Paper No. 26-2
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM
UNDERREPRESENTED RURAL HIGH SCHOOL AND UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT INVOLVEMENT IN RESEARCH ON THE PALYNOLOGY OF HONEY AND BEES IN NORTH CAROLINA
Palynology in honey and related projects are effective in introducing middle and high school students in southeastern North Carolina to environmental science and scientific research. We also involve undergraduates in their own research projects and to produce materials for the middle/high school participants. UNC-Pembroke’s area is rural, economically depressed with a large population underrepresented among scientists. One challenge is to make science real to this population. People are familiar with the spring aerial deluge of pine and oak pollen, so this opens exploration of pollen elsewhere in the environment. Pollen in honey is the base for middle/ high school students to investigate what it tells them about their world through inquiry-based research to develop skills in collecting, analyzing, and communicating data. This project uses summer workshops to introduce basics and establish groups for academic year Saturdays for research. Participants learn about basic plant and bee biology, how honey is processed to extract pollen, and pollen in light microscopy. Students have determined pollen concentration among hives from UNCP’s hives: for 2018, concentrations from seven hives ranged from 3000-55,000 grains/10 g of honey (average 36,000). This is comparable to earlier years but lower than Raleigh samples averaging about 125,000/10 g. We are now sampling pollen from UNCP’s hives in multiple seasons to compare over time. With available scientist expertise, students have also designed their own spinoff projects such as capturing pollen directly at the hive to assess bee health, occurrence of native bees and other pollinators in multiple habitats, and citizen science pollination projects. Results of these projects have been middle/high school entries in the Science Fair (with Regional winners and a NC Statewide winner) and poster presentations with high school and undergraduate student authors at regional scientific meetings (N.C. Academy of Science, Association of Southeastern Biologists). While this project focuses on environmental science, it introduces students to the use of palynology to interpret Quaternary climate change in the region as well. The project has been successful at expanding underrepresented youth identity in science in our rural area of North Carolina.