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Dr Linda Birkin completed her PhD student at the University of Sussex, studying pollinators and pollination services in urban environments, and now works in science communication. Linda is also part of the team at the Buzz Club, a national citizen science club.

The Buzz Club: Science in the garden

Gardening is one of the world’s most popular pastimes, and whether growing food or flowers, creating a beautiful place to relax in, or getting active, people from all walks of life are getting out there and trying out their green fingers. Fashions and focus in gardening have changed over time, and in recent years there has been an increasing recognition of the important role that our gardens play in the ecology of their landscape – and how even small urban spaces can be miniature havens for wildlife. Many people are now deliberately looking to manage their gardens with wildlife in mind, and there are an abundance of resources, products, suggestions and activities out there to try.

But how well do we know our gardens and their inhabitants?  

And how well do these actions actually work?

The Buzz Club takes a scientific eye to wildlife gardening, focusing mainly on invertebrates.  We are a club of volunteers interested in taking part in scientific investigations in the garden, looking for the best ways to help our wildlife and get a better idea of what is actually out there.

The projects are designed by scientists based at the University of Sussex and are intended to be simple and interesting to follow – if we are ever asking for anything that seems a little strange, we will always explain why that is! It’s free to join and (generally) free to take part; although depending on the project you might need to provide some simple equipment, or post something back to us. Everything is set up to be done at home (or at the allotment) and is suitable for all ages.

So, what are we up to this year?

Given current world events, some of our original plans for 2020 have had to change.  Our project line up is currently:

  • Hoverfly Lagoons Focusing on fabulous and often-forgotten pollinators, this project gets volunteers to create habitat for hoverflies in their gardens.  All you need are old plastic milk bottles, sticks, leaves and grass clippings – the hoverflies do the rest!

Hoverfly lagoons in action, with arrow pointing to eggs.

  • The Garden Shop calculator How much does your garden grow, in pounds?  The project has a spreadsheet that will calculate how much your garden produce would have cost to buy in a shop, and what proportion of that directly comes from insect pollination action.  Volunteers record their harvests over the year, and we see how reliant we really are on bees and other pollinators.
  • Strawberries Rock! Testing a gardening trick: Do red painted rocks – artfully arranged around young strawberry plants – protect the eventual fruit from being eaten by birds? A more vertebrate-focused project for 2020, asking volunteers to paint up some fake strawberries and record their yields and losses.

The Strawberries rock! project

Headed up by Professor Dave Goulson (and indeed, we get a mention in his latest bestseller ‘The Garden Jungle’), the Buzz Club is also active on Twitter and Facebook, answering questions and promoting our projects. We’re open for ideas, so if you have any gardening tricks you think we might like to test out, let us know!

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