Urban Pollination Project

Urban Pollination Project, Seattle

I co-founded and am co-director of Seattle's Urban Pollination Project (UPP), a citizen science project partnering with Community Garden plot holders and other regional gardeners to collect data on pollination services performed by native bumblebees.

Volunteer citizen scientists, including P-patch gardeners and K-12 classrooms from all over the city, grow 3 experimental tomato plants: an open-pollinated control (a regular plant), a self-pollinated plant (covered with a net so bees cannot pollinate flowers), and a plant that receives extra “buzz pollination” with a tuning fork. We measure the number and size (volume) of tomatoes produced over the season by each plant. By comparing open vs. self pollinated plants, we can tell how many more tomatoes are produced when plants have the available bumblebees visiting them than they can on their own. By comparing open vs. tuning fork pollinated plants, we can tell whether more pollinator activity would increase tomato production and by how much; in other words, how much more food we could make if more bees were present.

UPP will use this data from many locations around the city to see what land-use factors limit bee abundance and crop yield. Any member of the Seattle public can participate in UPP doing pollinator observations, coordinating volunteers, helping administer the project, and more. We are building a community of people who care about science, food, bees, and education. We also plan to expand our project’s usability as a tool for science educators..