May 2023 Bulletin

Celebrating Nina, Results updates & senior thesis defenses, Season 4 begins, New participant trainings

Celebrating Nina

At the end of April, Nina Fogel, co-creator of Shutterbee, defended her PhD! She gave a “public defense” to the Shutterbee community at Urban Chestnut and crushed it :). She also did She had some really cool results to share regarding (1) the amazing job you all do supporting bees in your gardens and (2) the amazing job you all do photographing bees for this project! For the first, her research showed that increasing plant diversity, no matter where you are, helps to increase bee diversity. For the second, she showed that photo surveys predict diversity documented by aerial netting (the most robust means of collecting bees), and your surveys matched our surveys in documenting relative bee abundance and diversity. Her third chapter explored the quality of backyard conservation programs in the country. The Bring Conservation Home Program, which is run by the Audubon Society of St. Louis, shined as an exemplar of an effective, impactful program.

Unfortunately, we were unable to record Nina’s talk, because the acoustics in that room were not great. However, Nina plans to publish her findings, and we will share those with you as they come out. As Nina moves on to bigger things, she will be stepping back from some of her Shutterbee duties, but you’ll still find her helping out on iNaturalist!

Nina Fogel presenting the results of her dissertation research to the Shutterbee community.

Colby, Amber, and Coral defend their senior theses (Results update)

Three Shutterbee students defended their senior thesis this May. Two used data collected by YOU, and a third, Coral, took on a new project in urban orchards. They all did an amazing job, and we are so proud of their accomplishments!

Going in alphabetical order, Amber Estes-Brooks documented changes in the sex ratio of carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica) across the urbanization gradient in St. Louis. Because they are often larger, females are thought to be more “expensive” than males, requiring more resources to develop. Theory suggests that when resources are more limiting, you will get fewer females and more males. To test this theory, Amber selected 30 locations along the urban to exurban gradient, and sexed all of the observations of the carpenter bees at each. She found that, as you go toward the city, the proportion of females increases, suggesting that resources and therefore carpenter bee populations may be more robust in urban environments!

Colby Kapp was interested in the effects of urbanization on native vs. non-native bees. Several studies have documented that non-native bees are more abundant in more urbanized landscapes. However, these studies have been done it aggregate – pooling all individuals of different species together. With the help of Adam Smith at the Missouri Botanical Garden and Evelyn Guerrero (a Shutterbee student from 2022), Colby built “occupancy-detection models” (ODM) to explicitly describe which factors best predict if a species occurs in a given garden. These models also account for potential variation in observer detection. We are each unique individuals and may have slightly different approaches to conducting these surveys and photographing bees. ODMs explicitly address this and allows us to use ALL of your data, despite potential discrepancies in detection among us. Colby tested for the effects of urbanization and flower density on the occurrence of 3 non-native and 3 native bees. The non-native bees were most sensitive to urbanization and were much more likely to be found in highly urbanized landscapes. Native species had more variable responses. Some were affected by urbanization, whereas others were not. Flower density appears to be more important for native species. It is challenging to make strong conclusions at this point, because we only have six species. However, these results are intriguing, and we plan to explore them further this coming year.

Last, but most certainly not least, Coral Martin shared the results of her work in urban orchards. Coral’s research explored the effects of an urban heat island on the match between flowering and bee activity schedules in spring flowering fruit trees, such as apricots, peaches, and apples. Coral’s project followed up on work done by Kyle Curran, a former Shutterbee student, and was done in collaboration with several other labs throughout the region, including Aimee Dunlap (UMSL), Gerardo Camilo (SLU), Kyra Krakos (Maryville U.), Nathan Muchhala (UMSL), and Ed Spevak (Saint Louis Zoo). Interestingly, urbanization did not have strong effects on flowering or bee activity independently. However, when she looked at the mismatch (the difference between first flower and first bee sighting), she found a trend. The schedules of the bees and the plants were more closely aligned in the city, relative to the exurbs!

To learn more about their work, you can watch their full senior thesis presentations on the “Login” page.

Ready, set, photograph!

It is that time again: summer photo surveys have started for our returning citizen scientists. 122 returning citizen scientists have registered for another year of Shutterbee, which is incredible! We are lucky to have such an engaged group of collaborators.  During our training, we shared updates on our analyses and a pilot study on how bees move in the landscape. We will be marking bees with nontoxic paint and tracking how far they move in the landscape by conducting photo-surveys at strategically selected locations. Once the locations are chosen for the pilot study, we will reach out to all of you to invite you to be part of this new approach. Finally, we provide some reminders regarding the protocol.

If you would like to contribute again this year but were unable to attend the returner trainings, you can find a video recording on the “Login” page.

New Participant Trainings

A whopping 70 new citizen scientists have registered for the year! Please make them feel welcome as they learn the ropes on iNaturalist and as members of the research team. There are two required trainings for new participants, the first of which is held via Zoom. The second will be held in person at a location TBD. We will send out the Zoom meeting information one week before the meeting. If you have participated in the past but would like a refresher, please email to join the 2023 trainings OR watch videos of prior trainings that are available in the “Login” page of our website.

Wednesday, May 24 @ 6pm

Friday, May 26th @ 3pm

We look forward to working with you all this season!

More fun graduation photos

Nina and Nicole can’t keep a straight face
Coral working in the field
Amber and Nicole celebrate at Amber’s graduation party
Colby and Nicole at graduation
Coral and Nicole preparing for the big day
Amber’s delicious graduation cake!

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