John Benning

This week’s featured scientist is John Benning! John finished his PhD with Dave Moeller at the University of Minnesota last year and is one of the original Market Science board members. Currently, he’s a postdoc at the University of Wyoming. He mainly studies the ecology and evolution of species’ distributions, but this week he’ll be talking about a project he and Amanda Gorton (UMN Grand Challenges post-doc) started called City Backyard Science.

 City Backyard Science is all about increasing habitat for native insects in cities and helping folks learn about all the cool biology going on right in their backyards. John will talk about how we can help conserve biodiversity without leaving the city and lead you in some activities exploring the ecology of your backyard. 


John’s personal website

City Backyard Science

To help out our native bees even more, you can make a “bee hotel” (final image), which is essentially a collection of 5-7 inch deep holes in blocks of wood. The cavity nesting solitary bees (females only) that use these holes start at the very back, laying a single egg with a pollen ball for nourishment, sealing off that chamber, laying the next egg and pollen ball, sealing off that chamber, and so forth.

The UMN Bee Squad has a great handout detailing how to make your own bee hotel:

You don’t have to go to a state park, zoo, or wilderness area to see nature in action — there’s so much incredible biology going on right outside your door! And one of the coolest things you can watch out for are *species interactions* — that’s what we call it when two different species are interacting, or affecting each other, in some way. Some examples are bees visiting flowers), caterpillars eating leaves, birds eating insects, ants drinking plant nectar, flies carrying off fungal spores, beetles visiting flowers, or even mosquitoes biting you!

John has a mission for you: over the next few days, see if you can observe four different types of species interactions around your neighborhood. Try to watch them as closely as you can and then draw them! Can you identify the two interacting species? (It’s ok if you don’t know the exact species; “bee” and “plant” is fine!) What do you think each species is “getting” out of this interaction? (E.g., the caterpillar is getting food and the plant is getting its leaves damaged.)

Q&A video:

Header Photo by Lisa Huber