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.
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.”
INSIGNIA is an exciting project, that has run so nice and smoothly. Within our consortium we have a great team spirit. We have become connected, involved, concerned, developed, creative, inspiring etc. I could keep writing. The short story, networks and friendships are created for lifetime. New projects arise due to constructive talks and discussion. New questions asked.
At 6.40 h Dutch time, my pre-recorded presentation at the COLOSS Asia conference was on. I think the presentation was well-received, given the questions about the impact of the landscape on pesticides and details of pollen metabarcoding and protocol development.
To me it was a special experience, watching my presentation. I heard a strong Dutch accent, a lot of gesticulation with my hands, stumbling over complex word combination as “this coincides with the Covid pandemic” and too rapid speech. This despite my being aware of this when I recorded the talk. So, what you think about how things look and sound like, and how they look and sound is different… Nothing new, this wisdom is already as old as the world, but to me, it was good to be pressed with my nose on these facts, and a strong learning moment.
Although I would have loved to go to Japan to present INSIGNIA in person in the Asian world, I am a big fan of online conferences. However, what I miss in these online conferences is the chat with participants with a special interest in the subject. In the physical world, most information is exchanged during coffee and lunch in bilateral contacts, as not everybody is keen on raising their hand in public, which is fully understandable. Therefore one must develop these kind of chatroom talks or features after the meeting or during the lunch break.
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?
Today Saturday the 23rd of January we congratulate Sjef van der Steen with his 69th birthday.
After his retirement Sjef found that retirement should not be wasted on playing golf. The passion for bees and science was stronger. Sjef discovered a H2020 call on using honeybees for monitoring pollution. Continue reading “Happy birthday Sjef”
By Amadeo Fernandez-Alba (Spain) Flemming Vejsnæs (Denmark) & Sjef van der Steen (The Netherlands) – The international INSIGNIA group
Microplastics are everywhere. The term microplastic is given to all micrometre (thousandth of a millimetre) sized plastic fragments. These small-sized plastic fragments come from cosmetics and industry, called primary microplastics, and also from the degradation of the enormous amounts of plastics all over the world, called secondary microplastics. Furthermore, there are also synthetic fibres, twisted with wool, cotton or cellulose used in clothing. Due to wear and washing, small parts of these fibres also end up in the environment and are also considered microplastics.
The INSIGNIA study has been running now for two years and we are entering the final stage. In these two years, we have gone through all stages of organizing an apiculturist citizen science study. We developed the passive sampler APIStrip, the efficient matrix to capture pesticides, and all the pitfalls that came on the way like the “not-to-be -misinterpretable” label, best practice for storage shipping, sampling schemes etc. Now it is time to bring all of this information together in the “Guideline for apiculturist citizen science for applying honeybee colonies for bio-monitoring of the environment – subject pesticides”. Given the Covid-19 restrictions, physical meetings to discuss all of the stages, best wording, most logical set-up, best flow-charts, and whatever it takes to write the best guidelines, would be great but are sadly impossible. Therefore we have started a scheme of virtual Teams-meetings with a strict agenda to go through all of these aspects. We started in December 2020 and will be finished in March 2021. There will be as many Teams-meetings as it takes to get the job done in time.