Volunteers invited to help with tracking of information about pollinators in Illinois

For the second year, University of Illinois Extension is calling all lovers of bees, butterflies and other pollinators that keep crops and gardens growing to join scientists in tracking their distribution and habitat use across the state. 

Potential volunteers were being invited to register to join an online webinar which is set for 1:30 p.m. Thursday, today. Information about the webinar was posted late last week on the U of I Extension website.

Those who take the seminar then will be able to gather critical information about pollinators in Illinois from the safety of their home. 

I-Pollinate is a citizen-science research initiative through the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with support from Illinois Farm Bureau. 

Information about participating in the webinar was posted online:

Go to extension.illinois.edu. Click on “news & events.” Click on “press releases.” Click on “May 01 2020 Calling all pollinator fans: University of Illinois seeks citizen scientists.” Click on “register to join the online webinar.”

Volunteers can join up to three research projects: planting a “study” garden to observe which ornamental flowers pollinators prefer, tracking monarch butterfly egg and caterpillar abundance or recording bumblebee and honeybee sightings to help create accurate distribution maps for Illinois.

The results may help declining insect populations, including critical pollinators of crops and flowering plants. 

Previous research has estimated that 40 percent of all insect species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades, a decline driven primarily by habitat loss.

These at-risk species include the monarch butterfly. I-Pollinate volunteers gather critical data that David Zaya, Illinois Natural History Survey, uses for monarch conservation research.

Previous volunteers say I-Pollinate is a great excuse to spend time outdoors, and easy enough to be a family activity with children. 

Many share their new-found research skills and pollinator knowledge with others at schools, church or community groups.

Extension horticulture educator Kelly Allsup worked with a number of Extension Master Gardener volunteers on I-Pollinate last summer.

I-Pollinate scientists agree there is a particular need for data from rural areas. 

Many volunteers come from population centers which, while providing important data, also leaves blank spots on the map.

For more information about I-Pollinate, visit https://ipollinate.illinois.edu/.

The Gazette-Democrat

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