By: Sylviane Alexion
Considering I walked into the first class entirely ignorant of the importance of pollination, I had the most to gain from this particular course. After the first lecture, I was hooked. I never knew that the amount of pollination is related to the development of the fruit. I had no idea that bees could get sick, and I was shocked to learn that the entire bee population itself was dwindling. I wanted to learn more, and I wanted to help, but I did not know how. When my TA mentioned that the department needed extra assistance in the van Engelsdorp Entomology Lab, I figured that would be a good place to start.
I started volunteering for a few hours in the lab each week. All of the lab employees were friendly and supportive. They were willing to teach me how to do anything, and I was always ready to pick up new skills. The first task I learned was how to make salt water. The salt water was needed in order to bottle bee specimens for transportation. After I finished making the salt water, they taught me how to prepare the bottles. This continued for the next several weeks. I learned something new every visit, and by the end of the semester, I knew how to do enough of the lab activities to be of substantially more use to the lab than I was on my first day of volunteer work.
I sincerely enjoyed my experience at the lab, and I wanted to continue spending time there. The lab directors, Heather and Karen, informed me of a class I could take that would give me credit for volunteering in addition to completing a project of my choice related to the lab. I immediately enrolled in the course as soon the registration period for the next semester began. The next step was to ponder topics for my project. Fortunately, the lab provided all class participants with a list of options. Writing an action plan for an infestation of Tropilaelaps mites peaked my interest. I had never written an action plan, nor did I have any clue as to what a Tropilaelaps mite was. But I liked writing, and I liked learning. I figured I had the most to gain from this particular project.
As I have said before, I decided to sign up for this class and its responsibilities because I believed I had the most to gain from the opportunity. I met numerous inspiring individuals, became an amateur expert on Tropilaelaps mites, and made my first attempt at drafting an action plan. I am pleased to say that the experience was everything I had hoped it would “bee”.