Dr. Valerie Peters on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Dr. Valerie Peters is an Assistant Professor in Biological Sciences at Eastern Kentucky University. Valerie is an ecologist interested in the conservation of biodiversity, with research projects both in Kentucky but also Costa Rica, and she studies how global stressors such as land use change, invasive species, and climate change impact biodiversity and use ecosystem services, such as pollination, as a tool to place value on species, such as pollinators and biodiversity. By giving species a value, such as the pollination of commercial coffee, she hopes to interest more people in conservation. Dr. Peters also is involved in the Earth Watch Institute’s wild bee conservation projects in Costa Rica that provides citizen scientists with an opportunity to work with tropical bees.

Listen in to learn the intersection between changing tropical climates, pollinator habitats, and the coffee crop, and the impact of mines on pollinators.

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“For a lot of species, we don’t know if they’ll be able to successfully move fast enough northward, so the other potential could be that we would just see loss of species in a particular location or maybe declining pollinator population numbers.” – Dr. Valerie Peters

Show Notes:

  • How climate change can affect pollinator populations
  • What other parts of the ecosystem will change and indirectly affect pollinators
  • How different regions’ weather patterns will change
  • Coffee’s life cycle and it’s role in the pollination ecosystem
  • The research Valerie is doing on coffee and it’s pollination cycles
  • The ways the effects of climate change are shifting the patterns of coffee plants
  • How Valerie has worked with Earth Watch in Costa Rica to protect pollinators
  • The role of citizen scientists in Valerie’s research
  • The mine reclamation process and how the spaces are rehabilitated
  • How pollinator compositions in areas are affected by the presence of mines

“From that moment, I was addicted to how interesting it is to invite these [citizen scientists] to come out in the field and see who is going to come out and how you can get them inspired.” – Dr. Valerie Peters

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Rich Hatfield on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Rich Hatfield is a senior conservation biologist for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. He has authored several publications on bumble bees, including a set of management guidelines entitled Conserving Bumble Bees. He serves as the Red List Authority for the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Bumble Bee Specialist Group and has taught bumble bee management and identification courses in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, and Massachusetts. Rich helped develop and launch the citizen science website Bumble Bee Watch, which has attracted over 18,000 users throughout North America, and gathered over 30,000 photo observations of North American bumble bees since 2014. Bumble Bee Watch now serves as the platform to collect data for the Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas for which he is the principal investigator. In addition to his work with bumble bees, Rich has investigated native bee pollination in agricultural systems in the Central Valley of California, and studied endangered butterflies in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and throughout the Pacific Northwest. When not at work, Rich is often off exploring the wonders of the Pacific Northwest with his family.

Listen in to today’s episode to learn how the PNW Bumble Bee Atlas is aiding in bee conservation, and how you can participate in pollinator habitat surveys.

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“I can tell you from the response that we’ve had that people are pretty excited. They’ve been having a really good time doing this. I love it, too, and it’s good to know that other people can join you on this.” – Rich Hatfield

Show Notes:

  • What the bumblebee atlas is, and what it is accomplishing
  • How the Xerces society developed their system of bumble bee collection
  • Why this bumble bee atlas can’t use other similar programs in their own study
  • The importance of having positive and negative data in these studies
  • What training people need to take to participate
  • What the process is of gathering specimen for bumble bee research
  • How a roadside survey is different than a point survey
  • What happens after the citizen scientists complete their survey
  • The benefits for many different groups of this kind of a project in this region
  • How you can get involved in helping the PNW Bumble Bee Atlas

“A lot of what we need to know is not what’s happening where people live, but what’s happening more in remote areas.” – Rich Hatfield

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Lincoln Best on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Lincoln Best is the Lead Taxonomist for the Oregon Bee Project/Atlas. He is obsessed with natural history, the little things, and designing plant communities to support biodiversity. He has studied the biodiversity of native bees from Haida Gwaii to Tasmania, and from Baja California to Taiwan. Few things excite him more than observing 4mm native bees on their floral hosts in arid habitats.

Listen in to learn about Lincoln Best’s manifesto for native bees and plant communities, and his best practices for volunteers in the Oregon Bee Atlas.

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“A lot of our environmental issues are landscape issues. So in order to have a healthy landscape, we need to know how to manage places and also restore them.” – Lincoln Best

Show Notes:

  • What Lincoln believes to be the key to solving our environmental issues
  • How to maximize environmental benefit from the biodiversity of plants
  • What Lincoln has been doing with the Oregon Bee Atlas
  • The process of organizing and cataloguing thousands of bee specimens
  • What makes Southern Calgary ideal for studying the effects of biodiversity on pollinator habitats
  • The importance of proper labeling
  • Lincoln’s best practices for data and specimen collection
  • How species abundance plays into specimen collection

“It’s really interesting for someone like me that loves to hunt for flower populations and look for these strange bees to be able to get that data right out of the collection.” – Lincoln Best

Links Mentioned:

Sally Rockey on PolliNation with Andony Melathopoulos

Last month the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR) announced a $7 million investment in Pollinator Health. FFAR targeted key gaps in our ability to focus research into innovative and concrete initiatives that can change practices in the world. This week we are joined by Dr. Sally Rockey, who became the inaugural Executive Director of FFAR in 2015. Prior to this role, Dr. Rockey was an award-winning leader in Federal research. She spent 19 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture where she held a number of positions within the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. Very early in her career she became the head of the competitive grants program, overseeing the extramural grants process and portfolio. Dr. Rockey brought her experience in agriculture research to her 11-year career at the National Institutes of Health, where she emphasized the connection between agriculture, food, and health. As Deputy Director for Extramural Research, Dr. Rockey oversaw the operations of the largest Federal extramural research program and led groundbreaking initiatives and activities that have and will have a lasting positive impact on the research community.

Dr. Rockey received her Ph.D. in Entomology from the Ohio State University and did postgraduate work at University of Wisconsin prior to joining the government. She has devoted her career to improving people’s lives through research and will continue her mission by seeing FFAR become an essential component of the scientific enterprise.

Listen in to today’s episode to learn more about FFAR, the work they are doing to help pollinator research, and how they are helping citizen scientists.

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“We consider the topic of pollinators and pollinator health to be vital to agriculture and to the success of the United States’s agriculture.” – Sally Rockey

Show Notes:

  • What FFAR is and how it was established
  • How FFAR worked to reach beyond standard conservation in helping pollinators
  • How citizen scientists can get involved with FFAR
  • The future of FFAR
  • How FFAR is associated with the USDA
  • What research FFAR is doing to improve pollinator habitats
  • Why education outreach is so important in achieving FFAR’s goals

“Because the public plays such an important role in pollinator health, it’s important to be able to educate the public.” – Sally Rockey

Links Mentioned:

Sarah Johnson is the lead biologist for Wildlife Preservation Canada’s Native Pollinator Initiative. WPC is a nation-wide organization focusing on hands-on recovery initiatives for critically endangered species, and the pollinator initiative supports Canadian bumble bee recovery through a diverse set of programs. As WPC’s lead pollinator biologist, Sarah has overseen a variety of citizen science training programs, runs multiple field-based research and monitoring projects, and leads the development of a captive breeding program for the at-risk yellow-banded bumble bee. Prior to her current position with WPC, Sarah received a BSc in Natural Sciences from the University of Calgary – during which she published on a project investigating how wing wear affects bumble bee’s weight lifting ability – as well as an MSc in Ecology, examining how clearcut logging impacts bee-pollinated wildflower reproduction in the foothills of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Sarah was also involved in the initiation of a long-term research program exploring how the agricultural landscape in southern Alberta affects pollinator diversity. As evidenced through her work, Sarah’s passion lies in the furriest (and most charming) of the pollinators: the bumble bee. However, she is also interested in conservation education, public engagement, and answering broader questions on what factors shape ecological communities.

Listen in as we talk about the bee population of Canada, her new captive breeding project, and how citizen science positively impacts her research.

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“We’re seeing sightings in areas where we didn’t know species extended to, and this is because of submissions by citizen scientists.” – Sarah Johnson

Show Notes:

  • What is happening in the bumblebee populations of Canada
  • How the Bumblebee Recovery Initiative is helping pollinators
  • What their new captive breeding project is hoping to accomplish
  • What qualities Sarah is looking for in the queen bumblebees they are breeding
  • How Wildlife Preservation Canada uses citizen science
  • Why Bumblebee Watch is such an invaluable resource to conservation researchers
  • How one citizen scientist made a breakthrough discovery
  • How Sarah’s organization trains citizen scientists
  • What makes a good bumblebee picture for submission
  • What Sarah recommends to help raise public awareness of pollinators and their involvement

[Wilson et al.] surveyed a wide variety of people, and the vast majority of them think bees are important but nobody really knows what a bee is versus what a fly is.“ – Sarah Johnson

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