By Molly Martin, Bee City USA Coordinator, The Xerces Society
Like many others, my introduction to the world of native bees began with their nonnative relative, the European honey bee (Apis mellifera). Four hives were neatly arranged on the patch of grass between my bedroom window and the Asian pear tree that failed to produce fruit throughout my childhood despite a private brigade of pollinators. From observing my bee-suited parents tend to our flying friends from the safe confines of a backpacking tent set up in our yard to watching for swarms in the trees around our home, bees became a part of my daily life. Since then my interest has migrated from honey bees to native bees, a subset of fauna that I find myself focusing most of my professional time on as the new coordinator of Bee City USA, an initiative of the Xerces Society.
This account of my journey to native bee conservation is of course a simplified one, skipping over many twists and turns in my interests and engagements, a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Studies from Whitman College with a focus on the link between silviculture and songbirds in Oregon’s Coast Range forests, and more recently a master’s degree in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology from San Francisco State University.
The combination of climate change and long-term fire suppression have led to fire regimes marked by large, high-intensity burns. In the fall of 2017, Napa and Sonoma counties in Northern California experienced unusually large and severe wildfires. In the early 2000s, the LeBuhn Lab sampled bee and plant communities at sites located in oak woodlands in both Sonoma and Napa Valleys; about half of these sites burned in the fall 2017 wildfires—but this provided the opportunity to study how fires impact bees.
While in California I was also involved in a project to complete the first survey of native pollinators on Mount Tamalpais. The project was a partnership between San Francisco State University, the Marin Municipal Water District, and California State Parks. I particularly enjoyed the community engagement aspect of the project. I helped train volunteers, worked with volunteers in the field, and coordinated community outreach events.
Joining the Xerces’ staff as the Bee City USA Coordinator has provided me with an opportunity to integrate my interest in scientific research with my excitement to work with individuals and communities to conserve pollinators. I look forward to working with our existing affiliates and continuing to expand the Bee City USA program to support pollinator conservation across the country.
Molly coordinates the Xerces Society’s Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA programs, initiatives of Xerces that support communities in their commitment to creating sustainable habitat for pollinators. Before joining the team at Xerces, Molly worked on a variety of projects across the western U.S., ranging from research to restoration, from environmental and outdoor education, to data analysis and visualization. She earned her master's degree in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology from San Francisco State University and her bachelor's degree in biology and environmental studies from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. When not working to conserve pollinators, Molly can be found romping in her garden; honing her cake baking skills; and exploring wild places by foot, bike, boat, or ski.
Header photo by: Nancy Lee Adamson
These are the opinions and events of interest to the Bee City USA coordinator and Xerces Society.