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LEAP IGERT students map urban pollinator habitat with the help of citizen scientists


LEAP students completed an interdisciplinary project that studied pollinators (bees) in the Chicago area. Citizen scientists participated in bee collections throughout the city during the summer of 2009. Collection sites included residential areas, community gardens, and forest preserves. Based on these collections, a habitat suitability map was created from data on the 11 most common bee species, using a maximum entropy niche modeling program called Maxent. The figure shows the suitability map with the color scale showing red as highest suitability and blue as lowest. Of the input variables used in Maxent, the amount of tree canopy and grass near each location were the most important. Interestingly, the suitability distribution map also roughly corresponds to socioeconomic trends in the region as well. The next steps are field verification of the data and maps. LEAP fellow Clifford Shierk presented these findings at the US-IALE conference in April 2011. The study also included a survey of the citizen scientists who participated in the bee collections. The survey was conducted before and after participation in the project, to determine whether participation in a science project can raise awareness of urban areas as wildlife habitat, and more generally whether it can engage scientific thought and enhance understanding of science.

Address Goals

As a primary goal, engagement of citizen scientists in research and monitoring activities, such as the bee collecting in this project, will help to expand the scientific literacy of the participants. The goal of discovery was addressed because this one of the first studies of its kind that examined an important ecosystem service, pollination and pollinators, across an urban landscape.