150 - OSU Pollinator Health - Master Melittologists


Andony Melathopoulos: [00:00:00] 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. Andony Melathopoulos, Assistant Professor in Pollinator Health in the Department of Horticulture.

One of the things that sucks about COVID-19 is I don't get to go to work and see the Pollinator Health Team and work alongside them every day. Jen Holt, Sarah Kincaid, Lincoln Best, and myself, make up this team and we really love working together. We work closely together. And one of the things that we are most passionate about is this new program called the Master Melittologist Program.

It's a Master Certificate program like Master Gardeners or Master Naturalist or Master Beekeepers, and one of the things we really love about it is we're surrounded by these passionate, amazing, volunteers who are just driven to find obscure, weird, lovely bees right across the state. 

Anyways, I wanted to tell you about this program through the words of the team, so in this episode, we're going to hear first from Lincoln Best, our Taxonomist. He's going to talk about some of the discoveries that he's finding that our volunteers are making. Then we're going to hear from Sarah Kincaid, our Educational Coordinator, telling you a little bit about some of the educational opportunities in the master melittologists and finally, Jen Holt; she is the Program Coordinator, and is going to tell you a little bit about how you could get involved.

Also we'll mention, if you want to get involved, oregonbeeatlas.org is the website, and also we really do rely on donations to run the program, pay for our instructors, and we've had some generous donations, but if you're interested, go to the donate button and you can find out more about how to do that. Okay. Hope you enjoy the episode.

Okay. Well, hi Link. How you doing?

Lincoln Best: [00:02:22] I'm doing pretty well.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:02:23] Surviving. So, this is the time of COVID-19, and so you you're the taxonomist with The Oregon Bee Atlas, and you still kept working in your home. So, how was that to set up a little lab? 

Lincoln Best: [00:02:36] Well, when this all started to go down, there was so much uncertainty, you know, we didn't know really what the threat level was. And so obviously we made the call to disassemble the lab in horticulture at OSU, and we moved maybe 250 Schmidt boxes of bees, maybe three cabinets, of bees in addition, and then I don't know, a hundred vain trap samples into my house. And I had a microscope here and a couple of my own reference collections, so I set up the lab and I've been grinding away ever since. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:03:23] So you are working. A lthough we're in 2020, you're working through material. That our volunteers, our Master Melittologist volunteers have collected in 2019. 

Lincoln Best: [00:03:38] Yeah, absolutely. So the bulk of that material was all 2019 collections.

Almost all of it is pinned and labeled material from all over the state of Oregon. There's hundreds and hundreds of species in there. And I think around 30 thousand pin specimens. Plus, around a hundred bottles of bees from vein traps and pan trap samples, which are actually turning up all sorts of cool stuff.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:04:09] Remember, before we had to shut the lab down, one of the first things that you did was you looked at how our volunteers did in preparing. We've had a  past episode with John Asher talking about iNaturalist and we're Rich Hatfield talking about Bumblebee Watch. People take photographs and then sort of hand them over to experts. This is a much different, pursuit. This is this kind of a different... 

Lincoln Best: [00:04:33] There really is, yeah. Yeah. So through the Master Melittologists and the Oregon Bee Atlas, we give our volunteers training in taxonomy and entomology more generally, you know. How to generate museum quality specimens and data, according to global standards and they do an excellent job. And so I've been looking at all of their material and it is, like I was just saying before we came out here, every time I open a box something, or a few things jump out at me as being just really interesting species are rare records. And it's, it's really endless. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:05:16] I remember at the annual conference, you had a nice little graph where you showed the quality. Cause you know, this is difficult. You have to get a pin or you have to stick it. You have to glue a bee on a pin. It's not that straightforward. And last year, that first year there were some problems you provided each of the volunteers with written feedback. And, how did it look in 2019? 

Lincoln Best: [00:05:37] So when I showed up in March, I went through all of those collections and reassessed them like I did last year. So last year, you know, the average quality of preparation I think, was around 70% that I would consider that the preparation was museum quality.

This year across the board, the preparation was exceptional. So probably 80% of the collections turned in. I would say that the quality of preparation was like 90 or a hundred per cent. The material is absolutely beautiful and it's as good as entomological material produced anywhere. So that's amazing.

That's like, in essentially in one across one field season with some feedback. Our volunteers can produce essentially perfect specimens. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:06:35] And we're not talking about like, you know, entomologists; a lot of the people in the Atlas have never taken an entomology course in their life. 

Lincoln Best: [00:06:43] Absolutely. A lot of the volunteers don't have a strong background in biology. They don't have an undergrad degree in natural sciences. And so really this is something that just about anyone can do, which is really encouraging to see that. Cause we really weren't sure. And so when I was going through and assessing the quality of the preparation, I was also looking at the preliminary identifications that the Master Melittologist participants had applied to their specimens.

And I think there was around 12,000 specimens that they identified themselves. So I went through and we looked at all of those, and I assess them at the generic level. And ultimately once my IDs are fed back into the data set, we'll be able to compare for those people that did identify their specimens to species level.

We'll be able to compare the before and after IDs to get an estimate of the accuracy of that. But the generic level IDs were also very good. But obviously I teach a lot of bee taxonomy courses and give a lot of instructions on that to graduate students, and environmental professionals, and consultants, and government employees, and so on.

And I know from doing that, that there are particular groups that people always struggle with and that's because they're the hardest ones to learn. And so those are always the Panurgines. So a subfamily of the Andrenidae, which are the mining bees. And so things like Calliopsis and Perdita, small species of Andrena, and Pseudopanurgus.

Those things are very challenging for people. Any of those small bees that have two sub antennal sutures, take awhile to learn. And by the time you can identify them accurately of course, you're not looking for those sub antennal sutures anymore. The other group that's really challenging, is the Osmini, which are the Mason bees and allies.

So things like Atoposmia, Ashmeadiella, Osmia, Heriades, Chelostoma, and so on. These are typically small bees. E cept for Osmia, they're usually black with pale hairs, and those are really challenging for people. So in general, the Atlas participants' identifications were really good, but of course, because most of them are learning how to identify bees to genus, there's struggles in those groups. But across the board, it's amazing what people have accomplished. And I mean, I think everyone should be really proud of their work. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:09:36] All right. So you've been holed up here kind of working through, getting some of those species level identifications. You've got a ways to go yet. You have rest of the summer sort of to kind of get through this stuff. What are some of the interesting things that have popped up? 

Lincoln Best: [00:09:50] So, so far I have identified, let's see, I've worked through all of the Bombus, so we have, I don't know, 8,000 Bombus records completed. So of course, within the bumblebees we have species of concern. So things like Western bumblebees, Morrison's bumblebee, and then other bumblebees, which just there aren't a lot of records being generated for.

So things like in the state of Oregon, Rufocinctus we don't see commonly turned in, VanDykes Bumble bee. So that that's about it for the bumblebees. Filled in some records there, which is good. And then let's see, I've identified a whole bunch of the helictines and for the month of June, I was probably working specifically on the Megachilade.

And so, as you saw in that video, working through the Dianthidium. And the Anthidium, within the Anhidium we have some cool sand dune specialists on the coast. We have some really, really funky, large species of native wool carder bees in the cascades and along the foothills, the Eastern foothills of the cascades into the high desert, things like Anthididum Banningense and Atrapies. And let's see... 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:11:17] I have a quick question about this. 

Lincoln Best: [00:11:18] Oh, go ahead. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:11:18] So we have of course, the introduced wool carder bee. So do the native wool carder bees also use plant hairs to make their nests? 

Lincoln Best: [00:11:28] Yeah, they do actually. So, a lot of people have the experience now of being able to easily observe Anthidium Manicatu m  in lots of places in North America.

And so you see that those males are super aggressive. They attack and dismember other bees in their territory as they patrol their kind of patch of Lamb's ears or whatever plant it might be. Well, a lot of the native species have really similar behaviors where the native male and podiums will patrol a territory of forage plants that the females like.

And so those native male Anthidium can be quite aggressive as well. And of course the females have specially adapted teeth for clipping off the plant hairs to carry back to their nest to make a little woolen nest. 

So let's see, the last couple of weeks I've been looking at the Osmiines and so I've worked my way through probably 250 Ashemeadiella specimens, which was a lot of fun. 

Why was it a lot of fun?  

Well, they're really small. They're not always easy to identify. And we did have a couple cool records show up. We have Ashmeadiella Altadenae, which is a specialist on boraginacea, and mostly cryptantha. They're tiny; they're like four millimeters, like a lot of cryptanthis specialist bees, they have hooked hairs on their tongue parts. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:13:06] What's a cryptantha? It's inthe boarage family. I don't know what it is. 

Lincoln Best: [00:13:09] Sometimes they look like popcorn flowers, and they're probably commonly called popcorn flowers. So they often look like a plagiobothrys as well. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:13:19] Okay. You're telling us their pollen is peculiar.

Lincoln Best: [00:13:22] Yeah. I don't know what the pollen looks like, but the tongue on those female bees has these hooked hairs. And so when you look at those tongue parts under the microscope, it looks like they have the hook part of Velcro on their tongue. It looks just like that, like the little Velcro hooks. It looks just like that.

And so that's a common feature of a bunch of different bees that specialize on cryptantha or on boraginacea in general. So there's also, let's see, I think Osmia  Mertensiae also has those hooked hairs on the tongue parts. And of course Mertensia is in the borage family as well. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:14:04] It's worth noting for people who are aware. That with almost all these bees, there's a plant record. There's an actual picture of the plant that goes with the bees. So this is very rich correspondence between plants and bees in this, in the Atlas. 

Lincoln Best: [00:14:19] Yeah. And that's actually really fun for me because a lot of the plant records for these specimens were captured using iNaturalist, and so often when I'm working through a group, I'll work out, say eight females of some species, and then I'll go and look through the data to find the plant records. 

And for example, last week when I was identifying our Atoposmia, I worked out all the Atoposmia I go into the plant records and all of them were collected off penstemons. Well, I should say all of the penstemon specialist species were collected off different species of penstemons throughout the state of Oregon.

 And, the Atoposmia Caplandica  when I went into look at the plant records for that species, it's a known specialist on facelia, so when I went into the data set to look at those records, of course, all of them were collected from facelia. So it's great to see how the records were generating support often known bee plant relationships, but in a lot of cases where, you know, a lot of bee species, their plant relationships aren't well known, we're able to enhance and create a ton of new information for so many of these species, which is really cool. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:15:40] Alright. I also remember seeing one of our volunteers found some very small cuckoo's of our smallest bees as well. 

Lincoln Best: [00:15:50] That's right. So after six or eight weeks of grinding away on the scope every day, I dug into some of those vein trap samples, which are bees that are preserved in a little bottle full of alcohol. And so I would pull out all the bumblebees, identify them and capture the data and then I would blow dry the small bees and pin them and take a look at the small bees in the sample. And from the high desert, we had one sample. It was a pan trap sample actually from someone's front yard in the high desert, and that sample had five specimens of Oreopysides, which has been collected maybe once or twice in the state, historically, the whole genus, and it's a known cuckoo bee of, I believe, Calliopsis and maybe Perdita. And I wouldn't be surprised if it went after Pseudopanurgus as well. And then from the same sample, I found, I think three species of Perdita. So a host to some of these weird cuckoo bees, and also we found maybe eight specimens of Neolara.

And so Neolara is like a super micro little bee; they're black and red, with really short oppressed hairs that looks like they'd been dusted with icing sugar. And so these little tiny micro bees, some of them were less than three millimeters; these are cuckoo bees of the fairy bees, the genus Perdita.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:17:25] Wow. 

Lincoln Best: [00:17:25] And so in the sample we got Neolara and three species of Perdita, certainly one of which is the host, or maybe one more than one of those is the host to the cuckoo bee. And we got a handful of specimens of Oreopysidies and also a couple specimens of Calliopsis, which is the, which is the likely host of that Oreopysidies as well.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:17:50] Wow. Sometimes you open the jar and...

Lincoln Best: [00:17:53] Oh wait. That's not all. So also we, in that same sample, we found some of the first records, or at least I believe some of the first records of, Lasioglossum Sphecodogastra sent to latitude. So the, the old version of Schecodogastra, which are these sweat bees, which are specialized on Primrose, they often have long tongues and notably, they have really large ocelli, so that they're competitive getting the pollen from evening Primrose, which bloom at dawn and dusk.


Andony Melathopoulos: [00:18:28] these simple eyes that are used for navigation. 

Lincoln Best: [00:18:31] That's right. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:18:32] So they're big because they fly... 

Lincoln Best: [00:18:35] That's right. So they're crepuscular so they fly at dawn and dusk when the evening Primrose are opening and have fresh pollen available.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:18:44] Okay. So crepuscular bees. Youll have to just show me how to spell that out. 

Lincoln Best: [00:18:52] Yeah, sure. So, you know, though, the work of all of these participants is creating such a wealth of information that it's, every time I turn around, there's something amazing, and just all together they're documenting many hundreds of species of bees over hundreds of thousands of square miles in all sorts of different ecosystems. And as we saw at the, at the conference this spring from more than 800 species of flowering plants.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:19:23] That's amazing. 

Lincoln Best: [00:19:24] It is. It's blowing my mind a little bit every day. Yeah. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:19:30] Well, fantastic. Well, we'll get another update from you in a couple months, but this gets us a little picture as to some of the great discoveries these Master Melittologists are making here in the state of Oregon. 

Lincoln Best: [00:19:41] I'll look forward to it. Thanks.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:19:54] All right. Welcome to PolliNation Sarah Kincaid. We had you on a previous episode a couple of years ago now, but now you're working with the Pollinator Health Program and you're the Educational Coordinator for the Oregon Bee Atlas, the Master Melittoligist Program. And what I want to ask you about is: if somebody enters, we've had a whole bunch of new students come into the Master Melittologist program , what's the first thing that they encounter for in terms of education? I Imagine learning melittology is a very complicated thing. How do we start off with, giving them the basics?

Sarah Kincaid: [00:20:26] Yeah. Andony. Well, I think this year we did a really, really great job of designing a new educational model for new Master Melittologists just coming into the program and we were really fortunate that even before COVID-19 hit, we had already started putting together different videos and online modules to really make this an experience that our volunteers can kind of go through in their own time at home.

And, first, before you even kind of look at the educational materials, all our volunteers get a packet in the mail, kind of goes over some of the expectations for the program. They get equipment and they get a manual, which kind of, I think gives them a little bit of a teaser of some of the skills that they're going to be learning throughout the years in this program, because this program has really, kind of a long-term educational investment.

It's not really in the short term, it's, this is a real  study that can take years of dedication, and so we really want to make sure that our volunteers see this kind of as a journey and we'll walk them through it. So, once they do get online and start looking at our materials there, we actually start off looking at the bigger picture. Andony, you yourself start the first couple of modules and we teach our volunteers kind of about what's happening on the state and federal level, as far as pollinator protection and kind of the history of the study of pollinators in general. So we give them a broad overview of that so they have a background going into this of why this is so important, why this study is something that's worth putting all this time into. 

After that, we start really at the beginning level. This program is designed for someone to come into it, who has really no prior knowledge of native bees and even no prior knowledge of any biological science is really required.

So we teach them, you know, this is an aerial net. This is how you put it together. You know, this is how you go out and you search the landscape for bees. We start on a very simple level. We also go over curation. So, this is how you pin a bee, things like that. And we have really, really great videos of our staff, and some we even have our volunteers in them where we show them how each one of these activities is done and they can watch it over and over again. For some of these things, you have to see it over and over again. You have to see someone, you know, glue a little tiny bee to a pin a thousand times before you really get it. Yeah. So, after that, the modules went up not in chronological order, so things kind of jumped around, but... 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:23:01] Well, you know, the one thing I was going to say is that these modules are also not just passive. I was thinking, cause you do all the grading. And so for example, with the pinning of the bees or the creating a new record, people actually have to physically do it at home and then upload images and things.

Sarah Kincaid: [00:23:19] Absolutely. Yeah. So that is a great thing to point out and that actually was your design, and I think it was really brilliant. So as you're going through the material, as you're learning about it, you're also asked to do these short exercises that are designed to kind of help you master the skills. And so a good example is for our Atlas, we rely heavily and iNaturalist to help us to document the plant records; they're are accompanying the bees that we catch. And so every volunteer is asked to go to iNaturalist and open an account and then create a new record. And, because of the way canvas, which is our online system at OSU to interact with students, it gives me as the instructor or the chance to kind of watch your progress, to provide you direct feedback, to give you comments throughout that process.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:24:06] Okay. So you, you kind of start with the broad picture of bee protection. You then build some skills so that you can start to build your first collection, and then what else is entailed? 

Sarah Kincaid: [00:24:18] Yeah. Then we also have a module that's kind of about the internal workings, some of the administrative pieces of the Atlas.

We have our new module that just went out module three, that's about how we maintain records within the Atlas, which is so important because without a good label with the proper information on it, you know, a bee on a pin is just a bee on a pin. We need all that data that goes along with that record to make it meaningful in the long run.

So we spend a fair amount of time on that and educate our members about what those on list online systems are and kind of how you've navigate it, because it's not always intuitive. Yeah. Because a really crucial part of what we do. We also have a module that's on basic bee biology, and life history.

It covers things like nesting, and social behavior, and pollen collection, forging. Yeah, that was really exciting for me to put together. I have taken various bee courses throughout my career and there has never really been a good comprehensive source to find a lot of this in one in place. 

We have some really great textbooks for the course as well that really, really help. We use Danforth's The Solitary Bees, which is a fantastic publication. And The Bees in Your Backyard, which are both really great resources that are comprehensible for someone starting.  It's a little challenging because it has really good, hard science information, but the language is written in a way that someone can kind of start the process of learning about these organisms without it being totally daunting.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:25:50] I remember when you were writing lectures, cause at that time it wasn't Covid and you were just, you were in the desk behind me, and you would be reading the Danforth and then you'd I see the reference and you track it down. And then you kind of translated that into the educational program.

So a lot of thought has been gone into sort of uncovering some of this, in the spirit of that book, kind of like the research has been forgotten or not thought about has been sort of like built into the modules. 

Sarah Kincaid: [00:26:15] Absolutely. And what I really love about that book is he relies on a lot of research that was done in the sixties and seventies that was kind of the seminal work of native bee research, and really a lot of it hasn't been surpassed. So to go back to that early text is for me too, it's been kind of a discovery. I get to discover a lot of this stuff sometimes for the first time and sometimes all over again, which I really enjoyed.

Also, we live in a day and age where there's so much great video and graphic material that's available to us. So in my modules, I really, really try hard to include as many videos as possible that really demonstrate what we're talking about. And I think that goes a long way, and I've had really great feedback from the students sayin g how well that has worked.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:27:02] To actually see that part of the biology rather than a line drawing or description. Yeah. 

Sarah Kincaid: [00:27:07] Yeah. And so, I really believe what we put together so far is probably a more in depth, entry level education to native bees than you'd probably find in any, you know, college course across the country.

I haven't taken them all so I can't say that for sure, but I think it's really comprehensive. And again, this is a journey. This is something you're not going to learn all this information overnight, but one thing I think that's been really important to everyone who has been involved in the Atlas from the beginning, is that we don't underestimate the intelligence of the general public, even if they don't have a science background, that we believe that the information stands for itself, that people will be naturally interested in it because it's such a fascinating group of organisms, and that we all have the capacity to learn this information. 

Some of us, it might take longer than others. And I think we have a program design that really allows for that, where people can take the time they need. Some people get it really, really quickly.

We have some Atlas members that have become superstars in the matter of a year, you know, who may have collected thousands of specimens after being in the program for a year, and we have others where it might take them a number of seasons before they're really up to speed and that's okay.

And I think our program allows you to go as quickly as, or as slowly as you'd like. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:28:34] You're here, and I do remember, cause I do remember the, when the Atlas came together, it was you and I and a white board. I remember that moment where you sort of charted out... and I remember you had the word infrastructure.

When we were writing the first grant you said... you were still with Department of Agriculture. It's like, we need to build the infrastructure for this, and the one thing that I think has been really great is that the key part of the infrastructure are people who can think independently and can work independently, not, do a survey where they don't think, but we actually want people to exercise judgment.

Sarah Kincaid: [00:29:09] Absolutely. And I think the best part of the Oregon Bee Atlas is our volunteers. Just simply that; that is it. And we have so many amazing people that are part of this program, and to be able to bring them all together in one place where they're all working towards the same goal has been fantastic.

And I think that's the other draw of this program, is the gives you the opportunity to join a team that's working on something that's so fascinating. It was really great in one of our recent, Catch A Buzz forums, which are these regular Zoom meetings we hold for our members where we answer different kinds of questions.

Linc brought up how, you know, our dataset of bees and plant records is probably the largest in North America, maybe even worldwide. And that's after two years. And that to me is just amazing. And that really is what we started out trying to do; we saw that there was a lack of information available and we thought, Hey, I wonder if we can enlist, you know, the great minds of different Oregonians around us to help us with this effort, and we've been really successful so far and I'm so pleased. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:30:19] Well, the one part that we haven't mentioned, is the instructors. So you are the Educational Coordinator, but we also have some really talented instructors who, after the online courses complete in a regular, non-Covid year, we've had to manage things, but they really provide hands-on mentorship, to our volunteers who are learning these skills.

Sarah Kincaid: [00:30:41] Yeah. So, in the past couple of years with the programs we had in person classes in the summer, workshops on how to go out and collect bees in the field, bee identification, a lot of entry level workshops were held, on an in-person capacity setting. And we can't do that this year.

So one of the things we tried to put together is kind of a mentor system. And again, this is all through Zoom, which isn't always ideal, but it's what we have to work with. And so we use these amazing instructors that we have. We have Sarah Gardner, Joe Engler, sorry, my brain just went off... August Jackson and Rich Little, who are amazing teachers and researchers in their own right. And so we've been able to rely on them to kind of help us mentor our different volunteers kind of through this process in a new way. Yeah. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:31:36] And I guess in a regular year, the idea would be that you take the online training and then you'd go out on a... you'd have a whole day with these mentors in the field, collecting bees, pinning them, kind of like having them look over your shoulders.

And then in the winter, with microscope sessions, having them kind of helping you through some of the keys. 

Sarah Kincaid: [00:31:57] Yeah, absolutely right. I'm a big believer in, you have to see something yourself and you have to do it yourself before you really kind of get a handle on things. So I really personally prefer the in person workshop style, and hopefully we'll be able to return to that in the future.

But we do, we have a number of different types of opportunities, like that normally, you know, Microscope sessions in the lab where we're just doing ID and then a lot of in the field opportunities, which will continue in the future. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:32:30] Fantastic. Well, I have to say, from the whiteboard to here, we've sure come a long way.

Sarah Kincaid: [00:32:35] Absolutely. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:32:37] Yeah. Exciting. Well, thank you so much for your time. 

Sarah Kincaid: [00:32:40] Thank you for having me. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:32:43] You're kind of captive.

All right. Jen Holt. Welcome back to PolliNation. We had you a long time ago, you were talking about the Master Beekeeping program. And today we're talking about the Master Melittologist Program and you are the Program Coordinator. 

Jen Holt: [00:33:12] Yup. Same position. Different program. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:33:15] Yeah. So you do work in both programs?

Jen Holt: [00:33:16] Yeah. Both programs. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:33:18] So, okay. So Master Melittologist Program. I guess the first question is we've already heard from, Linc and Sarah, and the first question is how does somebody get involved with this program? 

Jen Holt: [00:33:28] People are interested all the time. So the very first thing to do would be to go to our website, the extension website, and put your name on the waiting list.

So we gathered interested people all year long, and then beginning of the year, we take those names and accept them into the program. 

So get your name on the list. That's the important first step. And then we do collect a $185 fee for enrollment in the apprentice program. But that includes a lot of things 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:33:53] What does it include? 

Jen Holt: [00:33:55] Five online training modules. Oh, It's actually more, going up to six. So, online training modules, minimum five or six. We're always adding to them. In person field in microscope training sessions. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:34:08] Yeah. 

Jen Holt: [00:34:09] A nice resource book, full of color keys, all kinds of identification materials. August Jackson's Bees of the Willamette Valley.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:34:18] That's right. 

Jen Holt: [00:34:18] A basic collecting kit. So you don't even have to go get your own supplies. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:34:21] Right. So you'll get like a pinning box, you get pins, you get a net, you get, you got a nice, you get the swag. 

Jen Holt: [00:34:30] There's lots of swag in this program. Yes. And so you'll get those as an incentive to come to the actual in person field training; we give you your supplies at the training.

Lots of access to other program resources and educational opportunities like discounts for the Oregon Bee Atlas bee school. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:34:47] Oh, that's great. Because we didn't have it this year because the COVID, but we usually run a five day taxonomy course, and this year we were going to have like a beginners, like those, the genus level keys, and then we were going to have an advanced one where people will be working through species keys. 

Jen Holt: [00:35:03] Yeah. And so that's great to go to. It is an additional training opportunity, but you get a significant discount on the enrollment fee for that if you're a student. So a question we often get is what is required of me to be certified as a Master Melittologist? 

And of course you can always just go through the program just for your own knowledge. You don't have to hold that certificate in your hands. Yeah. But it's neat. And we encourage you to do so. So to get your certification, you have to watch all of the classes, attend the field training courses and the microscope training.

We encourage you to attend a collection day or group outing. So we have a lot of experienced members that will say they're going out, collecting in a certain region. Do you want to come along? And so we encourage that because it's great to be in a group environment and you learn a lot from seeing experience.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:35:48] Oh, okay. Keep going. 

Jen Holt: [00:35:50] Okay. And then the last one is on participate in one outreach event. And so we've been kind of flexible with what those are and what they look like because of COVID this year. It could be working at a table at OMSI, for instance. And these would be events that are already set up; we're not expecting you to come up with your own educational program, but volunteer your time in a public setting or write a short outreach post for our website, which has been really popular. The bee blurbs. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:36:16] You know, I was looking at some of the bee blurbs, because we had the, I can't remember who submitted it, who submitted the one with the sleeping bees?

Jen Holt: [00:36:24] I don't want to say, I can't remember.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:36:25] It got shared like... thousands of people saw it.  It was really good. These are short little snippets that people listen to and it's... 

Jen Holt: [00:36:34] And you get your name on the extension website. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:36:36] Exactly. Right. Okay. And so people then become certified, and this is great because like in the Master Beekeeping Program, you start off, there's the levels that you go through and you get more and more... you can say I'm a Master Beekeeper...

Jen Holt: [00:36:52] Yeah, exactly. And this is just the first step. So this is a new program. We have the apprentice level pretty much dialed in, but we will have journey and master levels coming. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:37:01] And I remember you actually have to take an oath like you get actually anointed with... we have the net of one of our, collectors who passed away, that you get anointed with that net. So there's a lot of tradition. There's a lot of secret handshakes. You joined a fraternity or sorority... 

Jen Holt: [00:37:18] And that's at the annual conference in March, which we didn't mention. That's open to everyone in the Atlas. That's kind of like the welcome for new students. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:37:26] Oh, right. And last year it was just before COVID we we've managed this weekend.

Olivia Messinger Carril came and it was great.

Jen Holt: [00:37:33] And it was the last outing with a bunch of people. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:37:36] That's when we saw everybody. 

Jen Holt: [00:37:38] But in the future, we hope to have that in March. That's kind of the kickoff for the year. And great speakers, meet other students. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:37:45] Okay, so how do you get these? What do you gotta do? So you do the outreach, you got to finish the training, and then you, then you reach the apprentice level where you sort of, you're kind of like, know the basics of how to do melittology. 

Jen Holt: [00:37:57] Yeah. I'd say you'd be confident to go out on your own and collect bees and take them home and pin them. And depending how much you've studied and gotten into it, identify them as far as you can get it. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:38:07] It is a crazy name: Master Melittologist. I remember we were al... it was a volunteer generated. We said, we could call you like the bee surveyors, or... and they said, no, we want to be hardcore. We want to be melittologists.

Jen Holt: [00:38:19] Because people don't know what it is. So they have to ask you, and then you have to explain what it is. So it kind of gets the word out. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:38:25] Okay. So, you can sign up and you start these online trainings, which we went over with Sarah. 

Jen Holt: [00:38:33] Yeah. And so, we also offer we've done it this year because of Covid, but maybe we'll continue it. We've been doing some online discussion forums. These questions come up all the time and it's neat to have a form where you can ask the instructor. As your questions come up. So this has been popular. I'm not sure if we're going to continue them in the future, but we've done that this year because of Covid. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:38:52] But we've got great instructors. So we've got Sarah, but then we've got the whole, we have a whole bunch of really talented people like Joe Engler and Sarah Gardner, and Rich Little, August Jackson, who are instructors. 

Jen Holt: [00:39:04] Yeah. It's like the dream team of melittology. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:39:06] It's amazing. I love Oregon. That's great. 

Jen Holt: [00:39:09] Exactly. So there are a few expectations that we have of our students when they come into the program. And one of the questions we get all the time is, can I be part of the program and not kill bees. And it sounds, it sounds strange to say that we expect you to kill bees when our goal and our mission is to promote the lives of bees. 

Yeah, but, it's for science. And it's an unfortunate aspect of the work that we do, but we do need to do that in order to curate them and be able to identify them and pass them into the museum collection.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:39:40] Yeah. Cause I guess that's one of the key things that people learn. As we know, when we talked with Sarah. Is like, they learn how to make these museum quality specimen mounts, and those, all of that material, not an ounce of it... like we train people that every single specimen is going to be recorded and used and uploaded into databases.

Jen Holt: [00:39:58] Right. And I remember Linc saying how impressed he was this year with the students about the quality of the work that they were turning out. So these bees aren't wasted. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:40:05] Yeah. Okay. 

Jen Holt: [00:40:06] Yeah. So that's one thing. We do expect you to kill and pin your bees.  There's no real timeline for the program, but if you really want to stay on track to get your certification, we ask that you submit your bee collections by February of the following year.

So we like to have them all in by our March conference, because then we can share exciting results and kind of collect them all on that day. We do have a travel requirement. So we have these field training courses, but it's not possible for us to have them in every city in Oregon. So we have them in select locations that we try to get a representation of the geographic areas of Oregon, but you might have to drive.

Maybe a day's drive up to get to them depending where you live. We do ask that you have access to email and a computer because that's how we communicate with you. It's just the most efficient way. And just to, if you're going to be in the program to really be open to communication, because there's a lot of feedback back and forth between instructors and students.

And then if you'd like to continue in the Atlas, the program doesn't end after you get your certification. You can maintain an active status in the Atlas and continue to collect and submit your bees. We just ask that you pay a participation fee of $25 every year, which helps pay for the instructors, our website maintenance, and printing costs, and things like that.

So when you're joining this program, it's not just a year or two of your time; you can really meet people and meet friends that are passionate about what you like and keep going for years. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:41:28] I know, and I always think that it was you and I, who sort of started all this before Sarah and Linc. It's really amazing; I always look back and it's like, when we started and just like flying by the seat of our pants, it's really remarkable... and we were able to fly by the seat of our pants by virtue of some really dedicated volunteers who just embraced this. 

Jen Holt: [00:41:50] Exactly. And now it's a real thing. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:41:51] Yeah. All right. Thanks so much, Jen. 

Jen Holt: [00:41:55] Yeah. Thanks.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:42:00] Thank you so much for listening. The show is produced by Quinn Sinan Neil. Who's a student here at OSU in the New Media Communications Program and the show wouldn't even be possible without the support of the Oregon legislature, the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research and Western SARE. Show notes with links mentioned on each episode are available on the website, which is at pollinationpodcast.oregonstate.edu.

I also love hearing from you and there's several ways to connect with me. The first one is you can visit the website and leave an episode specific comment, you can suggest a future guest or topic, or ask a question that could be featured in a future episode. But you can do the same things on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, but visiting the Oregon Bee Project.

Thanks so much for listening and see you next week.


The OSU Pollinator Health Program and Oregon Bee Project have worked together to develop a first of a kind Extension certificate program, the Master Melittologist program. The program is designed for people passionate about native bees and who want to embark on the long term survey of these bees in the state.

The OSU Pollinator Health Lab is made up of Lincoln Best (Native Bee Taxonomist), Sarah Kincaid (Educational Coordinator and Lab Manager) and Jen Holt (Program Coordinator)... and PolliNation’s host, Andony Melathopoulos. 

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