The Rufous hummingbird is a key pollinator of shrubs and hardwoods, but its population in the Pacific Northwest is declining by about 4% per year. The hypothesis is that habitat loss and/or fragmentation has caused the decline. Student involvement in collecting data on hummingbird frequency will not only increase our understanding of landscape effects on the hummingbird, but will educate the students about pollination, forest conservation, and the scientific method. Increasing public awareness of pollinator ecology is central to the research because forest management decisions and urban development may have a significant impact on some plant species’ ability to sexually reproduce.
Through undergraduate student presentations and teacher education, K-12 students will learn the basics about pollination, hummingbirds, and landscape effects on habitat availability. They will be provided hummingbird feeders to take home in the spring and periodically measure how much sugar solution has been consumed by hummingbirds. They will also take note of the surrounding vegetation as it pertains to hummingbird habitat. After 1-2 months of observation they will return the feeders and their recorded data to be analyzed in the context of habitat loss and fragmentation in Oregon. A similar project will be undertaken with students near the Las Cruces Biological Staion in Costa Rica, where the Betts Forest Landscape Ecology Lab studies pollinator ecology associated with the Green Hermit hummingbird.
On June 9, 2011 Ph.D. student Adam Hadley and undergraduate student Todd Bertwell visited Wilson Elementary School in Corvallis, Oregon to present to a fourth grade class. The students were engaged in the presentation and especially enjoyed the activity designed to simulate pollination in a landscape with different distributions of flowering plants. Out of approximately ten students who were given feeders to observe hummingbird activity over the summer, four returned adequate data. To retain student involvement in the future, the students will be given the feeders to observe at the beginning of spring and collect data while school is in session so teachers can track their progress. Feeder data from 2011 (Excel file) | Hummingbird extention protocol (Word file).