26 Skyler Burrows – Bringing Taxonomy to Citizen Scientists


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Our guest today on PolliNation is Skyler Burrows, a taxonomist working with Utah State University, the USDA Bee Lab, and formerly with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Virginia Working Landscape program. Much of Skyler’s work has been based in the trapping and identification of pollinators with the help of citizen scientists, and monitoring their diversity in a given area. His most recent project has been to create an online guide to aid in the identification of bees that may be invasive to the US, that will include a non-dichotomous key to the Megachilidae genera of the world with high quality images to target an audience without background in taxonomy.

In today’s episode, we will learn about Skyler’s work with pollinators, his projects with citizen scientists, and how you can get started in taxonomy.

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“Things like ‘Bees In Your Backyard’ are really helpful, but until you have the bee in your hand, it’s really difficult to know what you’ve got.“ – Skyler Burrows

Show Notes:

  • What is the Virginia Working Landscape program and how they are contributing to pollinator research
  • How Skyler and his team trap bees
  • Why the team uses a type of antifreeze in their traps, and it’s advantages
  • How the citizen scientists stay involved after their collection
  • The various challenges Skyler has faced in his project
  • How the great diversity of bees in the West can create difficulties for citizen scientists
  • What new citizen scientists should do to get started in taxonomy
  • Why the microscope is Skyler’s favorite tool
  • Why there is still a lot of room for discovery in researching bees and pollinator habitats

“There’s a lot of washing involved, blow drying to fluff up their hairs; there’s a lot of interesting methods [to help in identification], but we’re all just trying to make the bees look nice and pretty.“ – Skyler Burrows

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