Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Final results from CAPS!

Greetings 2009 CAPS participants!

Thank you again for your participation in last summer’s Chicago Area Pollinator Study. We appreciate all of the work that you did collecting bees to study bee diversity and abundance in the Chicago area. While some bee research has continued this summer in community gardens, Lincoln Park Zoo has decided not to continue the citizen scientist aspect of CAPS. This decision is not a reflection on the success of last year’s project; rather, Lincoln Park Zoo and the Urban Wildlife Institute have to put their energy and resources into other projects.

Indeed, the 2009 CAPS project was a success! Our bee expert was able to identify nearly all of the specimens you collected. We are highlighting the major findings here, and you can click on the links if you want to read more.

Bee species caught by CAPS citizen scientists: 50!
Several of these species are uncommon or even rare in this part of the country, and a few may even be the first recorded in Illinois!

We found that, in general, collection sites had more bees if they had:
less impervious surface (i.e. paving, rooftops)
fewer trees
higher human population density

Want to read about why this may be? Click here for further discussion.

Top bee species collected by CAPS participants:

Agapostemon virescens (this one’s a real beauty!)

All four of these species are referred to commonly as “sweat bees.” Click on the links to see what these bees look like!

Based on your responses to the surveys before and after CAPS, we learned that:

some of you are less afraid of bees than you were before CAPS
you can name a few more types of bees than before
many of you learned that most bees are solitary and don’t live in colonies like honey bees do

You can read more about these and other related findings here.

Your feedback about the program contained dozens of useful suggestions. Thank you for all the time and thought you put into offering us suggestions for improvement! We have passed these suggestions along to the Lincoln Park Zoo so that they can incorporate them into future citizen science projects.

Thanks to your efforts and your feedback, we collected hundreds of bees and learned a tremendous amount about what it takes to make a citizen science project happen. We are immensely grateful for your contributions to the project. Please feel free to contact us if you have any bee questions or if you want to read the full report that we submitted to Lincoln Park Zoo.

Thank you again!
The CAPS team
Caroline Gottschalk-Druschke, Jennifer Howell-Stephens, Emi Kuroiwa, Carrie Seltzer, and Cliff Shierk

P.S. If you are interested in getting involved in other citizen science projects related to bees, you may want to look into:

Wrapping things up, ctd: the bees' needs (and other results)

In total, 50 bee species were found by CAPS citizen scientists. An additional 16 species (66 total) were found in Chicago Park District community gardens, and when we add the specimens collected last summer in Cook County Forest Preserves by undergraduates at Roosevelt University, that number jumps to 79 species found in the Chicago region. The expert who identified the specimens noted that a number of the species are uncommon or even rare in this part of the county, and, though this still needs to be confirmed, it appears that a few may even be the first record in the State of Illinois!

A major goal of the study was to gather data from a wide geographical area (in this case, the Chicagoland area) to examine whether the pollinator communities differed across the region; in other words, we wanted to see if the community of bees in South Shore was similar to or different from the community of bees in Lake Bluff. We also paid attention to the differences between collection sites - between your small backyard in Rogers Park, a vegetable-filled community garden in Jackson Park, and a wooded forest preserve in Des Plaines.

While there were some obvious differences between the site types - for example, community gardens generally had more species that backyards - we were also interested in how the areas surrounding the sampling locations may influence these differences. To do this, we looked at the population density (the number of people living in a given area), amount of impervious surface (paved parking lots versus prairie), and amount of tree cover (thick woods versus open skies) in the vicinity of each site. These characteristics were chosen because of the effects they may have on the resources necessary for the pollinators, such as their requirements for nesting (the place where these little guys hand their hats and reproduce) and foraging (where they go out searching for grub).

In general, a few patterns emerged. First, the number of species (species richness) found at each site was influenced by the percentage of impervious surface in the surrounding area, with less impervious surface resulting in higher species richness. Second, the amount of tree canopy in the surrounding area had an opposite effect, with a higher percentage of tree cover resulting in a lower species richness. While somewhat counterintuitive - plants are good, right?! - this makes sense because most trees do not provide the resources (namely, pollen and nectar) that pollinators like bees depend on. Third, increased population density was shown to have a slightly positive effect on the number of species at each site, meaning that the more people living in an area, the higher the number of bee species. While we need to look into this trend further, we wonder if this might be a result of the likelihood of people planting flowers for bees to forage on.

One notable species that was found in the collections in Peponapis pruinosa, a medium-sized bee that is known to specialize on squash blooms (hence its common name, the squash bee). Of the 33 backyard sites in the study, one one squash bee was reported from a yard in Deerfield, IL. However, the squash bee was found in 4 of 11 community gardens, showing that bees do adhere to the "if you plant it, they will come" mantra.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wrapping things up: results of the CAPS participant experience

By asking you, the participants in the Chicago Area Pollinator Study (CAPS), to take surveys before and after CAPS, we learned a great deal about the citizen scientist experience.

As you might remember, we asked all adult participants to complete an online survey both before and after CAPS. By studying those answers and comparing responses pre- and post-CAPS, we hoped to determine if participation in CAPS would: improve knowledge about bees, ecosystem services, specimen collections, and urban wildlife habitat; positively shift attitudes about bees, urban habitats, and science; and promote wildlife-friendly behavior changes. We found changes - some statistically significant, some not - in all three categories.

CAPS participant knowledge did improve as a result of the program. CAPS participants learned that the mission of Lincoln Park Zoo - through the Urban Wildlife Institute - includes studying urban ecology and that not all bees live in family groups called colonies. There was also a positive change in the number of bee types that participants were able to identify post-CAPS. Bravo!

While many of the attitudinal changes we found were not statistically significant, they were interesting nonetheless. We were thrilled, for instance, to discover that CAPS may have prompted participants to become somewhat less fearful of bees and to adopt a more favorable perception of bees in urban landscapes, considering bees less dangerous than you did prior to CAPS. We were somewhat less thrilled to discover that CAPS may have led to participants thinking that it is *less* important that non-scientists get more involved in scientific research after participating in CAPS and to feel that scientists are *less* interested in involving non-scientists in scientific research than they thought prior to CAPS. Clearly, we need to do a better job, in the future, of involving you in our ongoing research and thanking you for all of your hard work!

We also discovered an interesting shift on the behavior front. There was a slight - though not significant - increase in the number of CAPS participants indicating that they would kill a bee if it were disrupting their time outdoors post-CAPS. We are not sure if the change in reported behavior is real or not; it was our hope that people would be less fearful (and less likely to kill bees) after learning more about them through CAPS, but this is perhaps ironic since we asked you to kill a small number of bees for the project.

In addition to these specific learning outcomes, we learned a great deal from your feedback about the program. Thank you for all the time and thought you put into offering us suggestions for improvement! We have already passed these suggestions along to the Education Department at Lincoln Park Zoo so that they can incorporate them into future citizen science projects. If anyone would like to see a copy of our full report to Lincoln Park Zoo, please email us and we'll be happy to send you a copy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sending them off!

This just in! All of the CAPS bees have been pinned, labeled, packed, and are ready to be shipped off to our bee expert for identification. We hope to start figuring some things out about your bees very soon!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bee washing with Sam!

Our mentor, Sam Droege, has a new YouTube video out demonstrating how we wash the bee specimens. The video is a nice accompaniment to the still photos in our last post. Enjoy the video!

We're actually through the process of washing and pinning at this point and we're almost done labeling each and every one of your bees. We'll be sending them off to a bee expert for species identification soon.

Stay tuned for more info!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wash & Dry

We've been going through all of the bees everyone sent us to get them ready for identification. Here are some of the steps.

The bees are in a jar with soapy water on a stir plate. There is a magnetic stir bar in the bottom that continuously stirs the bees to wash them.

Look at those bees go!

After washing and rinsing, the bees are blow-dried in this apparatus engineered by Cliff to fluff up their little bee hairs for easier identification.

These insects are all from one collection at one site. The ones on the left are flies (this sample had a huge number of bee-mimic flies) and the ones on the right are bees.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Hi everyone! Thanks again for all of your help this summer. We've begun the sorting process, and it's taking a long time to sort the bees from flies, then pin and label the bees. We'll try to post some pictures of the process as we go. Here's the first installment!