Natural Sciences at PROBE 2018: The pollinator bit

Each year, Trinity College Dublin takes part in European Researchers Night, funded by  European Commission Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, where research institutions around Europe open their doors to the public to promote their research. This year, Trinity’s event, PROBE, in collaboration with the Science Gallery, took place on Friday 29th September. Our research group led a morning activity as PhD student, Cian White explains below…

To kick-start the day, the Science Gallery welcomed 90 children from four different schools around Dublin to a hands-on workshop about pollinators. Prof. Jane Stout introduced the children to the amazing diversity of insect life (all 1.5 million species described so far) and was careful to remind them that spiders are not insects (why? Cus they have 8 legs silly!).  The children were quick to catch on though and in response to a question about why insects are special, hands shot up all over the room and in their eagerness, one shouted out ‘Cus they can fly!’. Spot on, I think we have a recruit for the plant animal interaction lab!

BeeBoard-768x431The children’s thoughts on bees.

After retelling the story of the Hungry Caterpillar, illustrating that metamorphosis allows many insects to occupy very different niches during their life (another reason why there is 1.5 million of them), Prof. Stout let them in on a little secret. Only a handful of bee species actually produce honey! Out of the 20,000 species of bee in the world! Gasps from the young audience, ‘There’s more than one species of bee?’. Recruit number 2. After showing the children how honey bees communicate to each other through dance (wish I could be a bee), it was onto the interactive part of the event. Three groups rotated around activities, from learning to dance like a bee, to live like a bee (making solitary bee hotels for the 15 Irish species who nest in cavities) and to eat like a bee (aka how dependent on pollinators is the food you eat?). My favourite reaction of the day: a girl finding out that the cocoa plant (where chocolate comes from) is pollinated by mosquitoes and swearing to never eat chocolate again. I wish her luck.

A luxury insect hotel
A luxury insect hotel

All in all it, was great fun and the children learned lots, and were genuinely enthusiastic about pollinators. Thanks to Sandra Austin and the trainee teachers from Marino, Irene and Elena for getting stuck in, Jane for being awesome and Kate for organising. For more information about Ireland’s 99 species of bee and 180 hoverfly species and what you can do to conserve them, check out pollinators.ie.

About the Author: Cian White is a PhD Student supervised by Prof. Jane Stout and Dr. Marcus Collier, and is a joint member of the Plant Animal Interactions and Urban Ecology labs. His research focuses on network, community and applied ecology. You can find out more about his research here: Cian White

This post originally formed part of the EcoEvo@TCD blog “From Worms to Wildfire: Natural Sciences at PROBE 2018” – check it out to find out what else we got up to on the night…

 

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