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 (beeinformed.org) 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 eXtension.org
- Three of the 4 project goals are research into colony health, 4th is to deliver the research.
Long established delivery methods
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 eXtension.org. 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 eXtension.org 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
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 Broodmapper.com 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. Broodmapper.com 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.
DATA, DATA, DATA….
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).
Beeinformed.org 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 (beeinformed.org) 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 beeinformed.org 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 beeinformed.org 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
Beeinformed.org integration with eXtension.org website
Content streams are used to integrate eXtension.org with beeinformed.org. The RSS stream for both eXtension.org/bee_health and beeinformed.org feed into our Facebook page Bee Health @ eXtension.org. 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 beeinformed.org 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 beeinformed.org, we set up a signup page and form that allowed people to enter their address into the Bronto.com software that eXtension.org provides access and support for.
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. eXtension.org 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 beeinformed.org. 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 beeinformed.org, 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.
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 beeinformed.org website.