Happy World Bee Day!
We admit, this conceptual science illustration isn’t the most obvious choice to celebrate bees with. But as amazing as watching a bee pollinating a flower is, we’d like to take this opportunity to consider their broader importance. In the words of the UN, who formally declared World Bee Day:
Nearly 90% of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend…on animal pollination, along with more than 75% of the world’s food crops and 35% of global agricultural land. To raise awareness of the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development, the UN designated 20 May as World Bee Day.
We all depend on each other in this complex world. You’ve heard the alarms over bee health and potential crop collapse. It’s a frightening possibility, and it’s hard not to think about what bees do for us. The crops they pollinate, and the fruit we eat. What’s harder to fathom, is how our seemingly unrelated actions could be causing their collapse.
Illustrating Bee Communities to study Genetics, Community, and Ecosystems
In this #SayoStudio illustration for the National Science Foundation’s biology directorate, we used honeybees as a model organization to demonstrate how inter-related we all are.
As we’ve learned in high school biology, genetics are the instructions in our DNA. It’s DNA that dictates how we will look, and even how we behave. However, what biologists have continued to uncover is that our DNA is only part of the story.
“Nature vs Nurture” is so much more interesting and complex than we ever could have imagined. Genes can be turned on and off, and this happens from community interactions, ecological interactions, and even large-scale global systems like weather.
Illustrating Large Scale Systems, Connectivities, and Bees
Seemingly wide-scale global systems trickle down to modify gene expression in a multi-directional feedback loop. This illustration takes us from DNA, to cells and cell communication, to organs like neurons and intestines, to the whole organism (a bee). From there, we travel to the community, or hive, then to their larger orchard ecosystem. It’s at this point where the connections are less obvious, but larger communities (of humans) rely on bees for crops, while contributing to pollution and habitat reduction.
Finally, we cycle to the ocean. What does that have to do with bees? The crazy thing is that we REALLY are all connected. The pollution that trickles into our oceans, whether it be plastics or mercury, gets pulled up by our weather systems and deposited back on land.
The more that scientists from different fields work together, from computer scientists, to population geneticists, the more we can understand these connections and course correct. That’s one of the amazing things about NSF—its dedication to supporting and encouraging these cross-disciplinary connections.
And on another positive note, we can all do our part to help save the bee. To start, reduce pesticide use (both in your own garden and by buying organic food), plant native plants in your garden, and build awareness in your community!
Bee Photos from our Bee Hive
And because we really do love watching bees… please enjoy a few photos from Bellevue College’s Bee Keeping Club. You may just find some models that were used in the above illustration!
All photos copyright Nicolle R. Fuller, SayoStudio
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