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Students Combat Pollinator Loss

Grantee:  Atlanta Botanical Garden – Atlanta, GA / 2016
Project Title: DNA Barcoding for Biodiversity
Grant Type: ecoTech

Description: Pollinator decline is an important conservation concern, particularly in densely populated urban areas. Dedicating green space, increasing native plant habitat, and creating pollinator gardens can combat pollinator losses by providing nesting and foraging habitat.

Student-led groups from 5 Atlanta high schools recorded and assessed pollinator presence, abundance, and biodiversity at two urban Atlanta Botanical Garden pollinator sites in downtown Atlanta, in order to show the current and potential biodiversity value of these parks and their impacts on urban pollinator populations.

To conduct biological surveys, they used traditional methods of observing visitation and a student-friendly kit that utilizes an efficient molecular technology called DNA Barcoding. It was found that both parks supported populations of important native pollinators.

From the molecular inventory, a total of 43 DNA barcoding sequences were generated. These sequences represent a diverse selection of native and non-native pollinators and provide a great molecular resource to researchers. A particular highlight of the molecular inventory resulted in the addition of 2 novel barcode sequences; meaning students provided the first ever record of molecular DNA barcodes for a native wasp and butterfly species.

Students also participated in molecular activities that demonstrated techniques for DNA Barcoding extraction, processing and analyzing, and a results presentation was delivered to available student groups after the workday to convey findings and deliver management suggestions for the urban pollinator gardens that were derived from the workday.

Continuous impact / Community engagement: Through this project, the students created a benchmark study for future urban pollinator biodiversity counts. This study showed how pollinator gardens are an important link in the Atlanta pollinator greenway, and also became a management tool for future urban out plantings.