US Fish and Wildlife Service partners with national nonprofit to launch region-wide effort that engages community scientists in pollinator conservation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Katie Lamke, Conservation Biologist, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; (707) 477-2224; [email protected]
Rich Hatfield, Senior Conservation Biologist, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation; (971) 303-9150; [email protected]
Allison Stewart, Public Affairs Specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; (303) 236-4588; [email protected]
PIERRE, S.Dak.; April 14, 2022—With pollinator declines accelerating, a new project has launched that provides an opportunity for people in Kansas, North Dakota and South Dakota to take action to conserve bumble bees. A partnership between the Xerces Society and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Great Plains Bumble Bee Atlas will improve scientists’ understanding of the bumble bees of the upper Great Plains and provide land managers with the information they need to conserve them.
Bumble bees are charismatic and easily-recognizable bees that play an essential role in sustaining the health of our environment. Across all three states, there are 31 species of bumble bees that pollinate flowers in natural areas, urban areas, and rangelands, as well as the crops in farm fields and backyard gardens. Unfortunately, many of these species are at risk and face an uncertain future.
Bumble bee declines are alarming and widespread. The goal of the Great Plains Bumble Bee Atlas is to learn more about the distribution and needs of these essential pollinators so that more effective efforts can be made to conserve them.
“We’re at a point now where we need to take action to protect bumble bees,” said Rich Hatfield, Senior Conservation Biologist and Bumble Bee Lead for the Xerces Society. “But, we want to make sure that our actions are as effective as possible for the animals we’re trying to conserve. These Atlas projects are equipping land managers with the tools they need to make evidence-based decisions that will make a lasting impact on species conservation.”
Volunteer community science projects like this one can be a powerful way to gather critical information about wildlife quickly and across a wide geographic area. While new to these states, the Great Plains Bumble Bee Atlas will be part of a coalition of Xerces Society Bumble Bee Atlas projects currently taking place in the Pacific Northwest, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, and California. In 2021 alone, more than two thousand individuals dedicated thousands of hours conducting surveys that resulted in approximately 13,000 bumble bee observations. These observations are vastly changing scientists’ understanding of bumble bee populations.
The information gathered by community scientists provides a modern day snapshot of bumble bees that can be used to assess bumble bee ranges, phenology, habitat associations, evaluate how they have changed over time, and provide a benchmark to which future conditions can be compared.
While more general community science efforts have been successful at gathering observations, the vast majority of those observations are in areas with higher population densities. The Atlas project also prioritizes rural areas to discover how bumble bees are faring in more natural environments, along with the habitats that they depend on. Doing so will take the cooperation of stakeholders throughout the region and a team of trained volunteers eager to collect the data.
“It is a great opportunity to get people engaged with nature,” says Daniel Kim, Grassland Bird and Prairie Pollinator Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “and at the same time, fill knowledge gaps that will help current and future conservation efforts.”
Joining the Great Plains Bumble Bee Atlas only requires an interest in pollinator conservation and time. Training is provided to anyone wishing to participate and several training events will be held throughout the region in May, June and July 2022. These workshops will provide community scientists with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to be successful. To avoid harming bumble bees through the course of the research, participants will learn to take high quality photographs of bumble bees and submit their observations using the North American community science platform Bumble Bee Watch.
“More people are awake to the fact that pollinators are in decline, and they want to help” says Katie Lamke, conservation biologist with the Xerces Society, “The Atlas will provide just that: an opportunity to make a real contribution that will help protect bumble bees. In the field of conservation, where declines and threats exist in every direction, projects like the Great Plains Bumble Bee Atlas are truly restorative, for both building community and saving pollinators.”
To stay informed about the progress of Great Plains Bumble Bee Atlas sign up for the mailing list and get connected through Twitter and Instagram.
For more information about the Great Plains Bumble Bee Atlas project, please visit https://www.greatplainsbumblebeeatlas.org
For more information about Bumble Bee Watch, please visit http://www.bumblebeewatch.org/
For more information about bumble bee conservation, please visit https://xerces.org/bumblebees/
About the Xerces Society
The Xerces Society is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is a trusted source for science-based information and advice. We collaborate with people and institutions at all levels and our work to protect pollinators encompasses all landscapes. Our team draws together experts from the fields of habitat restoration, entomology, plant ecology, education, farming and conservation biology with a single focus: Protecting the life that sustains us.
About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube.