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Citizens can join projec to monitor and help improve fate of Northwest bumble bees.

PHOTO BY RICH HATFIELD, COURTESY OF  XERCES SOCIETY. - A Western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis), one of the three primary target species that the project partners want to understand better. 
Scientists launched a tri-state project on April 18, to use citizens to map the loss of bumble bees in the Pacific Northwest.

The region is home to nearly 30 species of bumble bees, many of them facing an uncertain future.

The Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas project covers Oregon, Washington and Idaho. It's spearheaded by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State University and the Portland-based Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The partners will collaborate with citizen scientists to collect information on bumble bees, using the citizen-science project Bumble Bee Watch to collect data.

Bees play an essential role in pollinating flowers in natural areas and contributing to successful harvests on farms. Declines of pollinator populations are alarming, including the introduced European honey bee and wild native bees, particularly bumble bees.

This project will target all species of bumble bees, especially three whose population declines are of particular concern: the Western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis), Morrison's bumble bee (Bombus morrisoni) and the Suckley cuckoo bumble bee (Bombus suckleyi).

"Washington, Idaho and Oregon are large, and include both heavily populated and wild areas, so we need an army of trained volunteers equipped with cameras to help survey the entire region," said Rich Hatfield, senior conservation biologist at the Xerces Society. "With the help of citizen scientists we can cover all three states quickly, collect high-quality data and contribute information that will aid in conservation."

One project goal is to better understand where bumble bee species occur in remote parts of the region. That will help researchers track these species and understand what types of habitat they are associated with, ultimately supporting the conservation of the most at-risk species.

To help launch the project there will be several citizen science volunteer training events throughout May and June 2018, designed to help citizen scientists connect with other volunteers while learning about bumble bees and how to contribute to the atlas.

For more information about the Pacific Northwest Bumble Bee Atlas project: pnwbumblebeeatlas.org/

For more information about Bumble Bee Watch: bumblebeewatch.org/

For more information about bumble bee conservation: xerces.org/bumblebees/

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