In case you haven’t heard about it, The Great Sunflower Project is an on-going survey of pollinators in North America that uses “citizen scientists” to collect and submit data about pollinators. Each participant receives seeds for a particular variety of sunflower (Lemon Queen) which can be planted where he or she lives, works, or plays. This can be a backyard, a park, a community garden, a school yard, or any planting area that meets the criteria described by the coordinator of the project.
The flowers are monitored for 15 minutes a day during which the participant records the number and type of pollinators that visit the sunflowers. Resources are available to help with identification or photos can be uploaded to the project website if the participant is unsure.
The purpose of the project is to get an overall picture of the health and distribution of pollinators across the continent—something that does not currently exist. The scope of the project is such that it could never be completed without the help of individuals living all over the map. Although, the project started in 2008, by this spring it already encompassed over 75,000 participants in all the states, provinces, and territories in North America.
Since the inception of the project, the species list has grown to include bee balm, cosmos, rosemary, tickseed, and purple coneflower. According to the project website, the average gardener sees a pollinating insect once every 2.6 minutes.
Gretchen LeBuhn, the project coordinator, says of the volunteers: “We have had a large response from retired people, home-schooled children, teachers, community gardeners, nature centers, beekeepers, and parents looking for a family project.” If you would like to know more about the project or would like to sign up, please visit the project website at http://www.greatsunflower.org.