Pollinators

PollinatorsPollinators provide an invaluable service to both
natural ecosystems and agriculture. Approximately
35 percent of the global food supply is highly reliant
on animals for pollination! Worldwide declines in
bees have been documented, threatening pollination
services. The goal of the Pollination Investigators
program (u.osu.edu/pollinationinvestigators) is to
measure and compare the pollination services that
insects provide to gardens in urban, suburban and
rural areas. We do this by engaging citizen scientists
to compare fruit set, fruit weight and seed set in
pepper plants grown in the presence and absence
of insect pollination. In the initial year of this program,
64 people elected to participate but only 14.1 percent
submitted any data at the end of the summer. Using a
follow up survey, we found that plant survivorship rates
and protocol complexity were two factors that must
be addressed to increase citizen scientist retention
throughout the measurement of pollination services.
To address these issues, we launched a website,
blog, and Facebook page to provide citizen scientists
with multiple avenues to interact and ask questions.
We also provided additional plant care information

and a step-by-step animated video explaining the
protocol. We reduced the amount of data we required
the citizens to submit and transferred some tasks
from volunteers to researchers. Further, to increase
participation, we provided volunteers with seeds
instead of seedlings. This allowed the toolkits to be
mailed and eliminated the need for participants to
attend an in-person workshop.
There are 145 active participants for 2017. In
late August or early September, our volunteers will
harvest peppers from three treatments: 1) Bagged
Control (no insect pollination), 2) Open (ambient
insect pollination) and 3) Hand Pollinated (complete
pollination). We will determine the pollination service
insects provide by comparing pepper fruit weight
and seed counts among these treatments. From
participating in this study, our volunteers learn if their
garden is pollen limited. By comparing among sites,
we can determine if local site management and/or
landscape variables explain variation in pollination
services across the state.