Stu­dents, teach­ers and com­mu­nity gar­den­ers will launch a pol­li­na­tor cen­sus this Au­gust

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - By Mer­ritt Me­lan­con

Call­ing the class roll is a time-tested way for teach­ers to start the school year, but when Ge­or­gia stu­dents head back to school this year, some of them will com­plete a roll call of their own.

Hon­ey­bees? Present. Leaf­cut­ter bees? Here. Swal­low­tail but­ter­flies? Yo.

Ge­or­gia stu­dents and teach­ers at 50 school and com­mu­nity gar­dens across the state will launch the in­au­gu­ral Pol­li­na­tor Cen­sus Project this Au­gust. The data will shed light on pol­li­na­tor pop­u­la­tions in Ge­or­gia and how well the na­tive ground cover — the ‘Snow Flurry’ aster — can sup­port them.

The count­ing starts when class re­con­venes, but the project ac­tu­ally be­gan last May when Becky Grif­fin, Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia Co­op­er­a­tive Ex­ten­sion com­mu­nity and school gar­den co­or­di­na­tor, criss­crossed the state to visit par­tic­i­pat­ing schools and de­liver in­sect study kits and flats of ‘Snow Flurry’ asters. This aster is a na­tive plant that blooms in the fall and is known to sup­port a num­ber of pol­li­na­tors.

“This is a re­ally great cit­i­zen-sci­ence project that will in­clude stu­dents in 41 coun­ties across the state,” Grif­fin said. “It’s a win for us be­cause we’re go­ing to gather great, wide­spread data about pol­li­na­tor health and how this na­tive plant helps to sup­port pol­li­na­tors.

“The teach­ers win be­cause they’re be­ing rec­og­nized as part of this study and it’s a great way to help their stu­dents re­late the sci­ence they’re learn­ing in the class­room to the real world.”

Over the sum­mer, teach­ers and stu­dents cared for the aster patches. They have agreed to watch them for 15 min­utes once or twice a week for four weeks and to record the types of pol­li­na­tors they see vis­it­ing the plants. Grif­fin be­lieves they should have all the data recorded by Nov. 1.

In ex­change, UGA Ex­ten­sion will pro­vide les­son plans and learn­ing ma­te­ri­als to help stu­dents learn about the role of pol­li­na­tors in the ecosys­tem and to help them iden­tify the dif­fer­ent types of in­sects com­mon in Ge­or­gia land­scapes.

Teach­ers will re­ceive pol­li­na­tor iden­ti­fi­ca­tion train­ing in Au­gust as well as train­ing on how to in­te­grate the cen­sus project into the new Ge­or­gia Stan­dards of Ex­cel­lence cur­ric­ula.

“My agri­cul­tural sci­ence class at East Pauld­ing High School is tak­ing part in the Ge­or­gia Pol­li­na­tor Cen­sus Project to foster a deeper un­der­stand­ing about ben­e­fi­cial pol­li­na­tors and their im­por­tance to the func­tion­ing of our ecosys­tem,” said Kyle Chap­man, agri­cul­tural sci­ence teacher at East Pauld­ing High School in Dal­las, Ge­or­gia. “Ad­di­tion­ally, the project will of­fer stu­dents the op­por­tu­nity to col­lect and sub­mit data that has real-world ap­pli­ca­tions, which, I think, will have more of an im­pact and in­crease their en­gage­ment.”

Like many of the cit­i­zen sci­en­tists work­ing on the Ge­or­gia Pol­li­na­tor Cen­sus Project, Chap­man be­came in­volved with UGA Ex­ten­sion’s pol­li­na­tor pro­tec­tion ef­forts in 2016, when he reg­is­tered the East Pauld­ing High School Pol­li­na­tor Gar­den with the UGA Ex­ten­sion Pol­li­na­tor Spa­ces net­work.

Grif­fin launched the Pol­li­na­tor Spa­ces Project, a pro­gram that rec­og­nizes gar­den­ers and land­scap­ers who cre­ate oases for pol­li­na­tors us­ing the state’s plan, “Pro­tect­ing Ge­or­gia’s Pol­li­na­tors,” as a guide. So far 84 pri­vate and pub­lic gar­dens have reg­is­tered as pol­li­na­tor-safe habi­tats.

The cen­sus project is the next step in get­ting Ge­or­gians in­volved in pro­tect­ing pol­li­na­tors.

For more in­for­ma­tion on how to pro­tect the state’s pol­li­na­tors and for updates on the Ge­or­gia Pol­li­na­tor Cen­sus Project, visit ugau­r­ gar­dens.

Mer­ritt Me­lan­con is a news ed­i­tor with the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia Col­lege of Agri­cul­tural and En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ences.

Above: De­tail of a bee keeper hold­ing a Left: Ran­dall Grif­fus, dean of the School of Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, and Math­e­mat­ics at Dal­ton State Col­lege where more than 14,000 bees have es­tab­lished two colonie on cam­pus.

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