Rain, rain, go away, come again …when I’m done, please!

Well, we’re onto visual observations, and it’s going so-so, to say the least. 😦

Last week we were able to get some nectar and pollen collection done, as well as a few visual observations, which was really exciting. It’s nice to go back to working with the actual bees, rather than collecting pollen and nectar as we’ve been doing for the past few months. We’re not seeing much diversity at all – all but one sighting was of honey bees on coffee…but the one sighting that wasn’t a honey bee was so exciting! Continue reading

Posted in Agroecology

Nectar, pollen, measure, nectar, pollen, measure…

**This is going to be a picture heavy post – after all a picture is worth a thousand words! Hope you enjoy!**

So many flowers, so much data! I really can’t complain, though, since things have been going so smoothly. 🙂

We’ve been really lucky with our timing these past two weeks. We’ve been able to arrive to farms either the day of or the day before the coffee flowers opened, which means we were able to either measure floral traits, or bag the flowers to then collect nectar and pollen the following day. Continue reading

Posted in Agroecology, New Life Experiences

Things are great, measuring floral traits!

*Recap: This year, we’ll be focusing on two main objectives: 1. Determining the effects of floral diversity on bee visitation rates to coffee, and 2. Identifying the effects of coffee management practices on coffee floral traits.*

🙂 I couldn’t think of an exciting title for this post, so please forgive the lame name!

But in all seriousness, the field season is off to a great, but slow start. Continue reading

Posted in Agroecology

Field guide for identifying bees in PR

Happy new year everyone! Hope you’ve all had a wonderful holiday and are feeling refreshed and ready to tackle everything this new year throws your way.

There’s just over a week left before I leave Raleigh and head to Puerto Rico for another field season! I’m excited, and nervous, because this is likely to be my last field season for my degree…so I want to be sure to get as much good data as possible. Continue reading

Posted in Agroecology, Bee pictures, Something for you | Tagged

Wet processing coffee

Well, I just came back from spending two weeks in Puerto Rico, checking up on how the coffee harvest is going. I have some amazing technicians working for me, but there’s nothing like being there in person to make sure things are going smoothly and all the data you think needs to be collected, is collected. After a few minor tweaks, I’m feeling really confident about the rest of the harvest and data collection. Continue reading

Posted in Agroecology, New Life Experiences

Harvest time! … or is it?

It’s been a very long time, since I wrote my last post…but that’s because not much has happened (research-wise) since I left Puerto Rico at the end of March.

Just a short recap, for those of you who don’t have time to read my older posts. This January, I set out to survey bees in coffee plantations, and also compare their pollination services in shade and sun coffee plantations. The pollination service assessment was done by hand-pollinating some branches, and leaving others to be naturally pollinated by the environment (bees, wind, other insects and animals). If the naturally pollinated flowers yield the same quantity/quality of fruits as the hand-pollinated flowers (which have received all the pollen they need), then I can say that the plants are not pollen-limited (lacking pollen). If the naturally pollinated flowers have lower fruit quantity/quality, then they may in fact be pollen-limited. Continue reading

Posted in Agroecology, Something for you

Festivals, travel and back at it again!

Sorry for leaving you all on a cliffhanger! My plan from two weeks ago (to go an pollinate all the flowers that I saw blooming and budding AND trap bees) fell through since Pachamama (or Atabey here in the Puerto Rican Taino culture) was still playing tricks on me. Unfortunately all the flowers that looked perfect for pollination had bloomed and were dying by the time we returned to the farms…so we just set traps out. I’m actually pretty glad we didn’t have to hand pollinate and set traps out, because it was a heck of a long and tiring week, with some days consisting of 12 hr work days.

On the 13th, I got to go with one of my lab-mates and good friends, Amarilys to the coffee festival here in Maricao, Puerto Rico. It’s called “la fiesta del acabe” since it was meant to be a celebration of the end of the coffee harvest (from last years flowers), but now it’s become more of a cultural event where artisans, food vendors and musicians get together to just celebrate. There were a few coffee booths, so when we wandered to those we were surprised and also really happy to see one of the farmers I used to work with when I first started on the coffee project, in 2013. Luis Roig is a farmer who was kind enough to let me sample three of his farms for bees, and let Amarilys do her bird surveys on two of his farms for the past two years. He’s a great man, and has now started roasting and processing his own coffee beans for sale at small coffee shops around the island. We tasted some of his coffee and it was absolutely delicious 🙂

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Last week I went back to Raleigh for my green card interview (I got it, by the way! Yay for being a resident and not a “non-resident alien”!) and I’m so glad I did. Spending 5 weeks away from family and friends, and living alone in the field house really took its toll on me, so I was glad to be able to get some real socializing in with my friends and to see my husband and dog 🙂 So, although it was smack in the middle of all my field work, and I was a little nervous about falling behind on pollination, it was perfectly timed for me, emotionally. And, I came back this Monday, feeling completely refreshed and energized!

Actually to give me some peace of my, Monday, my technician was kind enough to go an hand pollinate one of the farms on his own. Tuesday we returned to the same area and pollinated a second farm. So, things were looking really good! A couple of the farms had buds, which we were hoping would flower by Friday, but Pachamama decided we should wait until this coming Monday to go back. The upside of hand pollinating is that it’s kind of relaxing. We just go to our plants and pollinate…so you can kind of zone out, as opposed to setting traps out and having to walk up and down mountain-sides. The downside is that it takes  A LONG time. Like 2-3 hours per farm…especially with the C. canephora which can sometimes have up to 50 flowers per node (we pollinate around 5 nodes per branch – two branches per plant – on 5 plants). So, although we were able to pollinate some coffee plants this week, I sort of felt like we were ‘wasting our time’ when we drove out to farms (1-2hrs away) and would just have to turn around when there were just buds.

This week, the field house is going to start filling up with the birders, one is arriving on the 2nd another on the 6th, and their technicians will also be staying here…so it’ll go from just me to about 5 people here! And, most importantly, my husband Adam will be coming on the 1st to spend the week with me. On the weekend we’ll go to Luquillo, in the north of the island, to spend some time at the beach and celebrate his birthday. So, I think as of this point, time is going to fly by, and before I know it, it’ll be the end of the month and I’ll be back in Raleigh!

As for field work, I think we’re going to have to focus on pollination this week, and hopefully finish up all my farms, and then set out traps for one final sampling. Then, I’m going to have to call all the farmers and remind them to PLEASE not cut down the tree or branch or remove the beans on the plants that we’re hand pollinating. The worst would be to come back to the farms in October-November, when it’s harvest time, and not find the branches which we works so hard to pollinate.

Hoping Pachamama/Atabey helps me out this week.

Posted in Agroecology