What am I doing?

Now that part 1 (of 3) of the field season is done for 2015, I've been reviewing my photos and enjoying the memories of the wonderful farms I've visited. Some of you have asked what on earth I am doing, so I thought I would take some time to share that now. There are many goals of this project: To identify the pollinators of the Puget Sound region, to collect data on their pollination efficiency, and to share this knowledge with as many people as possible. In the field, a lot is happening. Each site gets one full day devoted by one of the researchers.

We arrive by 7am, and place out two types of traps: blue vane traps and small pan traps. These traps are attractive to the pollinators, and passively collect through the entire day.

A Blue Vane Trap- this will passively collect insects throughout the day.

A Blue Vane Trap- this will passively collect insects throughout the day.

As you can see, this pan trap is already doing its job.

As you can see, this pan trap is already doing its job.

 

Next, we make an inventory of all of the flowering plants at the site (yes, this is incredibly time consuming and painstaking work), by identifying and counting all of the flowering plants.

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Sometimes you do have to stop and smell the roses.

Sometimes you do have to stop and smell the roses.

After creating the floral inventory, we monitor plants for insect visitation. We keep track of insects based on morphological groups, and we keep track of the different types of flowers they are visiting. 

A sweat bee on poppy.

A sweat bee on poppy.

A ladybird beetle on common dandelion.

A ladybird beetle on common dandelion.

A female honeybee on chive.

A female honeybee on chive.

A female wool carder bee visiting thyme.

A female wool carder bee visiting thyme.

We then collect insects that we see on flowers (also known as floral visitors). We surmise that if an insect is visiting the reproductive structure of a flower, it is acting as a potential pollinator. We monitor visitation and do a collection in the morning and afternoon, and once the afternoon session is complete, it is typically around 4:30pm, and that is the time we start breaking down the traps.

Just a researcher and her net. And an audiobook- I think this day I was listening to The Complete Collection of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Just a researcher and her net. And an audiobook- I think this day I was listening to The Complete Collection of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

We collect all specimens from each method of sampling, take meticulous notes, and collect a lot of information. The field days usually last around 10.5 hours, and weather permitting, we sample 5 days a week. Some days, it gets really hot, and some sites don't have bathrooms. I'm making it sound really miserable, but I absolutely love every minute of it. 

Sometimes insects aren't the only exciting creatures we see!

Sometimes insects aren't the only exciting creatures we see!