Students improving life: Disseminating environmental research to transfer scientific knowledge and inspire youth.

Posted on Friday, October 8th, 2021

Written by Tahlia Dyer

Head shot of Janean Sharkey
Photo credit: Brandi Hristovski

After working as a biologist on the west coast for 10 years, Janean Sharkey, a graduate student in the School of Environmental Sciences, decided to return to Ontario and pursue research of native bees in prairie grasslands.

“I’m looking at native bee communities in tallgrass prairie and oak savannah, which is a rare habitat type in Southern Ontario and how habitat management influences bee communities there,” says Janean, who is a member of Dr. Nigel Raine’s lab.

One of Janean’s main research sites is part of the rare Charitable Research Reserve (rare), a 1,200+ acre urban land trust and environmental institute in Waterloo Region/Wellington.

Janean was approached by the Guelph Institute for Environmental Research (GIER) to be a part of the 2021 Knowledge Mobilization Project. The goal of the project was to bring together natural sciences, social sciences, and the arts by creating knowledge mobilization resources to disseminate environmental research. 

The project consisted of five interdisciplinary teams working on knowledge mobilization initiatives.

Janean’s team included Jenna Quinn, rare program scientist and Suzanne Matheson, a natural science illustrator.

“We were thinking about what we could do for native bees,” says Janean. “For me, one of the main messages as a bee researcher that we like to get across is how diverse and important native bee species are.” 

Janean says that rare offers a variety of youth programs and a summer camp for ages of 6 – 12, so the team decided to create a scientifically accurate colouring book.

“The book highlights honeybees so that kids can learn the difference between the agriculturally important honeybee and our native species,” says Janean. “It also highlights the really important ecosystem of tallgrass prairie and oak savannah, and rare has a very large, restored tallgrass prairie on their site.”

It will be used by rare educators to talk about native plants and species found in this habitat, specifically focusing on bumblebees, where they live, and where they nest. 

“Overall, the project has been really fun. It gives a snapshot of what I have been doing as part of my graduate research,” says Janean. “It’s nice that the colouring book will be available to the public and used as a tool for science communication and outreach.”

The colouring book is available free online for educators and parents. Download it here.

The project was funded by GIER and the Food from Thought Knowledge Mobilization Fund (supported by CFREF Food from Thought).

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