This week I learned all about how important collaboration is between organizations and universities that share common goals. As much as someone would love to be able to accomplish something themselves, researching and conserving something as large and diverse as the Big Bend area of the Platte River is no easy feat, which is why I worked closely with a Crane Trust collaborator, the Prairie Plains Resource Institute, looking at native prairie seed collecting and planting. I also worked on a citizen science project, the Nebraska Bumblebee Atlas, with the Xerces Society and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln on bumblebee conservation, both helping the Crane Trust to successfully work towards their mission!
Native Prairie Seed Collecting and Planting
In order to get a hands-on experience with some of this collaboration, I traveled with the Trust to meet with the Prairie Plains Resource Institute (https://www.prairieplains.org) and discuss ways in which they are currently helping protect and conserve grasslands. The Crane Trust and Prairie Plains work very close together, in fact, some of the native prairie seed collecting and planting on some of Crane Trust properties is done entirely by the Prairie Plains! Understanding how other non-profit organizations manage their lands can help the Crane Trust learn new tips and tricks in better managing, conserving, and restoring prairie and hydrological landscapes for migratory bird species on the Platte River.
Pictures 1, 2, & 3: The Crane Trust crew and myself traveled to one of the Prairie Plains Resource Institute’s properties to get an up-close look at how they manage and conserve for grassland prairie native vegetation species. Similar to how the Crane Trust manages some of their prairie properties, Prairie Plains Resource Institute showed us how they use harvested seeds to help enhance or restore prairie landscapes. (The buckets were full of harvested seeds of various important native prairie vegetation species!)
Traveling to the Prairie Plains Resource Institute was not the only collaboration effort I was able to experience. With the help of Jenna Malzahn, the Crane Trust’s Jr. Wildlife Biologist, I was able to be a part of the citizen science project, the Nebraska Bumblebee Atlas, with the Xerces Society and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (https://www.nebraskabumblebeeatlas.org) by helping capture and identify bumblebees throughout the Crane Trust properties. Nebraska is home to about 20 different bumblebee species. Bumblebees play an incredibly important role in sustaining the health and biological integrity of prairie landscapes. The entire process of capturing bumbles takes only approximately 10 minutes and is completely harmless. The bumbles are safely placed under a shady and hidden spot afterwards in order to slowly wake themselves up in peace.
You can test your own knowledge of Nebraska’s local bumblebee species by going to this link, watching the videos, and taking the quizzes at the bottom of the page! https://www.nebraskabumblebeeatlas.org/train-online.html
Pictures 5, 6, & 7: After finding a shady spot, Jenna showed Matt, the Lila O. Wilson intern, and I how to set everything up and take the perfect pictures of the sleeping bumblebees to ensure proper identification! The second picture shows me with my very first bumblebee, a common Eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) safely sleeping on our clipboard (Photo credit: Bethany Ostrom and Jenna Malzahn). Besides looking for bumblebees to better understand pollinator conservation and their role in prairie health, we use these surveys to look for species of greatest conservation need in Nebraska. In 2020, Jenna was able to actually spot one of those species, the Southern Plains bumble bee (Bombus fraternus), posing perfectly on a sneezeweed flower! (Photo credit: Jenna Malzahn).
To read more about other collaboration effort reports brought forth by the Crane Trust, visit these links: https://cranetrust.org/file_download/497309e8-1e10-41c9-9960-27b07a571faf and https://cranetrust.org/file_download/94b8d9ff-411f-4795-9b58-5254719a836b
See you next time!