2014 Student-Faculty Fellows Program: Benedictine University
Insect Pollinators in China:
Survey of the Main Characters and Exploration of Floral Cues
Mentors: Steven Day (Chinese) and Cheryl Heinz (Biological Sciences)
Students: Elizabeth Do ’14, Bichnu Le ’14, Firdous Moin ’15, Kyle Turcic ’14, Sivaranjini Velanthottukoottale ‘14
Project website: http://benuchinapollinationproject.wordpress.com/
The Benedictine University group project addresses a worldwide concern about the plight of natural pollinators in the past several years, and it is clear that, in China, several economically-important areas have lost their entire natural pollinator population. Consequently, in some regions of China, human pollination has largely replaced insect pollinators for both apple and pear crops. We spent four weeks in China conducting research on both pollination and pollinators. The team undertook observations and collected data in Beijing, Shenyang, Chengdu, Xi’an, and Beigou Village (Beijing Municipality). With the assistance of colleagues from Beijing Agricultural University, Shenyang Agricultural University, and Dalian Nationalities University, one project examined the effects of human pollination on the quantity of nectar produced and the sugar concentration of the nectar of fruit trees near Beijing, Shenyang, and Dalian. The second project compared the diversity and quantity of pollinators in an area where human pollination has been adopted with that in a more diverse natural area. In this study, each student researcher surveyed a different pollinator: the genus Apis (honey bee), non-Apis bees (bumble bees and solitary bees), butterflies and moths, and flies and beetles. Research results are currently being examined with the expectation that the mentors and their student collaborators can produce a significant article for publication in a major journal. Plans are also being considered to continue the research next year to enrich the collaborations with other researchers both here and in China.
The one-week study of surveying pollinators in Liaoning province of China was reasonable with respect to the rate of pollinators visiting a floral site. The nectar’s sugar concentration from a single flower bud corresponds to the rate of visitors. However, since most of the flowers’ nectar was either desiccated or drained by pollinators, our research team could not acquire the nectar’s sugar concentration. Therefore, our quantitative data solely depended on observations. Our team studied and recorded the arrival and departure times of a pollinator within a flower patch. In order to satisfy the research’s objective, we partnered with Shenyang Jianzhu University (SJZU), Shenyang Agricultural University (SAU), and Liaoning Vocational College to explore each school’s special sites in Liaoning province. From site to site, we usually encountered a fair number of honeybees, flies, and bee-like flies. Temperature, cloud coverage, time of day, and the specific flora are fundamental factors which affect the visitation rate. Amongst the sites, rental hives were placed in raspberry, strawberry, and rapeseed fields at SAU, Liaoning Vocational College, and Tieling respectively. Even though rental hives curtailed the diversity of bees, the accumulation of bees visiting particular patches of flowers was promising and vitally pertinent to the project.
At the start of the application process and throughout the research program, I gradually exhibited and exerted greater confidence, determination, and passion than ever before. Just the application for the summer research itself had an extraordinary influence on me. The experience comprised different stages: applying for the program; anticipating the news; being awarded the grant; and, having team meetings that prepared us for the one-month research trip. In order to attain a better mindset and understanding of our daily lives and surroundings, the university’s courses interconnect with one another. I will apply the research and what I have studied over the four years and expand on it once I enter the workforce and a preferred pharmacy school. Being familiar with lab coursework and field work will help me smoothly transition to the demands of pharmacy school. The pollination project offers personal benefits and benefits for the public as well. The public can gain greater awareness of our research goals; the project addresses how diminished pollination activity might ensue globally. Due to a pollinator’s small body size, we tend to overlook its purpose and raison d’etre. There is more to a pollinator than meets the eye. As for the personal benefits, I not only have a deeper respect for pollinators, but I possess more strength in myself because of what I have contributed to this project. I am extremely grateful for what the program has offered to all of us.
During our research project on pollination in China, we observed which species of pollinators visited and how often they visited the flowers. Research sites included Beijing, Bei Gou Village (Beijing municipality), Liaoning province, Shaanxi province, and Sichuan province. Research methods consisted of the least invasive techniques possible. A set number of flowers to be observed was determined and observed for 10 minutes. Observations were done in pairs, with one team member being the recorder and one the observer. Details on the environment, such as cloud coverage, relative humidity, and temperature, were noted with the use of a thermometer and sling psychrometer. While in Sichuan Province, not much data could be collected due to the unfavorable weather. The majority of the time it was raining or was very chilly. We obtained a total of 13 trials. We visited two national parks, Jiuzhai Valley Park and Huanglong Park. These places were at high altitudes and away from urban Chengdu. Pollinated flowers were spotted in the area, but no pollinators were in sight due to the rainy and chilly weather while we were there; only when we started heading down the mountain did the temperature get warmer and the sun come out. Due to time constraints, we were not able to observe much. We also visited the Sansheng Flower Garden and the Liu Family Garden while in Chengdu. There were a few honeybees and butterflies spotted at these locations. The number of pollinators seen was very low. Honeybees were seen more at the Sansheng Flower Garden than at the Liu Family Garden, which only had one. The blue-banded bee and the two bluebottle butterflies were sighted at the Liu Family Garden. They were not seen at any of the other places we visited to do observations in China. An ANOVA test was used to compare the visitation rate across the five areas. It showed that there was no significant difference in the rate of visitation between Sichuan and the other four areas. More need to be done for the research. More species of pollinators need to be identified.
This summer research allowed me to learn and experience China’s culture. Visiting China was one of my dream destinations. I enjoyed learning about the culture and the language. Prior to doing the summer research, I studied Mandarin for two years. The research trip allowed me to have hands-on experience with the culture in a real world environment. The trip motivated me to work harder to continue pursuing my study of the language. I would like to be fluent in the language so I can use it when I visit China again someday. Doing observations at many different places in China also allowed me to learn new things and some historical facts about each place. Through the summer research, I was able to gain the skills needed for future research. It allowed me the opportunity to experience working in a research group. I would like to do more research in the future. From our research project, I am aware of how pollinators benefit us. They are an important part of our lives. Pollinators play a major role in our food supply. A majority of our food crops are pollinated by them. Without pollinators we would lose much of the food we eat on a daily basis. This summer research project allowed me to gain more knowledge of the world around me and to set goals for what I want accomplish in life.
In Beijing Municipality, we conducted our research at Beijing Agricultural University, Beijing Zizhuyuan Park, Beigou Village Farmhouse, Ditan Park, and Qingnian hu Park. We conducted our research in groups of two. One person would observe which pollinators visited a chosen flower patch and how long they remained on the flower. Their partner would then record the observations in a field notebook with the duration of each visit. This person also recorded the relative humidity, temperature, the number of flowers in the patch, and the characteristics of the flowers. We then entered all of our data into an Excel document to make it easier to analyze all the information we gathered. Our data shows a significant difference in the number of insects visiting per minute, with Beijing having significantly more than Beigou. After further analysis of our results, we can determine underlying factors of pollination. This can help us understand why pollination is done by hand in China. We can compare different areas and environments to figure out which conditions are more suitable for natural pollination. Any discoveries we make will hopefully benefit pollination practices in China.
Conducting summer research in China has been the experience of a lifetime. I had taken two years of Chinese language at Benedictine University prior to going to China. Visiting China allowed me to practice my language skills. Also, being a health science major, going to China for research helped me gain more knowledge about the technical parts of scientific experimentation. I learned valuable information about how to react to and conduct research in different environments. Since I hardly ever travel, I went on an airplane for the first time to go to China. It was the first time I had been somewhere other than North America. Spending almost a month in a totally new environment was an eye opening experience for me. I hope to one day visit China again and experience what its other cities have to offer.
During our research trip to China, we were able to observe and study different Chinese pollinators in many different locations across China. Pollinators are important in every ecosystem and their disappearance could be devastating. Our findings show that there were a greater number of pollinators visiting per minute in Shaanxi province. The only area that was not statistically different from Shaanxi province was Beijing. Moving forward with this research, we want to do a number of things to further explore pollination that is taking place in China. We want to better categorize the plant species we saw when we were there and continue the analysis by looking at different factors. We also want to move forward with identifying more of the pollinators we observed.
My time in China was a once in a lifetime experience, and I was able to further develop myself both as a citizen of this world and as a biologist. Conducting field research in China has shown me that science has no borders or political preferences. During my adventure in China, I was able to focus on my goals and on my drive to contribute to the discovery of this world. China has helped me become a more independent person by being able to navigate a foreign country with a language barrier. Also, I was given a rare opportunity to be fully immersed into a completely different culture. I am very fortunate to have been part of such an experience.
Focusing mainly on observations, our team conducted summer research on insect pollination in China. One of the places we visited was Beigou Village, located in Beijing Municipality. While staying there, we were able to do a number of observations on chestnut trees and other wild flowers along the way. We found a variety of pollinating insects: bees, flies and butterflies. We were able to see odd behaviors some bees displayed, such as being unable to fly and walking on the road. Data analysis and species identification are continuing, and more information is yet to come from our project in the future as students are set to continue our work and research on pollinators in China.
Before the research trip, I just wanted to apply to a professional graduate school and work in the US, but after going to China and participating in this research project I know for certain that I would like travel to as many places as possible, learn about different cultures in those places, meet new people, and maybe even try to work in different parts of the world. Furthermore, I would like to do additional hands-on research in the future; I know that there are many medical doctors who also participate in research, therefore I would like to aim for that.