The nation’s first statewide pollinator census has citizen scientists abuzz in Georgia
More than 4,000 Georgians in 133 counties participated in the nation’s first statewide pollinator census, logging more than 133,963 insect interactions on Aug. 23-24. Citizen scientists from every corner of the state — from southwest Georgia woodlands to downtown Atlanta — logged 4,567 counts during the groundbreaking exercise.
“I have heard several times that people will never look at their gardens the same way again and that slowing down for 15 minutes to look at the insects was eye-opening,” said Becky Griffin (MPPPM — Plant Protection and Pest Management, ’18), school and community garden coordinator for University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and count organizer.
Each participant spent 15 minutes focusing on one blooming plant, tallying the number and the types of insects they witnessed before reporting the type of plant, time of day, weather and location.
Griffin and other pollinator experts are now crunching the data to determine if there were trends in which pollinators were most populous in different areas. Once analyzed, the results should provide a needed benchmark for the state’s native pollinator population.
Pollinators, both domestic and wild, contribute about $367 million to the Georgia economy each year, according to a 2015 UGA study.
Griffin modeled the program on the Great Backyard Bird Count, a program run by Cornell University that has citizen-scientists count the birds in their backyards on a given winter day.
In addition to the data generated by the census, Griffin wanted the count to serve as an educational experience for Georgians. In addition to hundreds of adult volunteers, thousands of schoolchildren participated in the count. At Colham Ferry Elementary School in Watkinsville, Georgia, STEM teacher Diane Parr’s students were wowed by what they witnessed.
“The pollinator count opened the eyes of my students to the importance of every living thing on Earth, including the tiniest insects,” Parr said.
“The education part of this project is just as important as the data,” said Kris Braman, professor and head of the entomology department at the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “It’s a wonderful chance for people to learn more about the pollinators in their yards, what’s really happening to them, and how they can support them.”
Griffin plans to publish count insights on the census website at ggapc.org and in academic journals.
By Merritt Melancon
Students at Colham Ferry Elementary School in Oconee County, Georgia, participate in the state’s first ever pollinator census on Aug. 23.