Bee Hunt!

National organizers

  • John Pickering, University of Georgia
  • Gretchen LeBuhn, San Francisco State University
  • John Ascher, American Museum of Natural History
  • Sam Droege, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, USGS
  • Mike Mueller, Science Education, University of Georgia
  • Nancy Lowe, Discover Life



Bee Hunt! grew out of a partnership between Discover Life and The Great Sunflower Project, which now has 75,000 registered participants.

Bee Hunt! has two major goals. One is scientific; the other, educational. In science, there are critical questions that can only be addressed on a continental scale with a large network of study sites. Such issues include global warming, pollinator decline, invasive species, and other environmental factors.

Within education there are new challenges that must be addressed. To prepare for the work force of the future, students do not need to memorize a large number of facts. Instead, they must be taught to think logically and creatively, and be facile with new skills such as data management and sharing information through the web. Bee Hunt! is an opportunity for students and others to gain these skills by participating in and learning from a large scale scientific study.

Although citizen science is gaining traction in the educational community, its reputation is stained amongst many scientists because of its general lack of quality control in data collection. Bee Hunt! is not citizen science. Bee Hunt! will follow rigorous research protocols and error-checking methods and adhere to the highest quality methods of data collection. Participating students and volunteers learn how to do science through hands-on research. The large number of study sites that they will be able to maintain will enable us to collect data and test hypotheses at a scale unattainable without them. At a local scale, they will learn how to design experiments, collect and manage quality data, analyze it and write up the results.

Components of Bee Hunt!


Research protocol

Particiapants will take structured samples of plant-pollinator interactions using digital cameras. Within a class period, we envision teams of 2-3 students taking five minute series of photographs of pollinators on randomly selected flowering plants. Within a class period, each team should be able to take 8 samples, 4 on each of two treatments. Thus, for example, they could collect data on whether bees prefer Vicia (vetch) or Senecio (golden ragwort). Classes will then upload their photographs and associated time and place data to Discover Life. Training guides and protocols will be made available through videos.


Discover Life's online identification guides and network of experts and other users will help in the identification of both plants and animals. Because bees are difficult to identify, we are not sure what participants will be able to identify correctly. Participants and experts will work together to identify bees and plants, or in some cases, not identify them. With bees, as a first step, we will ask participants to classify pollinators to bees, butterflies, flies, beetles, and other insects. These categories will then be determined further. For example, with bees, we will expect them to be first categorized as honey bees, bumblebees, carpenter bees, green bees, and other bees. Depending on what we determine is possible, based on the photo quality, angle of view of the specimen, and species, organisms will be determined down to family, genus, or species with different levels of certainty. A hierarchy of experts will check identifications to ensure determinations are as accurate as they can be given the photograph and subject. Discover Life is developing identification guides and custom checklists to aid in pollinator and plant identification at the state level.

Why you are here?

Our goal is to have 1,000 study sites across North America participating on Earth Day, 22 April, 2010, or shortly thereafter, depending on local weather conditions and scheduling conflicts. As a testbed of how to organize locally, we would like Bee Hunt! to include a dense cluster of sites in north Georgia. What do we need to make this happen? Ideas?

  1. Participant list -- Study sites, organizations, individual participants.
  2. Training -- Protocols, workshops, videos.
  3. Funding -- Existing resources. Required resources. Proposals pending, other resources.
  4. Curricula: State and national requirements, testing lesson plans,...
  5. Timeline -- Environmental education meetings, other meetings, Earth Day 2010, and beyond.
  6. Publicity and recruitment -- Friends and family, reliable colleagues, web, membership lists, fliers, ...
  7. Partner projects -- People's Online Plant Atlas (POPA), Great Sunflower Project, Lost Ladybug Project, Goldenrod Challenge, Monarchs Across Georgia, ...
  8. Georgia organizing committee -- You? Others?
  9. Local goals -- What are reasonable goals for Georgia? How many schools? Other sites?
  10. Next steps -- ???


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