Oregon State University Extension Service

67 Rich Hatfield – PNW Bumble Bee Atlas (in English)


Speaker 1: From the Oregon State University Extension Service, this is Pollination, a podcast that tells the stories of researchers, land managers, and concerned citizens making bold strides to improve the health of pollinators. I'm your host, Dr. Adoni Melopoulos, assistant professor in pollinator health in the Department of Horticulture. I am so excited to be in Portland at the Xerces Society offices with Rich Hetfield. Welcome to Pollination.

Speaker 2: Thanks so much, Adoni. It's great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Speaker 1: I'm really excited to be talking with you because on past episodes we've heard about how various people are trying to measure changes in the diversity and abundance of bees and what's come out in a lot of these episodes, how challenging it is. Can you describe the Pacific Northwest Bumblebee Atlas and how it aims to address these challenges? What is the Pacific Northwest Bumblebee Atlas and how it was designed in a way to deal with these challenges?

Speaker 2: Yeah, it's a great question and something I've personally struggled with myself in that I worked with the IUCN as part of the Bumblebee Specialist Group in over the last five or six years.

Speaker 1: Maybe just tell us what that is. Okay. Very good. We're going to unravel it all the way back.

Speaker 2: Yeah, let's go back. That sounds good. The IUCN Bumblebee Specialist Group is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. They're an international organization and their goal is to assess the extinction risk of all species on the planet, including plants, animals, fungi, everything. If we go all the way back, if you want to go all the way back to Rob and Thorpe's discovery of the decline of Bombas Occidentalis and Bombas Franklini in California and then expanding that to Bombas Athanas and Bombas Tricola on the East Coast, then at that point we had a community of people that were concerned about Bumblebee conservation. At that time, Serena Jepsen, my colleague, and a bunch of other people formed a meeting that happened in St. Louis at the St. Louis Zoo to come up with a strategy for Bumblebee conservation in North America. Out of that formed this Bumblebee Specialist Group. The idea of the Bumblebee Specialist Group is to assess the extinction risk of all Bumblebee species in the world, and I think there are about 250 names right now.

How many species there are is up for debate, but 250 or so accepted names. I am the Red List Authority for that group, which means it's my role to do these assessments. We've finished them for North America, for Mesoamerica, and South America. We're just beginning to explore how we might go about doing this in Asia and Europe as we look at doing global assessments for all species if that makes sense.

Speaker 1: It does. One of the starting points of the Bumblebee Atlas is already recognizing that there are declines that are occurring and really needing data, I suppose.

Speaker 2: Correct. The way that we did the assessments in North America was to go leave Richardson and a number of other people have put together this incredible database of Bumblebee records going back to the early 1800s. I think at this point it's a 400,000-plus individual database. There are a lot of records in there, but the problem that we ran into when we were trying to use that database to assess species declines is that none of those data were collected for this purpose. They were all collected for some other reason, whether it was a collector wanting to get beautiful animals on a pin or trying to find rare species.

We have no idea why most of those animals were originally deposited in a museum. They're the best data that we have. It's all we had. So moving forward, now I'm in a position where we've assessed a bunch of species. We know they're in decline, but we also know the data we have on them is imperfect. The Pacific Northwest Bumblebee Atlas is an effort to do a systematic collecting effort that would allow us to really track species from this point moving forward with data that have been specifically collected for this purpose. What we've done is we've partnered with partners, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in Idaho and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Washington, and then obviously Oregon State and the Oregon Department of Agriculture here in Oregon to set up a grid. What we've done is we've taken those three states and divided them up into more or less 50-kilometer by 50-kilometer grid cells that are equally distributed across the three-state area. Ideally, we're recruiting individuals to adopt one of those grid cells or multiple of those grid cells and then to go out and follow a standardized protocol that has effort associated with it. So we don't just end up with specimens, but we know how much time was spent. And so then we can actually compare efforts either across grid cells or even there's been parallel efforts that have happened in Vermont, in Maine, in Minnesota over the last decade or so. And so we can also start making larger comparisons as well with sort of these equal or at least measured efforts to track species.

Speaker 1: So that's really interesting. So it started with data that really might have been collected for a whole bunch of reasons, but it's not comparable. You can't say since it's not spread out over space and has kind of a set protocol, it's hard to relate if a bee appeared in one survey, not another. You're not sure if they were even looking for them or excluding them or where they were looking or anything like that. Correct.

Speaker 2: Yeah. I mean, that's one of the issues is that we don't know, like if you look in a museum record, sometimes you'll find 50 individuals from one spot. We don't know if they collected every individual they found or if they were just looking for that species or those particular specimens. And so that's one issue. Another issue is that we don't have any negative data, right? So all we have is positive.

Speaker 1: I found something. Yeah. All we have is I found something we don't have. I looked and didn't find anything, which is probably a more important or at least an equally important data point. And so when you're analyzing like I had to, you sort of have to assume that a lack of a presence point is an absence. And that's probably a pretty poor assumption. Okay, great. That makes sense. No, that does because it just may be the fact that nobody ever went there. That's right. Okay.

Speaker 2: That's right. And in fact, you know, that's probably what it is.

Speaker 1: You know, in most cases, in most cases, but it may be the other where people had been looking and there's an actual decline, but you can't tell them apart. Yeah.

Speaker 2: Okay. Yeah, exactly. You have no way of telling them apart. Okay.

Speaker 1: So just coming back to the Atlas for a second on the structure of it to kind of get around these challenges. One of the things that's really amazing about the Bumblebee Atlas is you're taking people who otherwise lack any experience, never took an entomology class, and you put them to work serving Bumblebees. Tell us a little bit about the process of training people up to the point where they can collect data that really can give you the information that you're looking for.

Speaker 2: Yeah, that's a great question. And I think it's a really important question because while we've set the program up so that I think anybody can participate, I do think that there are some skills that need to be learned in order to participate. So training is a very important part of this project. And for over the last sort of the end of August now, and I think over the last three or four months, I've done seven maybe training workshops across the Pacific Northwest.

Speaker 1: So I've done two in Idaho, one in Washington, and two in Oregon. Wow. So yeah, it's been a busy, I've kind of been on tour

Speaker 2: without a bus, without a crew to support me. But it's been great. It's been, it's been so heartening to be honest with you to travel all over our region and just have in almost every case, a room full of people who are super excited about this topic and want to learn and want to help.

And so that part's been great. But the actual training itself is a full-day workshop. So it's close to six to eight hours. Wow.

Yeah. And it's pretty comprehensive. We go back and sort of tell the story of what we know to date and what we're hoping to learn. And then also teaches people how to participate in the projects, which includes how to go out, how to find a grid cell, and how to plan a survey or a potential area where you might go do a survey. Because one of the things that we're hoping for this project is that folks, it's great if people want to share what's in their backyard. But to a certain degree, a lot of what we need to know is not what's happening where people live, but what's happening more in remote areas. So we're really hoping that people will sort of adopt a more remote area or a more remote grid cell and travel and go somewhere else and kind of go on an adventure.

And calling them sort of bumblebee-watching adventures to go to a new place and explore it and look for bumblebees while they're there. And so we've put together a bunch of resources that help people to plan a survey, just like you might plan a vacation, right? We've tried to help people plan how they might find an area to survey by looking at aerial maps and aerial photography and using some of the digital tools that are out there like Google Maps and things like that. And so we walk people through that process in the classroom. And then eventually, we make our way outdoors where we show people how to net a bumblebee. And a lot of these people have never thought about doing that, but we show them how to capture a bumblebee into a net and then get that bumblebee into a vial and then into a cooler and then how to take diagnostic photographs of these specimens so that we can then identify them and get really a high-quality research grade database without necessarily having to destructively sample bumblebees, which is another, you know, that's an important thing for some citizen scientists or community scientists there.

You know, they don't want to do that. And I personally, as a scientist, recognize the importance of collecting specimens and museum records. I just told you how important that was for my work for the IUCN.

So I fully recognize that that is important, but a lot of people aren't willing to take that step. One of the great things about bumblebees is, in many cases, we can make a diagnostic deterministic species, you know, put a name on an individual from a photograph, from a good photograph. So that part's really great too.

Speaker 1: Well, I remember you actually, this is not, you know, in some ways, it's not that hard. I remember you did a little workshop at the Oregon Zoo on National Pollinator Week. And I think you had this one little guy who was, I don't know, couldn't have been six who was out there and he could get the bee in the net and, but walk us through that process so people get the bee in the net and what happens?

Speaker 2: Yeah, so people go out and net a bee, get it in the net, and then we have, we provide supplies for a lot of our volunteers, or at least the volunteers that have attended these workshops, and then they put it into a plastic vial, or really any container will work. You could use an old pill jar or a baby food jar or really anything works, but they get it into that jar and then put it into a cooler with ice, and that cooler with ice sort of forces the bee into a state of torpor where they, you know, more or less go to sleep and you can put them in your hand or onto a piece of paper, a white piece of paper and take, you know, you can manipulate the bee almost however you'd like and take whatever photos that you need to. And then the bee slowly warms back up and he or she, you know, flies away and goes about her business and, you know, to my knowledge, doesn't undergo much or any harm, from that process.

It's just like a cold night. Yeah. What was that? I sometimes wonder what might be going through the tiny mind of a bee when they...

It's like having a Slurpee. Yeah. There's probably some truth to that. Okay, so you know, if I can continue, the other thing is we recognize that we're talking about a big three-state area and even though I've done seven of these, people still would have had to travel, you know, hundreds of miles potentially to attend one of these. So we've also put all of them, the modules and workshops up on the website so people can actually watch the videos and watch the modules and learn online as well.

Speaker 1: Oh, that's perfect. Yeah. We will be linking to the website on the show notes, but it's PNWBomobyAtlas.org. You got it. Okay, great. Yeah. So we, the process of, you know, get the bee, you take the photograph. Yeah. I got that. But you also mentioned, you know, coming back, the importance of absence data and sort of knowing how long a person was sent. There is a protocol. Can you run down what that protocol is like, you know, a person finds a spot, and then what do they do?

Speaker 2: Yeah, I wish it was more simple to describe because I don't want to confuse people. I think it is, it is fairly straightforward, but there are two different kinds of surveys that someone can do. They can do either a roadside survey or a point survey. Okay. And I'll talk about a point survey first.

Okay. A point survey is a one-hectare plot. A hectare is around two and a half acres.

It doesn't have to be exact, just approximately. And then during that, or within that one-hectare plot, a person spends 45 minutes searching for bumblebees. And it's 45, like sort of human minutes.

So if there were three people participating in the survey, which we encourage, this is a, it's fun to do with friends. It would be 15, you know, each person would search for 15 minutes. Well, that's no time at all. Yeah, that's quick. You could do a survey really fast with other people. In fact, on some of my workshops, we've done an official survey and there have been, you know, 20 of us and we've done it for two and a half minutes, you know, and you get the whole, and you're gonna be amazed how many bees you can collect in two and a half minutes with 22 people or 20 people. So, so yeah, it's, it's, it's 45 minutes of searching.

And that's important too. Cause when, especially when someone's new to this, for those of us who have been catching bees and putting them in vials for decades, it takes seconds for us to do this. But for somebody new to it, that's cautious, it can take five minutes to get a bee and that's fine.

There's no problem with that. But people must pause their timer while they're doing that. So it's really 45 minutes of searching, not 45 minutes of putting bees into vials, right? So we want to make sure that that's really clear to people and people are actually searching for 45 minutes and not, it's not just a fixed 45 minutes. They should be pausing their timer while they're transferring bees from nets to vials.

Speaker 1: One quick question about this point, sir, before you go to roadside survey. So how does one sort of like judge a Hector? What's the, the shortcut? How do you do it?

Speaker 2: It's pretty much, the size of a football field, including, the end zones. Oh, that's helpful. Okay. Square. Yeah. So the length, including the end zones square.

Speaker 1: That's a Hector. I could picture that in my mind. That's pretty much ahead. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. That's a good question. So yeah, that's a, that's a point survey. And do they do anything else other than collect the bumblebees? Yeah.

Speaker 2: So usually either before or after they collect bumblebees, we have folks walk around and look at all of, the plants that are blooming and try to document those as well. If they can't document, they can snap photos and send them, you know, one of the other great things I will say about this project is we, I'm not going to say positive or negative things about social media, but we have a Facebook group where people, everybody, everybody that's in the group is a member of the project and, and they're helping each other solve problems. So people post photos there and they're like, what's this?

And they're like, Oh, that's this species of flower. And so that has been really great when you can get volunteers sort of solving their problems. And while I'm out teaching these courses, you know, I don't have to be answering emails or whatever, they're actually helping each other out. And it's been really heartening to see a lot of that interaction go on in that Facebook group. So that's another support that people have is you don't necessarily have to know every species of flower that you see, there's help out there for you.

Speaker 1: There's always one boldness there. That's right. There's always, there's always, and it seems like on Facebook that they're always active too. So which is, which is remarkable. So that's been, that's been really good too. So yeah, we have people collect associate, associational habitats, what we call a rapid habitat survey, where they, you know, tabulate the number of species of plants that are blooming, what proportion of the plot had blooming plants. And then we have some, you know, management questions too, like, do you think pesticides are displayed nearby?

Or has it been mowed, you know, those kinds of sort of gross questions that might help us understand what may be contributing to or detracting from the bumblebee community that's there, or maybe that should be there and is not. Yeah, because you're going to be there, you can't come back, you make a quick assessment and then that data's captured.

Speaker 2: That's right. Okay, cool. Snapshot in time. Yeah.

Speaker 1: Okay, so roadside survey.

Speaker 2: Yeah, so the benefit of a point survey is that we get detailed information about one location. But the fact of the matter is, if there doesn't happen to be a nest nearby for a particular species, you're going to miss that species no matter what. No matter how long you stay in that meadow and survey it, there's a chance that you miss it.

Okay. So a roadside survey is a little bit different. They're briefer surveys, but they're spread out over a longer distance. So we ask people to set aside a 10-mile transect of the road. And then they're going to sample five locations within that 10 miles. Each location needs to be separated by at least half of a mile. Okay.

So they get to the beginning of their transect and they start driving down the road until they find a large patch of flowers. There's no sort of minimum or maximum size. The idea that we give people, has to be sort of big enough to keep your attention for 15 minutes.

Speaker 1: Oh, that's a great thought. I can picture that.

Speaker 2: Yeah. And then folks survey for 15 minutes following basically that same protocol that I just described, they're netting bees, putting them in vials, putting the vials into coolers and pausing while they're doing that and then starting time again. So 15 minutes of searching, then they do a rapid habitat survey there.

And then they'll move at least a half mile down the road and then stop at the next patch of flowers and then repeat that five times. Okay. Yeah. And the idea there is that we're getting less information at each spot, but over the whole 10 miles, we're covering a broader area and potentially getting better, you know, covering more habitats or a greater diversity of habitats. And we may encounter more species in that way rather than more time.

Speaker 1: Okay. Thanks so much. It sounds really doable. After listening to that, this is not something you need a doctorate to do.

Speaker 2: No, you do need time. I mean, I don't want to belittle the effort. Like the, you know, it takes a day to do a couple of surveys, you know, it's a commitment. And I recognize that and I can't tell you how much I appreciate the time that people are putting into the project. It is heartening and so exciting that people, but I can tell you from the response that we've had that people are pretty excited. They've been having a really good time doing this, which has been, you know, fun. I love it too. And it's great to know that other people, you know, can join you in this.

Speaker 1: I think it says, you know, it's a kind of a voyage of exploration in flowers. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker 2: And it's a, you know, for a lot of people, I think it's their first foray into bees, you know, maybe knew about honeybees or new bumblebees were around, but they've never sort of explored this whole world of bee diversity. And we have, you know, so many different species and, and yeah if you spend 45 minutes staring at flowers in a meadow, you're going to see all kinds of incredible things that you've maybe never seen before. And the thing I love about it, I think, is it also teaches them people, then you can go in your backyard and you've got a safari back there, right? You can go, you can go wildlife watching all of a sudden in your garden and, and see all kinds of species that you perhaps didn't know were there before. And, and, you know, as a larger picture, sort of beyond bumblebee conservation, like that connects people to nature. And that's, for me, that's really exciting.

Speaker 1: Oh, totally. And it's accessible too. You know, you think about, you know, going out and trying to go to the, you know, going to Serengeti or something. This is right there. There's a lot of diversity, we're in a bumblebee. This is an area with pretty good bumblebee diversity in the Pacific Northwest.

Speaker 2: Yeah, it's really the kind of hotspot in North America, between the ocean and high alpine environments within 100 miles of each other. We've got, and then, you know, just east of that, we end up in sage step habitats. We've got, you know, within 150 miles, a whole diversity of habitats, which has led to, you know, a whole suite of species that are out there to enjoy.

Speaker 1: Now, before we take a break, just tell us what happens. They take these pictures and then what?

Speaker 2: Yeah, so they take the pictures, they record the data, and then there's a couple of different ways they can submit data. We do have mobile apps for Android and iOS, but the Bumblebee data goes into a national database called Bumblebee Watch. And that's been around since 2014, but we're using that as the platform to collect the bumblebee data. Then they submit their habitat data in a different location. And that tells, you know, how many plants they saw. And then, you know, later we'll collate all those data together.

Speaker 1: Now, I noticed on the website, that there's a really nice, specific Northwest bumblebee queen. color guides. So it's restricted to only the species that are in the region. So I imagine some people are trying to identify them, but also something that there's an identification step that happens afterward.

Speaker 2: That's right. Yeah, so, and I didn't mention that in the workshop, but the workshops do include what I sort of call an introduction to the bumblebees of the Northwest, where I go through sort of species by species and talk about how you might go about identifying them. It's really, I think some people find that part of the training to be overwhelming, right? It's a new taxa group for most people. And it's like picking up a flower guidebook or a bird guidebook, right?

Which can be overwhelming at first, and it takes experience. And so, I've tried to sort of make broad categories for people to focus on and then try to put a species name on them. But it is important to realize that we do have sort of experts that will eventually put the name on it.

And you don't have to be perfect. We're just hoping to improve people's skills, which reduces our workload at the back end. If we can have our volunteers put the right species name on it, that makes my job of verifying those photos easier in the end game. And it makes the process better. But people don't have to be experts or identification experts to participate. I really just want the photos.

Speaker 1: Fantastic. Well, let's take a quick break and then we'll come back and check in with how this first year went. Sounds good. Good. We are back. So, one thing I wanted to ask you is, why is this bumblebee, you told us there are other bumblebee atlases that are taking place in Maine and Minnesota. Maybe just tell us a little bit more about why it's so important to get this started in the Pacific Northwest and here in Oregon specifically.

Speaker 2: Yeah, I mean, I think from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation perspective, like one of the things that is lacking in most insect groups is baseline data. We just don't know where insects are living, and what habitats they're associated with.

That information does not exist. And we know sort of coarsely that information about bumblebees, as you mentioned in the Northwest, but we don't know the finer scale. We can't drill down and associate different species with different habitat types.

And maybe that means they're all generalists and we won't ever be able to do that, but I don't think we have the data even to ask that question right now. So, part of it is just to get those data, get them in the door so that we can address some of those questions, and find out what habitats have different species. And then from that information, I think the most exciting part about this is that we can sort of glean all kinds of important information about what habitats are important, what plant species are important, and potentially what management activities are important. Then we can turn around to organizations like the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife the Oregon Department of Forestry the Bureau of Land Management the Forest Service or the National Park Service. And we can give them guidance about how to manage land for bumblebees or pollinators in general. And to me, that's one of the most exciting things I have.

I wrote a book a few years ago called Conserving Bumblebees that's all about management guidance for landowners and how to manage land for bumblebees. But a lot of that, it's a great book. I'm not trying to put it down, but a lot of it was just sort of guesswork or best. And I'm really looking forward to having some data that I can use to build evidence-based guidance where I can truly show that these plants matter and we know that it makes a difference. Or we have a lot of evidence that it makes a difference. It's hard to ever know anything, but I'm looking forward to having more data to make evidence-based recommendations for landowners and land managers, which I think is one of the kind of ultimate products of a project like this. There are so many practitioners right now who are trying to do restoration projects to benefit pollinators, which going back 20 years, wasn't on anybody's radar. So we made tremendous progress there, but to be able to make, I think I've said evidence-based recommendations now like 10 times in the last 30 seconds, but I think that's a really exciting thing to be able to do to people, to give people real sort of guidance about how to do this better.

Speaker 1: Oh, and there's such an appetite for it as well. And being an extension, I always feel very kind of ill-equipped to answer some of those questions for sure.

Speaker 2: Yeah, and so that's what we're trying to do is build that toolbox and give people like you, tools to hand to people to say, here, try this or do this. And one of the exciting things, unfortunately, one of the questions was about sort of how this benefits Oregon particularly. Unfortunately, the project in Washington and Idaho is partnering with the Department's Efficient Wildlife or Department's Efficient Game there.

And they manage tons of land like they have that already. So as part of the project, I'm actually doing large-scale restoration projects in Washington and Idaho already, and we're gonna practice adaptive management over the next three years as this project evolves and learn even more from that process. I wish that we had the same was true here in Oregon that we were working with. Fish and wildlife. Yeah, or some land management organization so that we could have a similar relationship. But unfortunately here in Oregon, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, to my understanding, doesn't really have the authority to regulate insects.

So insects really more or less aren't wildlife. I mean, I know that's not true, but I mean, that's one of the barriers that we found in trying to find a partner here in Oregon at the same level.

Speaker 1: Okay, so it has a very kind of peculiar... Yeah. There's a way in which in Washington and Idaho, the lessons gleaned will be put into practice in a way that in Oregon, there's a bit of an obstacle to.

Speaker 2: Yeah, well, it's more that we're already working on the ground in Washington and Idaho, right? Our partners are already managing land, and so I'm already giving them some of the guidance that we know, and then we're gonna use information that we glean over the next couple of years to figure out how we might do things differently, and therefore better. And ultimately, Oregon has a lot of the same habitats as Washington and Idaho, so they're gonna benefit from that same information.

For sure. I guess I just, I wish from the very get-go, we were able to be on the ground in doing some of this land management that we're not able to do, but Oregon's still gonna benefit from that information ultimately, and it would be great to form a partnership as the next step in the Oregon project is to start thinking about how do we then do things on the ground?

Speaker 1: Well, I know one thing that was really appealing to us when we started was the state, we have a new strategic plan for dealing with pollinator health, and always frustrating how would you measure that?

Like how would you know I could be doing a really terrible job with extension and tell you I'm doing a good job, but unless you could actually measure some change in movie, diversity, and abundance, it seemed like without the Atlas, we wouldn't have a way to even broach that question. Maybe we can only do it coarsely now, but that seems better.

Speaker 2: Yeah, for sure. I mean, that speaks to another reason why that baseline data is so important, and I wish, I was so glad that you guys are doing the Oregon Bee Atlas for all of the others. Bumblebees are just one very small slice of the native bees out there, and I'm so glad to know that we're also gonna learn in this process, gonna learn a whole lot more about all those other species, all those other 450 or whatever other species that we have in Oregon, so it's super exciting.

Speaker 1: Well, it's a good segue because I wanna know a little bit about cool things that you found this year. I know it's probably all sitting on a hard drive so we're waiting for you, but have there been any kind of cool things that you can share with us that you were able to see this year that might have been unexpected?

Speaker 2: Yeah, I mean, I think one of the amazing things has just been the volume of data. So I think, and so we launched Bumblebee Watch in 2014, and over the first four years of the project, I think we collected maybe a total of 4,000 Bumblebee observations in the Pacific Northwest, and in just June, July, and August of 2018, we've collected well over 4,000 records of Bumblebees. Great, fantastic. And that speaks a lot to them, so that means a lot of people are involved, it means that word has gotten that, it means that we're collecting a lot of amazing observations, and that's been amazing, so that's so cool. A lot of work to do, but it's a great problem to have.

So that's been one of the cool outcomes. Another one is, that some of the impetus for this project is some of these species of decline that we mentioned at the beginning of the podcast. The Western Bumblebee has been in decline for a long time. Its populations have sort of been up and down, but more down, and so we've had questions about its distribution, and we have a whole bunch of new records of that species, particularly in Washington and Idaho, but also some in Oregon as well.

So that's been exciting. There haven't been any groundbreaking new locations. I mean, that's a species that has pretty much used to be pretty common west of the Cascades and now is virtually absent, and we haven't had any like, no one's found it on the coast of Oregon or in Portland, but we did have one observation in Seattle proper in the city.

Speaker 1: Yeah, so that's pretty cool. And one of the, we've had a couple of observations over the last five or six years from Seattle, but so that's not brand new, but it's pretty exciting to be like right, it's almost like right and down. It's just north of the university there. So pretty close to downtown. So with the Western Bumblebee, there's no kind of like, you're seeing them in areas where you thought they'd be, but you're seeing them there.

Speaker 2: Yeah, and some new records, but it's more like sort of if you had an outline, a known outline, they're still falling within that known to outline more or less, but new locations within that outline. If that makes sense.

It does. Fantastic. And then, you know, Bambis morasoni, Morrison's bumblebee is another sort of species of conservation need in these states, the department's sufficient wildlife, you know, define animals as what are called species of greatest conservation need. And that actually makes funding available for work like we're doing. And so morason's bumblebee is one of these species of greatest conservation need. We have found a bunch of new records of that species as well, including some records from near Bend, Oregon, and Central Oregon, from which it had never been detected before, to my knowledge.

Fantastic. So brand new records, including like, I actually saw that species right in like the business town center of Sun River. Foraging on Selvia, you know, like, but we actually had some recent records from an official survey in Idaho as well. So we're gonna learn habitat associations and other things for that species, for which was lacking. Interestingly enough, like if you go back and sort of look at the work I did, going all the way sort of full circle to the beginning, talking about the IUCN, like when you look at records like Morason's bumblebee was in decline largely on sort of the edges of its range, but the edges of its range were also pretty poorly sampled, kind of the inner mountain west with low population density and not a lot of universities where, you know, researchers are collecting. So, you know, in some cases for something like Mason's bumblebee, it could be that this project may actually show that that species may not be in decline. It may be doing okay, but it may be a case of more under-sampling. And I'm not saying that's the case, I'm just saying, that may be one of the things that we could learn if we do end up with a bunch of observations more towards the edges of this species' historic range.

Speaker 1: Those are two really cool findings. And I do, you know, one thing you shared, we were talking before we were recording, you did one training in Le Grand and just having like 50 people show up is...

Speaker 2: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, Le Grand is a, I don't know how many people live in the city of Le Grand. Is it 10,000 or maybe it's more than that, maybe it's 50,000, but it's a pretty small town in rural Northeastern Oregon. And yeah, advertised this course and people were bursting out the back door or trying to get in and went out in the field and had a great day sampling bumblebees with people out there, super exciting. You know, one of the interesting things that came from that workshop was actually, so Bombas Vasnesenskii, the yellow-faced bumblebee is super common in Portland and pretty much up and down the West Coast from Los Angeles or even Baja Mexico all the way to Vancouver, BC. It's probably, if not the most common, one of the most common species in that whole coastal area, but it doesn't extend very far East into sort of Eastern Oregon, Eastern Washington. And we saw that species pretty regularly in Le Grand. And if you look at sort of the Bumblebees of North America guidebook, there are very few, if any, records of that species that far East. So a question has arisen, are we seeing an expansion East of that species?

You know, it's a question that we have. I need to look more in-depth at the data, but super, super interesting observation as well, is a really common species learning how to cohabit with people and therefore expanding as people expand. I don't know, just interesting, another interesting thing that might come out of the project.

Speaker 1: Well, it's a great combination of running a course in a place where, I think the phrase you use is, there's not a lot of university research going on, having people show up and then actually being able to make these discoveries. I imagine there's, I've heard this, there's a lot of people who, a lot of people are really excited about the Atlas and want to get involved next year. People want to get involved. What are the steps?

Speaker 2: Yeah, we definitely still need volunteers. We've had a great group, core group of people that have been involved this year and have sampled a lot of areas, but there's still Oregon is a huge state, particularly here in Oregon, we need a lot of work, particularly East of the Cascades and really Southeast Oregon is the place that we really need people to get involved. One of the problems that we may have run into there is that we sort of targeted June, July, and August as sort of sampling months in the Northwest and that may be too late in some of those parts of Southeast Oregon.

So getting an early start and getting people out into, down your Steens Mountain and Malheur, getting people out sampling down there would be great. But the real step is to start by going to the website, PNWbumbleB Atlas.org. And I think there's a box at the top that says get involved or something like that.

And then the steps are basically to take a look at the map and we have a map that basically shows all of the grid cells and green grid cells are grid cells that have not yet been adopted by anybody. So those are the ones where we really need folks to sort of step up and say, okay, I'm gonna throw the family in the car and we're gonna drive to Steens Mountain and sample bumblebees on the way. And it's fun to laugh about, but to me, that sounds kind of fun. Yeah, totally, yeah. And actually, I did that with my kids like on our way out to the grand. We sampled some cells and we went up to the Wallabas and we did some sampling up there. And it's something my kids can participate in.

I have a 10-year-old and a six-year-old and they're both able to net bees and put them in vials and help out. And they're allowed, which is fun. It's a fun thing to do.

So I'm hoping that people will do that. Pick some of those green cells and get out there into those remote parts of the three-state area. And it's not just Oregon. There are Southeast Idaho is also pretty under-sampled.

And actually, surprisingly around Spokane, there are still some gaps as well. So there's still a lot of data to be collected. And even if a cell was sampled this year, we want to get more data next year.

We want that data too. So keeping people engaged and getting new people engaged would be awesome. But starting at the website and sort of following those steps is the best way to get involved. And we're also here to answer questions that people have. So our email and phone number are on the website. So feel free to reach out if there are questions about how to get involved. Fantastic.

Speaker 1: Okay, great. Well, let's take another break and I've got some questions. We asked all our guests these questions. I'm curious what your answers are gonna be. All right. Okay. All right. All right. We're back. So the first question is, is there a book? Is there a book that you want people to know about or that has been really influential for you?

Speaker 2: Gosh. I'm looking across. There's a lot of books on your shelf. There are a lot of books on my shelf. I feel like I want to name about 15 books, but I know you did ask for just one book, but I'm gonna give you two.

Just because I'm not sure you asked for a book that had a lot of influence. And for me, that was The Forgotten Pollinators by Naven and Buckman. And I think it was published in 96 or something like that, which is sort of right as I was entering my professional world. And I read that book and it sent me on the direction and path that I am today.

And it's been a heartening journey in some ways and a disheartening one another. Phenomenal book that raised awareness and probably brought pollinator conservation to the forefront and made it a national conversation. And Colony Collapse Disorder brought the funding to the issue, but...

Speaker 1: But that conversation was going on for a good decade before that.

Speaker 2: Yeah, that's right. And it was started really by that book, I think. At least for me, it was started by that book. So that was really a foundational book for me. And if you haven't read it, it's still pertinent.

Even though it's 20 years old now, I think it's still very pertinent. And the other book is Dave Goulson a researcher in the UK. And over the last three or four years, he's written a series of sort of natural history-based books that are, gosh, probably in the spirit of like Byrne Heinrich type books where you can learn a lot of information, but they're told in a way that is also very entertaining and readable. And the first one that he wrote was called The Sting in the Tail.

And it was just about sort of bumblebee conservation in the UK and about his work and all of the interesting things that he's learned and the way that he's done it. And it's a super great read. And you know, he's a great writer.

Speaker 1: He's a great writer. He's a great scientific writer. And he's also a great sort of more general natural history writer. And so yeah, I would highly recommend that book as well as sort of a more recent, just fun read, but tremendously educational as well. Okay, great. We'll link those on the show notes. I'm sure people are gonna be interested in all the books.

Speaker 2: His other two sorts of books that have come out after that are also great, but that's a good one to start with.

Speaker 1: Yeah, I remember reading the one where he's talking about his childhood and sort of going down the...

Speaker 2: I think that was a Sting in the Tail, but then he did have a Buzz in the Meadow, which is the one where he talks about this property in France he bought and he's been restoring it. Well, that's the one. That's the one, yeah. That's also really good.

And then he has a more recent one called Bee Quest, which is about sort of bumblebee conservation all over the world, including a tail that takes place here in Oregon in Washington with Franklin's Bumblebee.

Speaker 1: So fantastic. Yeah, they're all great. So now I've given you four books. Even though I said I was only giving you one. Well, four books in like two minutes, that's more important for me. Okay, so the other question I have for you is do you have a go-to tool for the kind of work you do?

Speaker 2: Gosh, this past summer, the go-to tool for me has been a camera that I've found. It's called the Olympus Tough 5 or TG5 model. It's a waterproof sort of shock-resistant camera that can be dropped from seven feet and not suffer any ill effects and it's waterproof. But more importantly for my work, it has a focal length of like one centimeter. So you can get inches from a chilled bumblebee and take a highly diagnostic photo. It also has the ability to take multiple images together and then stack them together to create kind of a three-dimensional image. You know, one of the challenges of macro photography, is it has a really narrow depth of field and this camera sort of solves that by taking five or six photos and stitching them together like in real-time and then giving you that sort of really rich, deep macro photo of a bee, which really helps with diagnostic photos.

Speaker 1: I have a Lumix that does the same thing with that automatic stacking where you can sort of press your thumb on the back and the front of the bee and it'll just do what seemed like you needed a lot of equipment to do in the past.

Speaker 2: Yeah, yeah, it's incredible. And I've been sharing actually all the workshops I've taught. I've shown a lot of the participants this camera and I think I've probably sold up. I probably should have gotten a commission at the beginning, but it's really, it's a pretty amazing camera, the optics for, you know, for something that fits in your pocket.

Speaker 1: And your images are really stunning too. So this is, I totally attest to this.

Speaker 2: Thank you. Yeah, it's not, I won't say that it's the best sort of like if you're looking to take beautiful photos of a bee, like visiting flowers, I probably wouldn't recommend it for that. For that I use my digital SLR, but for like a still image.

Speaker 1: You hope the bee's not moving. Yeah, yeah, it's, I've not found anything better. It's certainly like infinitely better than a cell phone picture, which also works. I mean, you don't need this camera, but it certainly makes my job of verifying photos much easier. All right, well, we'll talk to the Olympus about sponsoring the camera. Yeah.

Speaker 2: Okay. That would be awesome. So the last thing is, I know there's a lot of bumblebees out there, but is there a, you know, maybe it's not even a bee, but is there a pollinator species? When you see it go by, you're like, ah, I love that thing. Yeah, for me, it's actually the squash bee, peep and apis brunosa.

Speaker 1: And part of the reason is, is just an association. So I think my first, one of my first jobs in pollination was working for Claire Kremen. Oh, right. In the Central Valley of California. And one of my first days out in the field, I was with Robin Thorpe, who, my goodness, what a wonderful man. I mean, I can't say enough good things about him.

He's just, he's been so inspirational in my life and so helpful in so many ways. But one of the first things that we were out in this watermelon patch, and you know, my job for the next summer was going to be to sort of measure pollination services in this watermelon field. And Robin goes off and he's sort of in the middle of nowhere and then he comes back holding a squash flower. And I didn't know that much about bees at the time. Like, I mean, I knew a little bit, but he sort of opens it up. And I think 20 male squash bees just come flying out of this, like right in my face, you know, like, and from that moment forward, I was just like, wow, that's incredible.

So that bee for me was like one of the first sort of native bee species that I was like, wow, this is amazing. And, you know, it's been downhill and uphill, but in many ways downhill from there. So that species all say- Down the downhill, down the rabbit hole, I guess.

Speaker 2: Yeah, down the rabbit hole, yeah. It's been easy in some ways since then for me to love, you know, the work that I do, I feel so lucky to be able to do what I do. And a lot of that I trace back to that moment in that field with that species and frankly that man. So yeah, for me, it's that, that species.

Speaker 1: Fantastic. Well, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today.

Speaker 2: Appreciate it. Thanks so much for having me.

Speaker 1: Thanks so much for listening. Show notes with information discussed in each episode can be found at pollinationpodcast.oregonstate.edu. We'd also love to hear from you and there are several ways to connect. For one, you can visit our website to post an episode-specific comment, suggest a future guest or topic, or ask a question that can be featured in a future episode. You can also email us at [email protected]. Finally, you can tweet questions or comments or join our Facebook or Instagram communities. Just look us up at OSU Pollinator Health. If you like the show, consider letting iTunes know by leaving us a review or rating.

It makes us more visible, which helps others discover pollination. See you next week.

Rich Hatfield is a senior conservation biologist for the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. He has authored several publications on bumble bees, including a set of management guidelines entitled Conserving Bumble Bees. He serves as the Red List Authority for the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Bumble Bee Specialist Group and has taught bumble bee management and identification courses in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, and Massachusetts. Rich helped develop and launch the citizen science website Bumble Bee Watch, which has attracted over 18,000 users throughout North America, and gathered over 30,000 photo observations of North American bumble bees since 2014. Bumble Bee Watch now serves as the platform to collect data for the Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas for which he is the principal investigator. In addition to his work with bumble bees, Rich has investigated native bee pollination in agricultural systems in the Central Valley of California, and studied endangered butterflies in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and throughout the Pacific Northwest. When not at work, Rich is often off exploring the wonders of the Pacific Northwest with his family.

Listen in to today’s episode to learn how the PNW Bumble Bee Atlas is aiding in bee conservation, and how you can participate in pollinator habitat surveys.

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“I can tell you from the response that we’ve had that people are pretty excited. They’ve been having a really good time doing this. I love it, too, and it’s good to know that other people can join you on this.” – Rich Hatfield

Show Notes:

  • What the bumblebee atlas is, and what it is accomplishing
  • How the Xerces society developed their system of bumble bee collection
  • Why this bumble bee atlas can’t use other similar programs in their own study
  • The importance of having positive and negative data in these studies
  • What training people need to take to participate
  • What the process is of gathering specimen for bumble bee research
  • How a roadside survey is different than a point survey
  • What happens after the citizen scientists complete their survey
  • The benefits for many different groups of this kind of a project in this region
  • How you can get involved in helping the PNW Bumble Bee Atlas

“A lot of what we need to know is not what’s happening where people live, but what’s happening more in remote areas.” – Rich Hatfield

Links Mentioned:

Source URL: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/podcast/pollination-podcast/67-rich-hatfield-pnw-bumble-bee-atlas