Saturday, April 16, 2011
Kids' Bumblebee Study Creates Buzz in Science Journal
A study published in the prominent British science journal Biology Letters has discovered that bumblebees "can use a combination of color and spatial relationships in deciding which color of flower to forage from." And also, that "science is cool and fun because you get to do stuff that no one has ever done before."
Those were the conclusions reached by the study's authors, who are almost all between the ages of 8 and 10. The students at the Blackawton Primary School in Britain observed local bees and found them capable of using color patterns to find the sweetest flower.
Young researchers at Blackawton Primary School in Britain discovered that buff-tailed bumblebees can use color patterns to find the sweetest flower.
Study researchers from the U.K.'s Royal Society called their conclusion a "genuine advance" in bee science.
"This paper represents a world first in high-quality scientific publishing," Brian Charlesworth, editor of Biology Letters, told the BBC. The students worked with their teachers and a professional (i.e., adult) scientist, Beau Lotto. But Lotto said the study was "entirely conceived and written" by the students, according to the BBC.
And indeed, the study has traces of its pint-sized authors everywhere, from the colored pencil the kids used to demonstrate patterns in the bees' behavior, to peppered references to the novel nature of their work. "This experiment is important, because, as far as we know, no one in history (including adults) has done this experiment before," the students wrote in the study.
The kids even used puzzles to get to the question at the center of their study: Can bees figure out which flowers have salt water in them and which have sugar water instead? They can, the students concluded.
Lotto said that while the study lacked statistical analysis, "the experimenters have asked a scientific question and answered it well," according to The Guardian. He said that while the students at Blackawton are impressive, children around the world should have the opportunity to work on such projects.
"I certainly don't think this is something that only we could have done. It's something that lots of schools could do," he told Wired.com. "It would be lovely to have this sense of community around learning all over the country and all over the world."