Citizen Scientists Work to Protect Georgia’s Pollinators

Kate Tweedy of Little St. Simons Island conducting a BAFA training for partners and citizen scientists. Image: St. Simons Land Trust

Pollinators are facing stresses all over the world such as habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. In the state of Georgia specifically, where experts determined that the annual value of pollination is over $360 million, Butterflies of the Atlantic Flyway Alliance (BAFA) was formed to bring together conservation land managers and citizen scientists throughout the state to collect data on pollinators. Through five years of surveys in the Coastal Georgia counties, BAFA will gather the information necessary to create land management recommendations for property owners and managers. Collected data will include migratory movement and nectar and host plant utilization.

  • Additionally, this year, environmental groups and citizen scientists are taking the health of pollinators across all of Georgia into their own hands by conducting the first-ever statewide pollinator census which will create a count of the bees and butterflies that land on flowers in yards, parks and at schools.

The Impact: Species like the Palamedes swallowtail butterfly depend on the red bay tree that’s found in the maritime forest of Georgia. Unfortunately, the red bay tree population has dropped significantly since 2002 thanks to an invasive ambrosia beetle which bores into the tree, leaving behind a fungus causing the tree to die back. The tree will continue to sprout, but will never reach its full size again. BAFA partner, Cannon’s Point Preserve on St. Simons Island, is working to better study its native population of red bay trees and ensure that it stays healthy for the Palamedes swallowtail to reproduce.”

Palamedes swallowtail butterfly. Image: Stephanie Knox, Preserve Manager at Cannon’s Point Preserve at St. Simons Land Trust

Why This Matters: Nearly all of the data collected through the initiative is accomplished by citizen scientists, people from the local community who joined BAFA to learn more about their local pollinators and to help ensure butterflies have a bright future in coastal Georgia. Through data collection, public engagement, and future land management recommendations, BAFA aims to safeguard sustainable butterfly populations. Plus, through a network of citizen scientists, the importance of conservation is instilled in communities and also passed on to younger generations. For small species like pollinators, they often need the help of the people in their communities to ensure their health and survival–so become a citizen scientist in your own community!

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