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Using Citizen Science Data from iNaturalist to Explore Bumblebee Diversity and Distribution

The rise of biodiversity-related citizen science projects gives us the opportunity to inspire all students to become citizen scientists, no matter what their professional path. Here, I share an in-class exercise that introduces undergraduates to biodiversity and citizen science using the open-source platform iNaturalist. I developed the exercise as part of a semester-long module on bumblebee diversity and conservation, embedded in an introductory environmental science course for majors and non-majors. Bumblebees worked well in the context of this course because they are easily recognized, charismatic organisms that serve important ecological roles and face a variety of threats. The objectives of the iNaturalist bumblebee module include (1) introducing students to bumblebees at global, regional, and local scales; (2) using a citizen science data base to predict what species are likely to be found in specific geographic regions; and (3) articulating the power and limitations of citizen science data bases. While this exercise focuses on bumblebees in North America and the state of Missouri, where my university is located, iNaturalist is a flexible platform that can be adapted to different geographic regions. It can also be used for on-line courses. I describe how I implemented this activity as a 50-minute in-class exercise and follow-up discussion.
Associated files
Primary or BEN resource type
Secondary resource type
General Biology Core Concepts
Discipline Specific Core Concepts
General Biology Competencies
Life science discipline (subject)
Keywords bees, native bees, biodiversity, citizen science, data processing, data exploration
Key taxa Hymenoptera, Apidae, Bombus
Intended End User Role
Educational Language
Pedagogical Use Category
Pedagogical Use Description This resource may be used as an in-class exercise to be completed during a 50-minute class period with a brief follow-up assignment and class discussion. It may also be assigned as homework or integrated into an on-line course. Students will need access to an internet-ready device, such as a tablet or computer, to complete the assignment.
Aggregation Level
Full Name of Primary Author Karin R. Gastreich
Primary Author Affiliation Department of Biology, Avila University
Primary Author email
Added By Id
  • kgastreich
Rights Karin R. Gastreich
Review type
Drought and Water Ecosystem Services Collection Off
Conservation Targets Under Global Change Collection Off
Big Data Collection Off
Editors Choice No
Resource Status
Date Of Record Submission 0000-00-00
Date Of Record Release 2019-12-17 18:53:06
Last Modified By Id
  • JJohnston
Date Last Modified 2019-12-17 18:53:06
Release Flag Published

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