You need to try some new things once in a while and it may turn out fun. There is a lot fun involved with seeing smiling kids. We were all at the Porter County fair working a shift at the National Park Service booth. We were making making buttons for kids. We had different logos of animals for kids to color. We put it through the button making machine and they got it to wear. Many adults wanted to get on the fun and they made buttons as well. Other visitors talked to us about their experiences at the dunes. Most of them were more intrigued by the buttons. It was a good change change of pace to get a chance to interact with visitors on off-site events.
Trying to accomplish everything can be also a daunting task. Helping other interns with their project as important because it benefit both of them. I helped one of the other intern collect data on her vernal pool project. My role was taking canopy converge in areas and taking photos of plant species around the wetland for her botanist friend to identify. I also observed how to take GPS coordinates with different GPS units, and learned more about how to classify soil. The characteristics of soil were different depending where the sample was taken. For each vernal pool, which is a type of seasonal wetland, soil cores were taking on the inner and outer boundaries of the area. These characteristics further contribute to classifying vernal pools from other wetlands. With the last week of this experience in full spring, how can this end so soon.
Has there been times that something could have been done an easier way than the way you are doing it? Have researchers used new methods to answer scientific questions? The image above is a photo of a glued bee specimen on the left and a pinned one on the right. Traditionally, insects are pinned on the right side of the thorax (right) because specimens stay in place and even with the right side of the thorax damaged, the left side is still intact for identifying characteristics. I learned that bee specimens can also to be glued to pins (left). The purpose of gluing specimens rather then putting a pin through their thorax is because it does not damage it. It also leaves all the parts of the insect undamaged and gives entomologists a different angle to view the insect. I found it easier to view the characteristics of the it when it was glued on its ventral side as shown above because it require less focusing and positioning to view it under the microscope. Gluing insects is a controversial method of pinning because insects could fall off pins over time of glue does not last. From my experience, too much glue could get legs or wings struck together if not careful. Overall, gluing them requires more of a steady hand, and requires more time to make sure the glue does not attach to a wing or leg. With smaller specimens a microscope is needed to see where you are putting the pin. Putting one through the thorax requires just a good eye to make sure the pin goes in the right side of thorax. This is done just with your naked eye. Both methods have their pros and cons, but as long as the specimen is identifiable it makes no difference how the specimen is pinned.
Cannot believe that 150 bee specimen have been pinned so far. How did I do it? So many tiny insects to pin correctly. Don’t get me wrong, I like pinning, but you know when to call it a day when there are tiny dots on your thumb from poking yourself so much. With time running by and the ending of this internship within sight, how can I accomplish everything. Summer is a short frame nowadays when you are just scratching the surface of a topic. Showing people what I have done so far feels like an accomplishment to me because someone sees my project for what it is to further understand pollinators. Many visitors do not get to experience what I am doing, but they can if given the opportunity. The last project of this internship will be writing a proposal to the park to set up transects at heavily visited sites along trails for visitors to get involved with pollinator counts. They will have the chance to learn about the different pollinator species by recording the number they see on flowers along the trails . This project would serve as a type of citizen science opportunity for people to collect data to help the park know what type of pollinators are out there during the season. Data collected can help resource managers understand how pollinator activity correlates with the blooming times
of flower species when restoring areas. The picture below is a cool moment with folks from two different internship organizations in the same room coming together to learn about each other’s experiences.
“Ouch, I lost count how many times I poked myself with these pins.” Pinning insects can be delicate work and requires a steady hand and a gentle touch. After weeks of collecting across different sites at the park, the collection for this year’s project is coming together. If you are wondering how insects are preserved, it requires little labor compare to other animals. For my project, bee specimens that were collected have to be washed first. Wait a second, washing bees! Yes, bees require “washing” to get rid of pollen and to overall clean specimens. All that is needed to do this is a sealed container filled with soapy water. Bee specimens are placed in the container and the container is shaken up for 10 mins. After they are washed, then they are gently patted dry with a paper towel. Dried specimens are then ready to be pinned. Pins are placed through each specimen on its right thorax (near wing joint). Pinning on the right side of the thorax is the standard for pinning insects. Pinned specimens are put in a display case to store for future research. Often, specimens that have been stored for decades are still used today by researchers doing studies on the species. Many insect species may look similar, but small characteristics identifies the differences between them.
Ever left something outside and bugs get into it? For my project bowls were left outside for a day, and look what I caught. After a struggling task to figure out coordinates for our transects Desi and I were able to put out bee bowls for one of the sites at the Dunes this week. The coordinates I am talking about are locations that were used in a previous survey study done in 2011. When we first went out into the field to find the pre-set coordinates on our GPS, the accuracy was off by 10 ft. From what data we had, the previous researches that did the study were not accurate as well. For some projects in science, precision is not a key component in some aspects. The area we were in had good diversity and abundance of flowers for bees. The next day we went back to points we set to put out bee bowl traps filled with soapy water. I have mentioned in previous blogs that colored bowls are used imitate flowers to attract bees and soapy water prevents surface tension when bees land. 24 hours passed and the bowls were collected. Shown below is what was collected. These traps can attract any insect besides bees. Collected specimens were placed into a freezer for further processing. The fun part will be sorting what was collected to find bees.
Have you ever seen a bee up close? What if I told you that I was able to take a detailed picture of one. Thanks to my handy iPhone I am able to show all of you the characteristics you can’t see with a naked eye. Shown below is an up close up view of a bee and its wing. In order to identify a bee, characteristics must be examined under the microscope and an identification guide is used to match descriptions explained in the book. It becomes a tedious process as the descriptions become more specific and the list of possible species narrows down.
Besides my role in identifying bees this summer, I have been tasked to do a presentation on citizen science programs that visitors can get involved with for a entomology workshop on Saturday. Anyone can be citizen scientist and people like you are needed to collect data to further help researchers understand what is happening to animal populations. There are a lot of opportunities to get involved with projects and I encourage you spread the word about it. The workshop that we are in doing is to teach educators about entomology, but also encourage them to incorporate the resources we give them into their school curriculum for their students. We hope that students grow to appreciate insects for what they do for our environment.
Bees are pretty to look at and admire when you can see a big yellow and black bug on a flower. If you look closer at its characteristics, you may be fooled. When I caught my first bee this week, my supervisor Desi showed me that it was not an actual bee, but a type of fly. Remember the old saying “Looks can be deceiving.” That was the case in this situation. Desi showed me that this “bee” was actually a type of fly that mimics a bee’s characteristics. I misidentified this mimic fly because the body had the yellow and black patterns on its body, but the antennae were more like a fly species than a bee species. Some of the head characteristics did not look like that of a bee species either. It was still a pollinator species, but not what we were collecting. Wish I would have got a good photo of it to show all of you, but the fly flew off before I could get the camera out.
You may also know some common bee species such as bumblebees and honeybees. Did you know that there are actually over 4,000 different bee species in North America alone. A survey done here at the Indiana Dunes recorded over 200 species found at various sites across the park. I have started to look at the bee species that were collected from that study to identify and it is a microscopic task. What I mean is that I look at the insect under a microscope to identify small key characteristics in the head, wing, and legs, and others I have yet to see. For most to get identified, insect specimens have to be sent out to experts that specialize in identifying certain groups of insects. There is no one entomologist that can identify all the insects in the world. This goes to show the vast number that inhabit the world.
I recently underwent a workshop sponsored by an organization called ISWOOP. The name means interpreters and scientists working on our parks. This workshop brought together park interpreters and researchers conducting studies at the Indiana Dunes to present ways for visitors to understand scientific research being done at the park. The theme of the week was amphibian research and was led by my former professor Dr. Robert Brodman. The first day of the workshop, he presented the research he has done at the park to study how climate change has been affecting amphibian’s populations. The two main species focused on in his research is Wood frog and Blue-spotted salamanders. The dunes are located on these species’ southern range. The importance of Brodman’s research is to see how these species will adapt to warmer conditions and show how vulnerable these species are to such changes. We got the chance to go into to field to show interpreters how amphibians were surveyed.
There are two different techniques used in order to collect amphibians. One way was with dip nets that were scooped in water. Often enough, tadpoles and salamander larva were found. The quantity of species found was recorded. The other technique used to collected was trapping. Mesh minnow traps were set up in ponds around wetlands in the park and checked once a day. Traps used caused no harm to species captured as they were only used to capture them. Once traps were checked and species were identified, they were released.
The last part of the workshop was for me to work with a group of interpreters to come up with a mock program to incorporate aspects of Brodman’s research to visitors. My group and I came up with a program called the Amphibious Assault on West Beach. This program is an add-on to a night hike that the park does on Friday evenings. The hike would consist of showing visitors areas where frogs and toads could be heard and teaching them what species make those sounds. To even show a visual representation of calls, IPADS with sound software can show the sound waves that these species make for visitors to understand how frogs and toads make these calls. From this workshop, I have a better understanding of how to work with interpreters and to further prepare to create citizen science programs for pollinators.
This week I got to start setting up for the native bee project. The project is being finalized and soon will begin sampling what species have been inhabiting the dunes. The exciting part of this week was getting a chance to do restoration work for the day taking out invasive species with herbicide. The rest of was week was spent researching methodologies and current conservation issues with native bees. Next week there will be an event call ISWOOP where park interpreters will learn from researches about different conservation topics to express awareness to the public. The picture below shows bowls that will be set up in transects in sample areas. The bowls will be filled with soapy water to remove surface tension so when bees land in the bowl, they are captured. The color of the bowls mimics flower color because bees are attracted to these colors when they are pollinating. Bees are generally attracted to flower color as it is the most noticeable characteristic of the plant. The importance of this project is to catalog what species of bees inhabit the park. It is a replication of a study that was conducted in 2011 that inventoried bee species in the park. The bowls help maximize collection and sampling efforts with the hopes that the collections will give us a good representation of bee species captured. Previous studies have found that the park has 200 different species of native bees. I hope to find as many species as I can this summer with the hopes of measuring how these populations have changed since they were surveyed in 2011.
My name is Jacob Villalpando. I just started my new internship at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as a pollinator steward. This week was mainly training about the rules and ethics of the park. Working for a federal agency is a different job experience than other experiences I have had. This was the first time that I had to have a key card to log on any computer. My mentor laid out the plan for the summer and I am more excited to get started. Mainly this week we scouted for vernal pools in the woods for another intern’s project. These pools are a type of seasonal wetland that is a wet habitat during the wet season and dried out during the dry season.
On my first day I got to try raspberry cheesecake french toast for lunch. My mentor has been showing other interns and me the layout of the park and what to expect in surveying these areas. My main task for right now is to read primary literature about native bees species and start figuring out what areas in the park would be good sites to sample. Overall, it was a great first week and can’t wait to see what’s next.