Following up from my last post about ecologists using their gardens to collect standardised data, I’ve had a huge response from pollination ecologists all over the world wanting to get involved. So to streamline the process I thought that I would put the protocol and updates on my blog. Just to reiterate, this is really is designed for those who already have some experience of surveying pollinators and flowers. I didn’t intend this to be a citizen science project, there are plenty of those around at the moment for inexperienced people who want to contribute, for example:
The Pollinator Monitoring Scheme’s FIT (Flower-Insect Timed) counts: https://www.ceh.ac.uk/our-science/projects/pollinator-monitoring
Kit Prendergast’s “bee hotels” survey: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Beesintheburbs/announcements
If anyone wants me to publicise others, let me have the link in the comments below or send me an email.
OK, for those ecologists wanting to survey pollinators and the flowers they are visiting (or not visiting) in their gardens, here’s the protocol:
- There are two types of survey – please do both if possible, it would be good to compare the results from the two approaches; otherwise choose the easiest one for you.
- Type A surveys involve regular walks at a steady pace around the garden, recording what insects and other flower visitors are active on particular flowers (and noting the ones they are not visiting). Make your walks a standard time, proportional to the size of the garden. For example, in our 10m x 20m garden I am doing 15 minute walks, which involves walking the same route one way, then back, pausing to record data.
- Type B surveys involve 10 minute focused observations of a patch of flowers of one species, no larger than 0.5m x 0.5m, recording the number of flowers each pollinator visits.
- In both cases, identify the flower visitor to the taxonomic level to which you feel confident, e.g. it’s better to use Andrena sp. 1 or Calliphoridae sp. 2 or Diptera sp. 3 rather than guessing.
- Record all data plus metadata about your garden on this spreadsheet which has examples of data that I have collected so far. When you return it, please change “Ollerton” to your own surname : Ollerton garden surveys 2020
- Please don’t modify the format of the survey sheets, it will make life very difficult when we collate the data.
- Collect data from now until the end of April. By then we will know whether to continue further data collection.
- At the end of the month, send your spreadsheets to me: jeff.ollerton [at] northampton.ac.uk I will acknowledge receipt of each one, so if you don’t get an acknowledgement it may be that our spam filter has rejected your email, in which case message me on Twitter or comment below.
- Finally – please respect local/national restrictions on movements and social isolation: safe safe and keep your community safe.
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions – I will update FAQs as they come in:
Q: What’s going to happen to all of the data?
I think that’s for the pollinator research community to decide. My feeling at the moment is that in the first instance there should be a data paper that summarises the results and makes the data freely available to everyone. That would include all data contributors as co-authors, probably under a project name rather than individually. After that it’s up to individuals and groups to work with the data to address their own research questions. I know that in the UK there are several PhD researchers who are worried about not being able to collect data this year and who want to contribute to this initiative and use it in their theses. I’m sure that there are others elsewhere. As a community it would be great to support these young researchers.
Q: I am not based in the UK, can I still take part?
A: Yes, of course, though check in your local networks to see if anyone is coordinating local efforts.
Q: How do I classify “floral units” for survey Type B?
A: Use the UK POMS approach:
Q: Should I collect weather data?
A: You can certainly add data to another sheet on the spreadsheet if you want to, but the plan is to use data from local weather stations to capture standardised weather information.
Q: Should I collect nectar and/or pollen and/or pollinator behaviour data?
A: Again, collect any data that you have the time and equipment for and add it to a different sheet
Q: My garden has very few flowers and pollinators – can I still take part?
A: Yes, absolutely, we need a range of garden types, from the very large and florally diverse to small window boxes or lawns with just daisies and dandelions..