Citizen Science briefly explained – German

What is Citizen Science and what has it to do with INSIGNIA?

Kristina Gratzer from the University of Graz explains in a mini-interview (German). More videos will follow.

English translation: 

Helmut: “Dear Kristina, what does citizen science mean?”

Kristina: “Very briefly, citizen science includes scientific projects that are either carried out completely or, in our case, with the help of laypersons.”

Helmut: “You conduct bee science… Have you experience with citizen science?”

Kristina: “Yes. Currently, we are working in a European Union project called Insignia. There, 82 beekeepers from 10 European countries bi-weekly have taken samples from their own bee colonies, Those samples were processed and further analysed for pesticides and pollen diversity in labs in Spain, Greece and Portugal. Just imagine, doing such large-scale sampling all by yourself and without the volunteers, this would be quite difficult and takes a lot of time.”

Helmut: “That means citizens are able to support science?”

Kristina: “Yes absolutely and the co-working is also enriching.”

 

By Kristina Gratzer

The INSIGNIA publication list is getting longer and longer…

Our new publication gives an overview of the INSIGNIA project and its citizen science approach, which was also presented during the 2020 Austrian Citizen Science Conference. 

If you are interested, enjoy reading.

The article is freely accessible through:

Brodschneider, R., Gratzer, K.,  Carreck, N.L., Vejsnaes, F., van der Steen, J. (2021) INSIGNIA: Beekeepers as citizen scientists investigate the environment of their honey bees. Proceedings of Austrian Citizen Science Conference, 14-16 September 2020, Vienna, Austria. Proceedings of Science, 393. https://doi.org/10.22323/1.393.0019

By Kristina Gratzer

 

A study from University of Graz demonstrates how beekeepers contribute to research as citizen scientists

Citizen science is becoming more and more popular these days, although no universal definition of the term exists. The most important aspects include the recruitment and training (or instruction) of volunteers – so-called citizen scientists. Even though citizen science has a long tradition in entomology and especially in the research on honey bees and bumblebees, the term has only been used for a relatively short time.

Researchers from the University of Graz for the first time ever investigated what motivates beekeepers to voluntary participate in a citizen science study like INSIGNIA. This specific group of citizen scientists was also asked what expectations they had from participating, which study aspects were easy or difficult for them and whether they saw added value from their participation.

The project can roughly be divided into two large parts. The first one served as a pilot study and was conducted from May to September 2019. A total of 16 beekeepers from four European countries (Austria, Denmark, UK and Greece), each with three bee colonies, took part. The aim was to identify the best suitable of four possible non-invasive sampling techniques. Part two of the project took place from May to September in 2020 and was based on the experiences of the previous year. A total of 82 volunteers from 10 European countries (the four mentioned, plus Belgium, Norway, Italy, Latvia, France, Ireland) took part and examined the environment –  each one with two of their colonies.

The beekeepers’ tasks included taking samples from two bee colonies every two weeks, as well as regular online documentation of the samplings, reporting the flowering plants in vicinity of the test apiaries, storage and transport of the samples, as well as answering a voluntary survey at the end of the 2020 season.

What have we learned about the citizen scientists?

Continue reading “A study from University of Graz demonstrates how beekeepers contribute to research as citizen scientists”

INSIGNIA 2019 – Austrian results published in popular article

Austrian results of last year’s INSIGNIA samplings were made public in the beekeeping journal “Bienen aktuell”.
In 2019, 5 citizen scientists with 3 hives each participated.
We found that APIStrips together with beebread are the most promising matrices for detecting pesticides in beehives.
Further, we’ve chosen APIStrips for 2020, as they turned out to be more user-friendly.
For metarbarcoding, pollen sampling was the most suitable method.
The pollen analysis revealed 61 plant families with Fabaceae, Rosaceae, Plantaginaceae, Ranunculaceae and Asteraceae showing the highest occurence, respectively.
A total of 84 different substances were found in Austrian samples with an average of 2.4 in APIStrip samples, 2.9 in beebread, 1.7 in pollen and 1.4 substances in Beehold tubes.
Let’s see what 2020 samples from 9 beekeepers with 2 hives each will reveal.
Austrian INSIGNIA 2019 results in Bienen aktuell, 9, S 17-20, 2020.

Kristina Gratzer

Collecting plants for science!

All INSIGNIA  samples are analysed for pesticides residues and pollen diversity.

Last year, it was only possible to assign latter to the taxonomic family level, as the reference DNA database was not reliable enough to draw conclusions on botanical genus or species level. To complete the database, the colleagues from the Instituto Politécnico de Bragança in Portugal asked us to collect fresh plants, known to be important for bees.

No sooner said than done! The University of Graz sampled more than 60 plant species, herbarized them and will send it to Alice Pinto and her team in Portugal this week for ITS 2 metabarcoding. The figure below shows Papaver rhoeas, Cotoneaster horizontalis, Allium schoenoprasum, Tilia cordata, Rosa multiflora, Trifolium pratense, Sambucus nigra, Aruncus dioicus and Robinia pseudoacacia. All important melliferious plants for bees.

Hopefully, this enables the assignment of pollen to lower taxonomic levels in year two of INSIGNIA.

Example of important bee plants.

Kristina Gratzer

Simple INSIGNIA estimation of colony size through beelanes

To estimate the colony strength, citizen scientists count the occupied beelanes in each hive for every sampling round.

How an occupied beelane looks from above. This example shows 4 occupied beelanes!
When the colony has more than one box, each occupied beelane is counted and a sum of beelanes from all boxes is made.

 

Robert Brodschneider & Kristina Gratzer

Get to know Austrian citizen scientists #3

Austrian citizen scientist Matthias is proud to keep bees in all 23 city disctricts of Vienna! For INSIGNIA he has chosen an apiary at the eastend of the city. His beekeeping operation https://www.wiener-bezirksimkerei.at/ indeed offers different honeys from all boroughs. During sampling round 2, he filmed himself taking samples on one of the INSIGNIA hives!

Continue reading “Get to know Austrian citizen scientists #3”

Get to know the Austrian citizen scientists

Today, the Austrian beekeepers, the national coordinators and the study coordinator met virtually to get to know each other and to see how everybody looks like. Jozef van der Steen gave a short presentation to explain the main objectives of INSIGNIA and to present last year’s pesticides and pollen results.

Austrian citizen scientists were very interested and some open questions could be answered by the NatCos Robert Brodschneider and Kristina Gratzer as well as by Jozef van der Steen, who by the way. speaks extraordinary good German.

Today, also the first sampling period started. Within the next four days the APIStrips will be exchanged and pollen will be sampled in nine European countries simultaneously.

Almost all Austrian citizen scientist, the national coordinators Robert Brodschneider and Kristina Gratzer and the study coordinator Jozef van der Steen met face to face (the digital way).

Kristina Gratzer

Austrian results were sent to the Austrian citizen scientists

The participating citizen scientists in Austria were very curious about their results from INSIGNIA year 1. As we were curious too, we attempted to provide the results of the metabarcoding and pesticides analyses as quick as possible to them – right after receiving the raw data from the labs and after submitting them to the EU. Further, it was also important to us, to ensure anonymity for the participants. Therefore, each citizen scientist only got his/her individual results.

We decided to not only send out the raw data files, as they are rather difficult to interpret for non-scientists. Instead we performed individual and basic data analysis for all of the 5 participants of year 1 and we arranged them in an excel file with several tables.

The main page (see figure below) explains some basics of how to handle the document and links to all of the result-tables.

Figure: Main page of the results file. The Austrian citizen scientists got their individual results, packed in an excel document.

 

Kristina Gratzer

Tool boxes 2020

The study start for INSIGNIA 2020 is one month away, but we already shipped the tool boxes to the nine Austrian citizen scientists. The tool boxes include the majority of the materials needed for the INSIGNIA 2020 study. The materials are sufficient for 2 bee hives, 1 installation round (=study start) and 10 sampling rounds. The pictures below show the content.

Packed tool box for one citizen scientist.

Continue reading “Tool boxes 2020”