Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens (JZG) supports a variety of different conservation-related initiatives. In addition to donating a portion of zoo ticket sales directly to conservation-related projects, zoo staff are encouraged to actively engage in the conservation of native species and ecosystems. In our case, this meant collaborating with the University of Florida in the hope of helping the 300-plus drastically declining wild bee species native to northern Florida.
After some research, we were able to come up with a project that fit within our guidelines. The next step was to fill out a conservation proposal application and get the process rolling. The detailed description focused on how this conservation project benefited both institutions and what we hoped it would accomplish. Finally, funds were requested and granted. We began by focusing on the attractiveness of different plant species to native bees in Florida, including plants being sold in big box stores as “pollinator friendly."
Our research focuses on the bee species found within JZG property. We wanted to record the frequency with which native pollinators visited groups of native and non-native flowers. We then opened the door for staff involvement, no matter what department they worked in, at a level where they could jump right in. This was crucial to the project’s overall success. Participants were excited and eager to help with local conservation. We set up a training meeting and showed them how to monitor species, what to look for, and how to use a Quadrat to record findings within a three-foot-by-three-foot area. Our results will be documented in University of Florida extension publications on the attractiveness of different plant species to native bees in Florida.
Our results on bee species found within JZG property will be distributed to our staff, and possibly incorporated into signage. This project will provide data specific to JZG that can be used to educate visitors about bee diversity and the plants found on grounds that support these pollinators. The University of Florida will work with the JZG staff to create educational materials that will help visitors learn about the importance of bees and ways that they can support, conserve, or enhance bee populations. Furthermore, this project will provide planting recommendations for the gardens, including any current or future pollinator gardens.