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Pollination Ecology: Field Studies of Insect Visitation and Pollen Transfer Rates

In this Experiment, students investigate questions related to the pollination ecology of the most common and accessible insect-pollinated flowers in bloom. Students start with natural history observations to answer common questions such as how long does the flower stay open, what are its major visitors, and how often is it visited by likely pollinators. They may then follow up the class study with their own questions, such as whether flowers that are in large clumps are more likely to be visited than more isolated flowers, how far the most frequent visitors fly between visits, how likely is it that the next visit will be to the same species of flower, and whether self pollen grows through the style more slowly than pollen from a different individual. Common techniques in pollination studies such as determination of flowering phenology, visitation rates, and identification of visitors and of pollen carried on visitors are used regardless of the question investigated. Spring flowers in the campus lawn, buckeye or crabapple flowers, horticultural plantings on campus, roadside goldenrods, or wildflowers in nearby natural areas should make it possible to complete this lab at almost any time in the growing season.
Cumulative Rating: This resource has a 5 star rating (based on 1 response)
Primary or BEN resource type
Discipline Specific Core Concepts
Life science discipline (subject)
Keywords TIEE, pedagogy, student active, inquiry based, experiment, experimental design, hypothesis
Intended End User Role
Educational Language
Pedagogical Use Description For this Experiment, students collect data in groups to estimate visitation rates, determine phenology (seasonal and/or daily timing of flowering) of the flowering species, and/or collect visitors and determine how much and what kind of pollen is carried. All three or any one part could be used. Students complete research projects based on these class questions and are also asked to generate five questions based on their observations, each with a testable hypothesis. A subsequent lab period could be used to collect and analyze data to test the student-generated hypotheses, or the instructor could use previous student data that is provided to train students and jump directly to the design of experiments that test the student-generated questions.
Primary Author Controlled Name
Primary Author Affiliation Biology Department, Millikin University
Primary Author email
Rights Copyright 2004 by Judy Parrish and the Ecological Society of America.
Date Of Record Submission 2007-12-26

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