60-Second Science

8 of 500 episodes indexed
Back to Search - All Episodes

In Missouri, a Human 'Bee' Works to Better Understand Climate Change's Effects

by Scientific American
September 8th 2021
Researcher Matthew Austin has become a wildflower pollinator, sans the wings.
Mhm. This is scientific Americans. Science. I'm Shayla Far San. Mhm. Many plants and animals use temperature and other environmental cues like a calendar letting them know when it's time to bloom or find a mate. But climate change is disrupting these natural rhythms worldwide. From songbird migration across north America to plankton growth cycles in Norway to a hillside of wildflowers in Missouri. So if we head on out, you can notice there are a number of different species that have popped up. Dwarf crested iris, blue flock, Canadian would bet me. Matthew Austin is a postdoctoral researcher with a living Earth collaborative at Washington University. This patch of forest about 40 miles west of ST louis is covered with native wildflowers throughout the spring and summer, but the timing of when they bloom has changed in recent decades. Austin says we see that a warming climate is not only causing flowers to bloom earlier in many species, it's also causing them to end flowering later Missouri.

Wildflowers are blooming up to a week longer than they used to compared to data collected in the 1930s and 40 and that's created a late summer pile up of species flowering all at once. Meanwhile, bumble bees and other pollinators are flitting from species to species, says Nicole Miller Strootman, a biologist at Webster University. When a pollinator makes a decision about who it's going to visit that influences the pollen that they're carrying on their body and flowers, not too surprisingly don't really want pollen from another plant species. A flower that gets pollen from the wrong species may not be able to reproduce or it could push some to self pollen. E an extreme form of inbreeding to understand how this might affect reproduction. Matthew Austin has been pollinating hundreds of Missouri wildflowers by hand this year. Some experimental flowers get pollen from their own species. Others get pollen from different plant species to simulate what's happening now as climate change causes that pile up of species blooming at the same time to keep pollinators from visiting his flowers, he slips sheer mesh bags over the buds before they open.

But just as he removes the bag to tap pollen onto the flowers sticky stigma. A tiny bee lands on it. Oh no! Well, a pollinator got on this one, but I had it on bagged. They're sneaky. So this will not be included in from my study, but thankfully there's another one right here. He moves on to the next flower, A human meticulously doing the work of A. B. It's a slow process, but Austin hopes the results will help us understand how climate change is reshaping this complicated ecosystem for scientific Americans. Science. I'm Sheila Farzana

In Missouri, a Human 'Bee' Works to Better Understand Climate Change's Effects
In Missouri, a Human 'Bee' Works to Better Understand Climate Change's Effects
replay_10 forward_10