Appropriate Technology and its Design

The following talk was developed for the 2012 National eXtension Conference in Oklahoma City.

Appropriate Technology and its Design: Extension in honey bees integrates NIFA and ARS projects with beekeeper’s participation

Presentation abstract:The Bee Health Community of Practice consists of a number of Research and Extension groups organized around various associations including grant programs and research topics. Online forms of education are developed for the specific tasks of each project. A ‘one size fits all’ approach is avoided. Bee Health at eXtension provides some grounding of these groups to a central URL and a Content Manager whom provides technical and/or marketing support to a number of these projects. A WordPress blog ( has been developed to disseminate survey reports from a SQL database. The survey relates > 5,000 beekeepers’ management practices with colony survivorship. The blog is also a forum for crop protection agents and other project participants to provide educational updates from the field. In this presentation, the Bee Health content manager will review the design of this blog and a number of other unique aspects of the Bee Health CoP where the logistics, especially the layout and chosen technology, is key to delivering content to and from beekeepers.

An online tour commences following the links below which show web-based educational strategies from simple to complex utilized by the Bee Health CoP. Explanations include the context of why and how the particular approaches are appropriate. Subjects are chosen to be of interest to conference attendees.

USDA-NIFA, Managed Pollinator CAP: A National Research and Extension Initiative to Reverse Pollinator Decline

  •  NIFA grant for $4.1 million divided among 4 years and 17 institutions
  • Coordinated with a USDA-ARS Areawide Program on several research objectives and the establishment of the Bee Health CoP at
  • Three of the 4 project goals are research into colony health, 4th is to deliver the research.

Long established delivery methods

Figure 1: The American Bee Journal has a history of communication with beekeepers for over 150 years. Another trade journal, Bee Culture Magazine, was first established in 1873 as Gleanings in Bee Culture and will have its 140 year anniversary in 2013. Both journals are distributed through digital and print subscription at a low cost.

Figure2: In addition to helping establish the Bee Health CoP at and populating it with basic information articles and FAQs, the Managed Pollinator CAP publishes research updates in cooperation with industry trade journals.

Extension in honey bees has utilized trade journals (see Figure 1) for their work and continues to do so. The Managed Pollinator CAP publishes near monthly updates of their research in articles that appear in both  journals and at The Managed Pollinator CAP articles on eXtension.orgprovide freely available versions of subscriber content and a link to the journals. New beekeepers can find the trade journals through and Extension can reach beekeepers through the journals. Improving on and participating in historically proven approaches are effective was to reach clientele as evidenced by Google Analytics.

New Opportunities: Use of web-based applications to interact with community of interest

Figure 3. Reed Johnson developed an online game where people can learn about developing honey bees and contribute to research efforts investigating miticide and fungicide interactions in developing bees. The web-application utilizes PHP and jQuery, is light-weight, and is relatively simple in tech design.

One of the 18 objectives of the Managed Pollinator CAP include research to determine the effects of Miticide and Fungicide Interactions in honey bee colonies. One of these experiments involved examining honey bee brood survival and development. Reed Johnson at The Ohio State University OARDC developed to allow for the collection of digital images of developing brood and provide a mechanism to score health changes in honey bee development over time. This created a unique opportunity for educational content. The general public can set up an account, learn about developing bees, practice identifying brood stages, and contribute to the completion of the research project. is an ad-hoc online application developed relatively quickly. It could be looked at as an example for similar needs. Next we will look at a broad approach of applying web-based applications to larger projects.

Information technology to increase personal interactions and learn more from our community of interest

The Bee Team

Managed Pollinator CAP cooperator Marla Spivak established the “Bee Team” – a tech transfer initiative with full-time on-the-ground staff in California. Similar to a crop advisor, these staff collect health information on honey bee colonies to aid beekeepers in management decisions and selection criteria for potential breeding stock. The Bee Team model was soon after adopted and expanded by a new USDA-NIFA CAP, The Bee Informed Partnership. This expansion brought more staff to the ‘Bee Team’ and additional regions and beekeeping operations to their work. Many of the co-operators involved in the Bee Team sampling also are involved in the  APHIS Survey of Honey Bee Pests and Diseases, a national sampling effort of honey bee colonies with 34 participating states last year. Colony inspections from these two sampling efforts alone have generated a large set of data.

Figure 4: Bee Team member Rob Snyder is pictured here sampling for nosema disease and varroa mites. Rob works for Butte County Cooperative Extension in Oroville, CA and is formerly an Apiary Inspector for the Department of Agriculture in Pennsylvania. Rob also samples bee hives for the National USDA-APHIS Survey of Honey Bee Disease and Pests. Photo by Mike Andree,


In the wake of the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) event beginning in 2006-2007, numerous sampling, testing, and survey regimes regimes have occurred to attempt to elucidate factors affecting colony health. The Bee Informed Partnership, a USDA-NIFA CAP funded in 2011 for 5 years is an Extension project that attempts to decrease the number of colonies that die over winter. Its design includes 5 tiers, each of which include sampling and surveys that collect data relating hive health or losses.  Before CCD, hive health measures also naturally occurred. One of the longest historical collection of standardized hive health measures includes records held by the USDA-ARS Bee Disease Diagnostic Service at Beltsville where the public, apiary inspectors, and institutions can send samples for diagnostics. A core objective of The Bee Informed Partnership is to develop a honey bee health database to house and interact with these and other data sets. This will allow beekeepers to compare management practices within their individualized sets of circumstances (example: location, operation size, sector concentration) to select those practices with the highest level of relative success. The database will also provide insight into factors effecting hive health by its inclusion of other data-sets (example: USDA-ARS Bee Disease Diagnostics). and the National Honey Bee Management Survey

In less than 2 years, a modus operandi has been developed for 2 of the 5 goals of the Bee Informed Partnership. Online software is used to conduct a survey of beekeepers winter losses and management practices (5,441 US beekeepers in 2011, 5,543 in 2012). The Winter Loss Survey began first in 2007 to document the losses suffered in winter by beekeepers. This survey is now expanded to include questions about beekeeping management practices. Differences in practices are related to colony losses. This survey is also supported by the  USDA-ARS Areawide Program.

A WordPress website and blog ( was developed to promote participation in the survey, provide a homepage for results and the project as a whole, and provide a blog for project staff to provide educational and interesting updates from the field and lab. WordPress offers a relatively easy to install content management system to display and develop content. To launch in a matter of days, we began the site using the default installation theme with minor modifications to give the site its own look. Over time, the site was redeveloped to function in the way we needed. The following key points where added, along with a unique look.

Features added to after initial, default WordPress installation. (If your reading this instead of attending the presentation, be sure to navigate the site and check out these features. This WordPress site is the main point of the talk.)

  • Improved identification of blog authors. We have at least 8 active blog authors and now when you search or browse, their happy faces identify their posts. On their individual blog pages (see list right side bar). They each manage their own blog.
  • Feature images for posts and author avatar per post.
  • Official result releases of this project, like journal articles and management survey reports are branded with the BIP logo and organized in the menu using categories.
  • The homepage provides a constantly updated stream of results and blog posts all searchable or you can browse by tags (list in footer).
  • Using your phone or ipad? The new design responds to different screen sizes for improved readability and is ‘light weight’ to work quickly on mobile devices integration with website

Content streams are used to integrate with The RSS stream for both and feed into our Facebook page Bee Health @ On both websites, a Facebook like box is inserted which displays the content stream. On either site, viewers can like the Facebook page and be directed to the latest content on the other site. In addition, on the homepage, the RSS feed to eXtension appears in the footer with a list of the latest content.

Conducting the Bee Informed National Management Survey

Collecting email addresses and soliciting responses

On, we set up a signup page and form that allowed people to enter their address into the software that provides access and support for.

Email marketing software makes sending emails to large lists easier plus allows sign-up forms, tracking list growth, and success of message delivery (# delivered, opened, clicked)

Each month, an add about the survey results is placed in Bee Culture and the American Bee Journal. An interesting survey result is highlighted and beekeepers are asked to sign up and participate next year. The same survey result highlight appears on the upper right corner of and changes each month with each new add.

Designing the survey

Questions for the survey are developed by the project directors, then the survey is developed to an online form. Software used include InstantSurvey in 2011 and SelectSurvey in 2012. provides access to an InstantSurvey account for eXtension CoP’s. SelectSurvey is installed on the BIP server and managed by our dedicated software engineer and database guru Mark Henson at Appalachian State University.

Mark Henson has developed the BIP research database using Microsoft SQL Server where survey responses are exported. Using SQL, data is coded in preparation for statistical analysis. Statistics identified by the project directors are generated with either R or calculations possible through the reporting features of MSSQL server. We can interact with R from the research server with software available from the Statconn project. Report Viewer tools through Visual Studio 2010 allow organization and generation of reports for each survey question and calculated, new columns developed from survey answers (Example: respondent did or did not use a specific product as an answer). All the reports generated from the 2010-2011 survey were exported from the database and uploaded to Each report relates a management practice (or practices) to winter losses. Some reports from the survey are more interesting or revealing than others, and considering a set of reports about a particular topic are often more useful than considering individual reports. On, report summary pages are developed highlighting the most interesting results from the report and a video blog providing commentary on these highlights is provided. Videos are edited in Imovie and uploaded to YouTube.

Future Work for the Bee Informed Websites

Bee Informed National Management Survey

The 2011 and 2012 survey added numerous questions about management practices we have not yet begun to generate reports from. Many honey bee losses occur in the summer and are not recorded by the Winter Loss portion of the survey. These new questions attempt to better understand colony losses beekeepers experience other times of year. Reports related to these questions will be generated.

Sample data

Numerous datasets are being generated from field collections of samples. The research server will be utilized to release insight discovered by these collections through research articles and the website.

The work presented in this talk was Funded by:

Share on TwitterShare on TumblrSubmit to StumbleUponSave on DeliciousDigg ThisSubmit to reddit

Writing Content

A page I wrote on explaining the history, biology, and control of an important disease of honey bees.

Here is a blog I wrote about certified production in honey bees.

Writing original, engaging content that is conducive to reading and discovery on the web is a combination of literary creativity and understanding the format of the media. The format includes key words, web-centric organization, illustration, and clarity.

I have written the content for numerous pages on websites. My creative writing experience online primarily includes educational writing in biology, and blogging.

Editing for websites is also something I do regularly. Often, I am given content that is not optimized for the web. I can identify subtle changes that will make improvements that consider the online format.

Here are some links to pages and blog posts where I have written the text. I took many, but not all, of the photographs in the articles as well.


Share on TwitterShare on TumblrSubmit to StumbleUponSave on DeliciousDigg ThisSubmit to reddit

Social Networks

Twitter stream

Facebook stream

Online communication is a stream where information comes and goes. Once you read a book or have a phone conversation, really how many more times do you read it or listen to it again? Communication through websites should keep this in mind. We can archive our activities for reference, but we tend to want to learn or experience something new when we look to websites.

Social networks help us find new information and connect us to people and organizations we are interested in listening to. Websites are about communication, and that requires a conversation.

Twitter and Facebook are two standard social networks I work with. Through the Facebook stream below, you can see where I have set up a fanpage for bees and beekeeping information through,, and other news stories we dig up.

These streams can make a convenient way to create links on your site in addition to interacting with others on social networks.

Share on TwitterShare on TumblrSubmit to StumbleUponSave on DeliciousDigg ThisSubmit to reddit

Email Marketing

Email marketing software, like, gives feedback on things like the number of people opening and clicking on links in your emails, conversion actions, and growth in contacts entered from your web-forms.

Email is another strategy for communications centered around websites. I have sent emails to over 6,000 different addresses through for newsletters I put together and online surveys.

Online marketing software, like, helps automate web forms for sign-ups, lists, messages, opt-out buttons, and importantly offers numerous metrics. You can determine if your messaging is reaching your audience and if your messages cause actions like purchases or survey participation.

Share on TwitterShare on TumblrSubmit to StumbleUponSave on DeliciousDigg ThisSubmit to reddit

Content Management Systems

Bee Informed Partnership Backend

Here is the backend of a WordPress site where pages are laid out using a WYSIWYG editor and other features of the site are managed.

Content management systems (CMS) are web applications that store website content in a database and output the content with styled templates. This makes it easier for website administrators and non-technical contributors to maintain sites. My CMS of choice lately is WordPress, while I have additional experience in Joomla!, Drupal, MediaWiki, and Sharepoint.

WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal use PHP scripting to call a database, usually MySQL. I have experience managing MySQL databases with phpMyAdmin on remote and local servers as well as modifying PHP code within open source CMS web applications.

Sites that I installed and maintained the CMS and its content.

  • 2011 – present. The Bee Informed Partnership blog and homepage. A USDA-NIFA CAP project website. uses WordPress.
  • 2011 – present. My portfolio homepage. uses WordPress
  • 2011 – present. My beekeeping business website, uses WordPress
  • 2008 – present. University of Tennessee, Bees and Beekeeping. Currently migrating to SharePoint.
  • 2007 – 2011. Combined homepage, used Joomla!
  • 2007 – present. Anderson County Beekeepers Association. uses WordPress
  • 2007 – 2009. The Chapel on the Hill homepage. uses Joomla!

Sites using a CMS where I am the content manager

  • 2008 – present. A coordinated web-based outreach system for USDA programs with over 100 apiculture professionals from universities and USDA-ARS labs.


Share on TwitterShare on TumblrSubmit to StumbleUponSave on DeliciousDigg ThisSubmit to reddit

Website Layout

Website layout is a combination of programming languages and an artistic eye for the assembly of elements.

Programming languages

Modern site layout is primarily influenced by the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) computer language. However, other scripting is essential to site layout, and functioning, like PHP, HTML, and Javascript.

The most recent example of a website where I did a significant portion of the layout is:

CSS based menu

Figure 1. A CSS based menu I developed for

I have detailed knowledge of CSS and HTML and a good functioning knowledge of PHP and Javascript. CSS can do things like the menu in Figure 1. Here, I developed a menu that when hovering over the fly images, their taxonomic family name appears. The viewer can then navigate to a page about that family. CSS has a limited number of selectors, properties, and values. However, they can be used in combinations that have the infinite application that you see on the web today.

For this website (, I developed a “child theme” that retains features of a default WordPress install (like being mobile web ready) and adds a custom look and feel. This is often the most effective way to design a WordPress site that will survive future upgrades, or when you simply want work efficiently.

Also important in site layout are the graphics and photos of the site. See the page “Header Art” for more graphics examples.

Share on TwitterShare on TumblrSubmit to StumbleUponSave on DeliciousDigg ThisSubmit to reddit


Screen shot of a 111 question survey I programed for the Managed Pollinator CAP.

Conducting surveys online has never been more accessible. However, as a survey becomes more complex, HTML, CSS, and Javascript coding can become important. In addition to programming requirements, marketing, institutional rules, and synthesis of results is required to conduct effective surveys.

I have helped with two large scale, online surveys. For a USDA-NIFA project, the Managed Pollinator CAP, I programed and distributed a 111 question survey in the online application InstantSurvey.

For another USDA-NIFA project, the Bee Informed Partnership, I helped with marketing their 2010 – 2011 Winter Loss Survey by setting up a WordPress website to act as a homepage and contain a web form for beekeepers to sign up and participate. I then used mass marketing email software to communicate with the 1,000′s of beekeepers whom participated. The results of this survey are soon to be published in the Journal of Apicultural Research.

Share on TwitterShare on TumblrSubmit to StumbleUponSave on DeliciousDigg ThisSubmit to reddit

Statistics and Graphics

* Figure 1.1 from my Master of Sciences thesis

Although you may not always think about statistics when thinking about graphic design, graphics are extremely important in statistics. Statistics software provides ways to illustrate data interpretation.

To generate these graphics, a working knowledge of the calculations behind the statistics is important. For example, inappropriate uses of ordination techniques will generate figures which are difficult to ascertain anything useful from.

I have taken three graduate level courses in statistics at the University of Tennessee. My software experience includes SAS and R. My experience has concentrated in linear mixed models in SAS and R for ordination, QTL mapping, and other genetic analysis.

Graduate level statistics courses
Course Credit hours Grade
Statistical Genomics 3 A
Least Squares Analysis 3 A
Statistics for Biological Research 3 A

* Figure 1.4 from my M.S. thesis.

Here are two works where I was required to take raw data tables and develop figures that interpret the data.

*Figure text

Figure 1.1: Bee visitation on one East Tennessee farm represented by nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) ordination. Unlabeled points represent transect observations. Labeled crosses represent bee category scores. Ellipses are the class factor of flower type and 95% confidence intervals of the standard deviation of their weighted averages. Permutation testing of flower type within day shows this factor is significant (P < 0.001). A vector fitted to the time of day within flower type is significant (P < 0.001). Thin plate regression splines further show the effect of time of day on the ordination using a generalized additive model with family = quasipoisson.

Figure 1.4: Bee visitation to squash and pumpkin across 10 East Tennessee farms represented by NMDS ordination, with environmental vectors and regression splines for time of day. Unlabeled points represent transect observations. Permutation testing within transect specified as strata shows the vectors are significant for date (P < 0.001), time of day (P = 0.018), and female flower ratio (P < 0.001).

** Thesis abstract: Wilson, Michael Edward, “Bee Visitation to Crops and other Flowers Planted as Bee Food. ” Master’s Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2011.

Farms that require insect pollination and reside in diverse landscapes benefit from pollination by native bees. However, populations of native bees and honey bees are generally in decline and this threatens food production. Documentation of crop pollination as an ecosystem service is needed to identify potential impacts from declining bee populations. This study identifies communities of bees providing pollination and how they vary across different crops and environmental conditions. Managing landscapes to provide additional food sources for bees may improve the health of wild and managed bees. This study also evaluated the attractiveness of bees to selected species of plants that could be used to provide food sources.

In 2008-09, bee visitation was measured on 10 different crops among 12 farms in Tennessee. On one of these farms, visitation was observed for 24 different flower species that could be used for supplemental bee forage. Bees visiting flowers were organized within a classification scheme of 10 taxonomic groups. Environmental data for each observation was recorded including the type of flower, the date, time, location, farm and plot size, if the farm was organic or conventional, and the number and sex of flowers when appropriate.

Nonmetric multidimensional scaling and linear models revealed that native bees are important visitors to crop flowers, but their abundance and composition depend on the type of flower. Within a flower type, other environmental effects can shift the community composition. Plants selected for habitat enhancement can be chosen based on the similarity of the community of bees which utilize them as compared to crops.

Share on TwitterShare on TumblrSubmit to StumbleUponSave on DeliciousDigg ThisSubmit to reddit

Header Art

The header for this site brings in my interest in bees and is meant to feel electric, in that Miami kind of way. Here are some more headers I designed. is a site for a National Sciences Foundation grant to study the taxonomy of Diptera using molecular approaches. They needed a header with their grant title and graphics to pull you in. This is what I did for them. Click to zoom. is a church website that has pages for their chapel services and their nursery school. I designed two headers that would provide branding to separate these sections of their website. Click to zoom.

Share on TwitterShare on TumblrSubmit to StumbleUponSave on DeliciousDigg ThisSubmit to reddit

Video film and editing

During my undergraduate studies, I was trained in video, 16mm and 8mm film, editing techniques, and film studies. In more modern times, I have worked with Imovie and Final Cut Pro to assemble digital video for various needs. In the video below, I recorded and edited the removal of a honey bee colony from a tree as part of an educational resource at

There are also numerous videos I edited at The linked videos are vlog’s of the project director explaining results from a survey of > 5,000 beekeepers.

Share on TwitterShare on TumblrSubmit to StumbleUponSave on DeliciousDigg ThisSubmit to reddit