City Backyard Science is a new urban citizen science project in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The three main areas the project addresses are:
- Conservation: How do we increase urban greening, habitat heterogeneity, and biodiversity? (There has been encouraging work showing that small green areas in cities can host diverse native bee communities.)
- Community engagement: How do we meaningfully connect communities with science and the natural world?
- Urban evolutionary ecology questions such as: Do native plant species show intraspecific variation in adaptation to urban environments? How do urban bee communities differ from rural communities?
The main thrust of the project is setting up raised beds on the boulevard in front of participants’ homes, and using these “plots” as a widely distributed experiment across multiple neighborhoods in Minneapolis. We train participants on data collection, and they help us answer questions about urban pollinator habitat and plant adaptation to urban environments. Because these plots are on the boulevard, we are also able to visit the plots as we wish to weed, check on plants, do pollinator visitation assays, etc. All the households in the pilot year have children ages 5-12, and a significant portion of the project is about getting them involved and excited about science in their backyard.
I started this project with Amanda Gorton in 2019 with a grant from the UMN Institute on the Environment, and we’re applying for additional funding to expand the program next year. Check back here for updates!