Extending user-friendly scientific information to local audiences in tropical Costa Rica: Where to begin?
Most field biologists who work in the tropics find little trouble researching their fields and publishing their findings in appropriate scientific journals. However, we don't usually take time to extend our findings in user-friendly language to local audiences in the areas where we work. In many cases, these avenues don't always exist. Yet, the fate of the organisms we study often lie in the hands of these local audiences, many of which have complex relationships with these organisms, rather than those national and international level audiences to which scientific journals cater. So, what to do if you are concerned about raising awareness about the organism groups that you study and feel passionate about? What if you also want to advocate conservation measures to protect these organisms? Where should you begin such a quest?
These are questions of great concern to the Urban Bee Lab at the University of California, Berkeley as we continue our long-term research on native bee species in the urban, wild, and agricultural environments of Costa Rica. The usual institutions, such as NGOs, for extending such information are almost non-existent in this region of Costa Rica. Even around the capital city of San Jose, these institutions are rare.
We have been exploring methods for educating the local populations at the grade school level. The work started in early 2014 in several schools in the central plateau of Costa Rica. It involves hands-on workshops that educate children about where their food comes from and how organisms such as pollinating bees (and other organisms) play a major role in the process. We are now in the process of planning a bee habitat gardening project. Local interest has been high: invited workshops have reached almost 2,500 school children. This paper describes how the work was started and where it is heading as more schools sign on.