by the Atlanta Botanical Garden. These parks not only give a place for pollinators to rest and feed, they also provide the surrounding Atlanta neighborhoods with important community green space.

Monitoring pollinator abundance and biodiversity in new pollinator gardens is a critical step in understanding how often pollinators are visiting, and what kinds of pollinators are using the garden. This kind of monitoring can drive garden management, and also direct future pollinator garden installation.

As an initiative of the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Conservation department, pollinator monitoring was conducted at both Lindsay Street and Vine City Parks this summer to estimate abundance and biodiversity. The monitoring was done by a team of high school students from The Paideia School, Forsyth Central High School, Villa Rica High School,  and Mays High School. The student team of 12 was led by Garden’s staff, school teachers, and Spelman University student volunteers from the Greening Youth Foundation. The project  was funded by  the Captain Planet Foundation’s eco technology grant, which awards funds for inquiry based projects in STEM fields that address environmental problems.

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Students visually count and sweep-net for target species in the bioswale at Lindsay Street Park. Photo Credit: Karan Wood, Captain Planet Foundation.

 

Students coupled traditional pollinator visitation methods, with novel molecular biology techniques to identify, record and count the pollinators present at both parks. This pollinator record will drive management at this and other parks, particularly with respect to differences in pollinator abundance found between areas planted with native pollinator friendly plants and those planted with conventional landscape plants. Additionally the data will be used to show the importance of pollinator gardens in urban areas.

The more we understand the way pollinators interact with their habitats the better we become at providing efficient usable pollinator gardens. Take a look around your pollinator garden when its in full swing and note the species visiting, you might just learn a thing or two!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Volunteer and help monitor Monarchs!

Monarch butterflies are a keystone pollinator species, and their larvae can be found on native milkweed species in many GAPP pollinator gardens during spring and summer.

Monarch Health is a citizen science program run by Dr. Sonia Altizer in the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia. It is targeted toward understanding host-parasite interactions in Monarch butterflies.  The project relies on volunteers who sign up to conduct protozoan parasite testing on Monarchs in their area. The data will then be used by the organization to better understand the spread of a protozoan parasite across North America. Participants are mailed a free testing kit, and the procedure does not harm the Monarchs in any way.

Anyone who is interested in pollinator conservation and would like to help on a project that contributes to the scientific knowledge of a very important species can become involved with Monarch Health here http://www.monarchparasites.org.

Have you thanked a pollinator today?

Native Georgia Milkweed Seeds

As the decline of pollinator populations continue, the risk for these insects and animals is becoming more and more apparent.  With this information becoming newsworthy, Environmental Education in Georgia has revealed that the Fernbank Science Center is now accepting milkweed seeds from those able to collect the seed pods from surrounding areas.  If citizens are able to collect and ship the milkweed seeds, those new plants will be put towards replenishing the habitats of vital pollinators.

The monarch overwintering sites located in Mexico have been reported to be at an all-time low during the winter of 2013.  One factor could be due to the upkeep of large farms where herbicides and pesticides kill milkweed in the United States, which monarchs require for reproduction.  As milkweeds are the only location monarchs will lay their eggs, and the only source of food for the larvae when they hatch, the preservation of milkweeds is very important.  Similarly, Georgia’s habitats are rare and not sufficient for large populations of monarch butterflies.  The citizen initiative to send in these milkweed seeds will help with native plants of Georgia in upcoming years.  The Fernbank Science Center is partnering on the project with Monarch Watch that will help propagate these native species.  Obtaining these seeds can revitalize the habitats of monarchs across Greater Atlanta and the outskirts of Georgia.

–Please visit this website to help you identify your Georgia Native Milkweed!

Here are a few tips, provided by Environmental Education in Georgia, for maximizing the benefit of your milkweed packaging.

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If you, or anyone you know, could help with the collection of milkweed seeds in Georgia, the Fernbank Science Center ask that you include:

Your Name, Street Address, Email, Date, County, State where the seed was collected, and Species.

Send seeds to contact:

Trecia Neal, Fernbank Science Center, Milkweed Seeds, 156 Heaton Park Dr. NE, Atlanta, GA 30307

On behalf of the Monarchs of Georgia, The Fernbank Science Center, and Greater Atlanta Pollinator Partnership thank you for your assistance and participation!

For More Information, please visit these websites:

1) http://eeingeorgia.org

2) http://eeingeorgia.org/resource

3)  http://www.eealliance.org/pollinator-habitat-grant

Citizen Science: How to Get Involved

There are other ways to get involved helping out your native pollinators besides providing them with habitat. You can also assist them by helping scientists!  Researchers are studying pollinators to learn more about their foraging, nesting behaviors, cleptoparasitic behaviors, overwintering, etc. and they can use this knowledge to help conserve and protect pollinator species. It takes a lot of time to collect data, but you can help by reporting what you see from your own yard! This is called citizen science when volunteers report data to the scientists who are conducting the study.  Citizen science is often used when a project needs data from a large area, such as tracking monarch butterfly migration.

The links provided below are places where you can go and look to see if citizen science is something that you would be interested in doing. If you have a pollinator garden already, observing the species that you see there can be another great way to help your pollinators!

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“Bee on Redbud” Photo Credit: Sarah Meadows

The North American Butterfly Association is a place where you can submit your butterfly sightings. If you do not know the species names, you can submit a species and they have scientists that can identify the species for you.  They will use the data to study butterfly conservation and distribution. http://www.nababis.org/   They also have another option for observing butterflies; this option is for people who are able to commit a few hours at a site and count every butterfly that they see.  http://naba.org/butter_counts.html

The University of Minnesota is conducting a study about monarch butterflies. They are asking for long-term studies of sites containing milkweed plants or just reports of sightings of adult butterflies.  http://www.mlmp.org/default.aspx

If bees are what you are interested in studying, this site is a great place to go. They are partnered with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.  You need to have access to a camera to participate in this citizen science project; the pictures of bees that you take will be examined by species to verify the species.  http://www.bumblebeewatch.org/contents/about/

Native ladybugs species are decreasing, and this study is dedicated to studying them and seeing their distribution. They are also asking participants to take pictures of the ladybugs they find.  http://www.lostladybug.org/index.php