A History of the Census from Project Coordinator Becky Griffin
The Great Southeast Pollinator Census was started in response to my work in community and school gardens. I was meeting gardeners who knew about soil health and plant selection but, were lacking knowledge about insect ecosystems, especially pollinators. At the same time, I found that teachers were not usually trained in entomology so they were unlikely to educate their students about the insects they were finding in their school gardens.
A pilot project was launched in 2017 and repeated in 2018. The pilot project included 50 gardens. This allowed us to refine the counting criteria and to determine the needs of the participants to successfully participate in the project. We wanted the project to be easy enough for anyone to learn some basic entomology and participate while at the same time ensure that we were generating useful data. We met with statisticians as well as researchers.
We defined three goals of the project:
1. To create sustainable pollinator habitat by educating gardeners about using plants that provide nutrition for our pollinators while handling our summer droughts and do not have disease or pest insect pressure.
2. To increase the entomological literacy of our citizens. As I mentioned to one teacher, we want students to go from “oooo, it’s a bug” to “look at the tarsal claw on that bee!”
3. To generate useful data about our pollinator populations, so we can begin to spot trends and see how pollinator populations are affected by weather and how honey bees influence native bee populations.
The first statewide Great Georgia Pollinator Census was in August of 2019. Over 4,000 people participated.
During 2020, COVID regulations allowed us to be creative and we encouraged families to count at home. We provided online training through webinars. Family and Consumer Science agents contributed recipes featuring foods needing pollinators, like watermelon salsa. These were published through social media, our website, and newsletter.
In 2021, almost 6,000 participants recorded data.
In 2022, South Carolina joined the Census through the efforts of Clemson University.
In 2023, North Carolina joined the Census through North Carolina A&T.
I’m looking forward to the future growth.
– Becky Griffin, project coordinator