Volunteer with Your Kids as Citizen Scientists


“Bee” a Citizen Scientist for the Great Sunflower Project

You and your kids can get involved and have fun by joining thousands of volunteers across the country in the Great Sunflower Project.

About the Great Sunflower Project

During the past few years, scientific studies have shown that bee populations are declining. This may not be news to you, but did you know their decline affects our food supply and economy?

Bee pollination accounts for every third bite of our food. Seventy percent of the main crops humans consume—apples, cucumbers, almonds and blueberries, for example—depend on these pollinators.

From an economic standpoint, the monetary value of honeybees as commercial pollinators in the United States is estimated to be about $15 billion annually. Our sources of food and our economy are at risk if we fail to help bees and other pollinators recover.

Established in 2008 by San Francisco State Biologist Gretchen LeBuhn, who was later joined by her husband, Conservancy Scientist Mark Reynolds, the Great Sunflower Project has people volunteering nationwide to report their sightings of pollinators in their gardens, in schoolyards or out in the wilderness.

The recent collapse of domestic honeybee colonies and the native bees that appear to be imperiled in some areas highlights the lack of comprehensive information on pollinators,” Reynolds said. “The Great Sunflower Project was created to fill this void and provide actionable, nationwide data.”

Why Get Involved?

Thanks to thousands of volunteer observers, the Great Sunflower Project has collected the largest single body of information about bee pollination in North America.

“I couldn’t do this without the volunteers,” said LeBuhn. “I’d need to hire 5,000 grad students. Instead, we now have data available from across the continent.”

This year LeBuhn has made it easier than ever to get involved. She’s looking for data on any pollinator seen anywhere, not just bees on sunflowers as when the program was originally launched. On the Great Sunflower Project’s website, you can quickly record everything from a bumblebee flying past while you’re checking your mail, to a hummingbird you see feeding in your backyard while you wash dishes, to a butterfly you notice on a hike.

“I’ve got my eight-year-old twins involved,” LeBuhn said. “Now that we’ve opened the data to include all pollinators on any plant, it’s instant gratification.”

How to Become a Citizen Scientist

Being a citizen scientist is easy and fun for both parents and kids! Check out the website to find everything you need to know to volunteer for the Great Sunflower Project.