Date of Award
Master of Science
Plant-insect interactions are a key topic in evolutionary ecology. Anthropogenic pressures threaten to disrupt these cornerstone ecological interactions. Natural history collections continue to make important contributions to our present understanding of these interactions, especially so in a rapidly changing world. To contribute to fields of research studying pollinators and expanding public awareness of their important contributions I developed two separate but related projects for my thesis work. In one, I studied both the pollinator assembly and breeding system variability of species in a genus of native wildflowers. Plants that exhibit a mixed-mating strategy continue to inform our understanding of past dynamics between plants and their pollinators. Study of these strategies provides information on possible shifts in reproductive allocation in flowering plants as habitat loss and degradation, and declining numbers of high-quality reliable pollinators create unpredictable impacts. Scientists have advocated for the expansion of observational research by the public to document these shifting interactions and expand and make accessible platforms where non-experts can contribute meaningful data to scientific research. This type of research is generally called citizen science and has been underutilized in the college classroom as a pedagogical tool. I developed a project consisting of a self-guided training module based around pollination ecology and pre- and post- surveys to measure broad learning outcomes. For overall participants, ranking of the importance of pollinators and skill growth in observational research improved pre- to post- survey.
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