If You Build It, Will They Come?

August 01, 2018

By Echo Martin
Pictures by Melissa Trent

Students test pollinator presence at urban garden sites

Each year new initiatives arise in urban environments to draw pollinators into concrete landscapes. With plot size limitations and resources, these projects can range from permanent installations at community gardens to annual planters that promote pollinator health. Students participating in the U of M Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), the Urban Scholars Program, and the Step-Up Program worked with the Rogers and Cariveau labs in Horticultural Science and Entomology to study floral and pollinator diversity at established urban community gardens and newly-planted pollinator gardens in Minneapolis.

The two UROP students, Melissa Trent and Elizabeth Huber, collected pollinators and plant samples at six urban community garden sites with the goal of examining which pollinators were attracted to which flowering plants throughout the season. Using this information, they hope to gain a better understanding of which pollinators are present in urban gardens and how floral diversity affects bee diversity. As the summer progressed, Trent focused on identifying the plants found at each site and Huber collected pollinator specimens from flowers in each garden.


Simultaneously, two students from St. Olaf College in the Urban Scholars program, Joey Dagher and Kevin Cheng, gathered the same data at six pollinator sites containing hexagonal planters. They wanted to know if the city’s initiative to plant pollinator hexagons was successfully supporting pollinators. Guido Quito, a junior at South Senior High School, spent one day a week at each site through the Minneapolis Step-Up Achieve program so he could gain hands on experience with undergraduate research.

This was a massive undertaking for this team of young researchers, and there is a lot of data to organize before their findings are released. The UROP students hope to get a better understanding of plant and pollinator diversity in relation to the floral resources available at each site, while the Urban Scholar’s data will help us understand how effective the new pollinator sites are. The research this group of students did was exploratory and observational, but the data discovered through this project could lead to further undergraduate work or even a future project for graduate students.