The Citizen Science program “Hawaiʻi Backyard Beetles” taps into our keiki's enthusiasm for science to track ambrosia beetles and understand Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death.
Hawaiʻi Backyard Beetles program uses a low cost solution to monitoring ambrosia beetles in collaboration with The Volcano School of Arts & Sciences (VSAS) and the US Forest Service in Volcano, Hawaiʻi. This project incorporates students’ hands-on learning with research by professional scientists to answer an important question about ambrosia beetle distribution.
Students made beetle traps from two-liter bottles, hung them in their yards and collected beetles to bring to school. All week teachers integrated the ambrosia beetle collection project into the curricula to address science, math and language arts standards. Using their own ambrosia beetles under microscopes Pre-K through 8th grade students were taught ecology lessons by US Forest Service scientists and interns. Student collected material was then taken to the laboratory where trained entomologists identified the beetles to species and mapped their distribution across Hawai’i Island.
This project aims to map where ambrosia beetles species are found - a vital question concerning Hawai’i Island’s land managers as they combat Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD). ʻŌhiʻa trees densely populate Hawaiʻi Island across all environments from sea level to tree line and are considered a keystone species. Unfortunately, Ceratocystis has infected many thousand ʻŌhiʻa, and this fungal disease causes ROD which ultimately kills most infected trees. Ambrosia beetles may play an important part in the spread of this disease when they feed on ʻŌhiʻa infected with the fungus.
Cooperative development of the Hawaiʻi Backyard Beetle program allows us to serve all of Hawaiʻi nei with easily adapted lesson plans that address this timely scientific question and help us all halt the spread of this devastating tree disease.
ʻŌhiʻa lehua flower near The Volcano School of Arts & Sciences on Hawaiʻi Island.
US Forest Service Laboratory
Xyleborinus saxesenii, the most common ambrosia beetle species captured by students (30% of samples), is known to bore into ʻŌhiʻa trees with Ceratocystis fungus.
Map of student ambrosia beetle traps across Southern Hawaii Island.
2/3rds of students returned samples from traps they deployed in their backyards. Over 80% of those traps were successful in collecting at least one insect.
Very wet weather and cold temperatures (lows below 50 F) caused traps in March to be less successful at capturing ambrosia beetles. Almost 75% of traps in April had ambrosia beetles.
Traps with ambrosia beetles often contained more than one species. The most common species collected are known to feed on ʻŌhiʻa trees.
Xylosandrus crassiusculus was the second most commonly captured beetle in student bottle traps has also been found on ʻŌhiʻa.
Citizen Science is a great benefit to students.
Students authentically engaged in the project and made an impact.
Students and teachers built beetle traps, collected data and worked with scientists.
This project allowed teachers and students to participate in work that makes a difference in their own communities and is ongoing.
Students met standards in experimentation and life science.
Students had the opportunity to see themselves as the next generation of entomologists, ecologists, geologists, and biologists and more importantly, as conservationists and stewards of their environment.
Do this project with your class!
This project could be replicated at any school in Hawai'i. Ambrosia beetles are found throughout the state.
Beetles were collected so that they could be identified and counted by the US Forest Service (Dr. Puliafico and his team).
Without the scientists, our school did not have the expertise, time or instruments to adequately identify and count the beetles collected. Without the students the scientists could not reach so many places so effectively.
Any replication of this project needs to be in collaboration with the US Forest Service to maximize the usefulness of the data.
Article in Hawai'i Tribune Herald:
Lesson planning for real world, standards aligned experimentation:
The efficacy built for students, teachers and the community towards future conservation activities is a major benefit of the project.
While the students meet the standards in the classrooms, it becomes much more than a school project. Students and teachers are inspired to seek and participate in future projects, to become conservationists and stewards of their environment. Involvement in this type of Citizen Science makes a broader impact on students and their conservation habits than public service announcements and information campaigns.
At The Volcano School of Arts & Sciences, our mission is to provide an environment in which students are “Learning through Volcano’s unique natural and cultural resources to become creative global citizens.”
School vision met through this project:
Focus on the unique ecosystems and geology of the Volcano area,
cultivate responsibility for nature and the environment,
involve the community in ongoing partnerships,
provide a solid academic foundation for all students and encourage creative problem-solving and critical thinking.
Some of the Next Generations Science standards that were met by VSAS students include:
Kindergarten: K.LS1.1: Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals need to survive
Grade 2: 2.LS4.1: Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.
Grades 3-5: 3-5.ETS.1-3: Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
Grade 5: 5.LS2.1: Develop a model to describe phenomena, the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers and the environment.
Grade 5: 5.ESS3.1: Obtain and combine information from books and/or other reliable media to explain phenomena or solutions to a design problem.
Future plans could include your school!
The data collected from this project is already useful for understanding where ambrosia beetles are living across the Big Island; however it could be even more exciting with help from your students. We hope to get more information about these beetles from additional areas across Hawai`i and soon the rest of the Hawaiian Islands. Please contact Dr. Puliafico to discuss how we can work together.
Thanks to the students, teachers, staff and parents of VSAS who helped make this project such a great success.
Special thanks also to the US Forest Service volunteers:
All photos are the property of the poster authors except:
"Xylosandrus crassisculus" (Jiri Hulcr, University of Florida).(http://xyleborini.myspecies.info/sites/xyleborini.myspecies.info/files/Xylosandrus_crassiusculus_s_1024px.jpg)
"Xyloborinus saxseni" ( J Hulcr, University of Florida). (http://www.barkbeetles.info/regional_chklist_target_species.php?lookUp=2037&image=2211_xyleborinus_saxesenii_lat_hulcr_1024px&curPage=1)