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.
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.
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.
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.
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.