Posted on 05 July 2011 by

Gardeners and Scientists Unite

By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

The other day I was surfing on the Internet and found a wonderful program.

This program was called The Great Sunflower Project.

As I read the project, I thought how simple it was but, on the other hand, how important it was to mankind.

The site stated that every third bite of food was essentially created by a pollinator.

I thought how true and what can we do to protect our nation’s greatest food source. As I continued to read the site, the answer came to me in the blink of an eye and that was getting the public involved.

This is such an important step when it comes to scientific inquiry and budget cuts. Many important scientific discoveries have been found by a simply layperson. A person with no scientific background or government funding that asked a simple question and went in search of the answer.

Today, with the economic situation the way it is, citizen scientists can provide data to professional scientists to answer those longing and complex questions. All it takes is a little time, data recording, and a desire to ask why.

In agriculture and gardening circles, many have been asking where have all the pollinators gone. It seems that, in many areas, their numbers decline more and more every year. The old warning that many mothers gave their children in the summer about bare feet and bee stings seems to be a bygone story. But while many scientists and laypersons have speculated about the cause no one really knows what is truly going on in the pollinators’ world.

Some speculate the use of pesticide is to blame while others believe it is a complicated relationship between global warming, phenology, and bee cycles. One may be familiar with terms such as global warming and understand basic bee cycles but the term phenology may well be foreign to many. This term describes a new type of study that combines when plants flower and animal lifecycles and how these two are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate. In other words, what happens in your hyper-local area when it comes to when plants bloom and animal activity.

The Great Sunflower Project was started in 2008 and continues with the help of concern citizens and students. If you have interest in participating in this project it does not require a lot of time or equipment. To begin the project, first decide if you only want to watch for bees or if you want to also contribute to the phenology project. Both of these projects can be conducted at the same time.

After you have decided on the projects you want to participate in, the next step requires you to purchase some seeds. The Great Sunflower Project recommends that you use Lemon Queen Sunflowers. It is important for everyone who participates to use the same type of seed, that way you are not comparing apples and oranges.

Next plant your seeds and record the date. Make a daily commitment to observe the sunflowers between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. This observation only requires 15 minutes of your time. Continue this observation until the end of the season.

Additional information that will be needed can be found here.

Further down on the site, one can find the information about the National Phenology Network and the information needed if you want to contribute to this study.

So this year, I challenge all my fellow gardeners and budding scientists, participate in The Great Sunflower Project and help solve the mystery of the disappearing bees. Who knows maybe your personal discovery will help write a chapter in the survival guide we all call life.

So until we blog again, many things may come and go, but do not let the song “Where have all the flowers gone” be a prediction of the human race.

One Response to “Gardeners and Scientists Unite”

  1. Kimberly Says:

    I’ve e-mailed our head of science to see if we can plant the sunflowers in our garden and do this as our sustained inquiry this year.

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