Saturday, July 9, 2011

Citizen Science and "Bee Buffet"

Our last program of the Spring 2011 season, May 21, was "Bee Buffet," with Dr. Janette Steets from the OSU Botany Department. She spoke about her research on pollinators in vegetable gardens.

Dr. Steets is interested in finding out how gardens are effected when food plants (like tomatoes and okra) are intermixed with ornamentals (flowers). The hypothesis is that ornamental plants will attract a greater variety of insects, including pollinator and predator species, and that this will result in more healthy food plants with higher yields, and will reduce the need for pesticides.

Dr. Steets has run a couple of preliminary studies that showed promising results. We talked about how one would go about designing a larger study that might help verify the higher yields she saw in her mixed gardens. Dr. Steets is preparing a study now that will incorporate help collecting data from "citizen scientist" volunteers.

I debuted a new song, "Citizen Scientist" - see below for lyrics.

Studying bees and flowers close up, to see how pollen gets moved around when plants are pollenated. 

Dr. Steets brought seeds and planters so we could plant our own samples to grow at home.

Planting seeds.

Me, Dr. Steets, and Brook Bonner. Brook is a PHD student who works with Dr. Steets. She came along to help with the presentation.

The "citizen scientist" aspect of Dr. Steets work is part of what makes her excited to be doing what she's doing. She loves the idea of involving regular folks like you and me in the scientific process. So do I! There are lots of citizen scientist projects out there that you can take part in! That's why I chose "Citizen Scientist" as the title and focus for my song this time around.

Citizen Scientist
My garden this year is a jumbled-up kind
My cow peas and daisies are all inter-twined
My botanist friend had me plant 'em just so 
She's collecting the data that may help her show
How a good mix of plants brings more insects afield
And maybe more bugs means a healthier yield
And I jumped at the chance to take part in her plan
Cause I'm happy to help when I can
I'm a citizen scientist
Citizen scientist
Joining the planet-wide dance
That helps human knowledge advance
I've weighed my tomatoes and measured the plants
I've counted the cutworms and spiders and ants
My botanist friend takes the data all down
She'll compare it with gardens from all over town
And maybe the numbers will show us the way
Toward gardening well without pesticide spray
But whether or not her study bares any fruit
It has still been a worthwhile pursuit
repeat chorus
And when the garden has been tilled, 
What new project will I do?
I can help explore the cosmos 
For the Galaxy Zoo
I can sift through tiny fossils from mastodon times
I can try to fold some proteins with online
In the Great Backyard Bird Count I can help keep track of birds
I’ll download SETI@home and search for alien words
And for more exotic projects I don't know about yet
I'll visit science for citizens dot net
I'll visit science for citizens dot net
repeat chorus

Here are links to the projects I mention in the song:

Galaxy Zoo
Mastodon Matrix Project
The Great Backyard Bird Count
Science For Citizens

No comments:

Post a Comment