About

       The purpose of this class is to understand the process of research and development and coming up with a solution to a problem in the context of the wicked problem of colony collapse disorder within the bee population. Information will be gathered through articles and trips to organizations and the final product is a proposal to solving this unfortunate problem. The information on this page are reflections on various topics discussed in and out of class.

Greenacres Foundation

       The Greenacres Foundation is a farm that focuses on teaching others about wildlife and how animals interact with the nature around them. Our class visited to better understand how an apiary is maintained and how bumblebees and honeybees interact with nature. To start off, the guides explained how bees communicate with one another through a waggle dance, which consists of the bee moving in a figure eight pattern and shaking its abdomen. Through this dance, the bees let the hive know where there are possible food sources and areas to start another hive. Using the position of the sun as a reference point, they first orient themselves on the hive to convey the location (up meaning towards the sun; down meaning away), then start the dance. The distance is shown through the length of time the bee vibrates its abdomen. With no other form of communication, this is truly amazing because bees communicate so much information through what seems like a simple figure eight pattern.

       Once through with understanding their communication techniques, the class hoped to interact with some of the bees as they were pollinating. On this particular day, it had been fairly cool for the bees, so they were not very active (70 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal for bees), however we did get the chance to see a few pollinators, not just bees. A few beetles and wasps were also seen, and while they are able to pollinate flowers and crops, they are not as effective as bees. One of the differences between honeybees and bumblebees, other than the production of honey, is their pollination patterns. Honeybees will focus on one type of flower at a time and only pollinate those whereas bumblebees will go to many different types of flowers to pollinate and obtain the nectar and deliver it back to the hive. Because it had been chilly, the guides did not open the hive to show us what it looked like, however it was interesting to hear the differences in the hives. There were three hives, each a different size and orientation. Although the hives were only twenty feet away from each other, they each had different characteristics. One was very aggressive and the others very docile. We learned that this depends on the queen, how the hive reacts to the queen and the species of bees. African bees are known to be more aggressive, however this wasn’t the case for this hive. Although we weren’t able to see the hive up close, we learned a lot about how they interact with each other and saw a section of a hive filled with honey provided by the guides. Using this information, the class will further go into depth on possible solutions to solving the wicked problem of colony collapse.

Live Well Collaboration

Live Well Collaborative, a partner with the University of Cincinnati (UC), is located at UC’s Innovation Hub. This organization’s purpose is to partner with a variety of industry leaders, UC students and UC faculty from multidisciplinary fields to solve complex problems to benefit a target audience. Their project solving technique focuses on three steps: research, ideation and concept refinement. Some companies they have worked with include P&G, Boeing and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. They have multiple patents and finished projects that are being tested with the target audience. To better understand their process, the class spoke with Craig Vogel, the President of Live Well Collaborative and Associate Dean of DAAP at UC. He explained the three steps to their process. Research included not only understanding the problem but stepping into the audience’s shoes to see it from their point of view. Through this, they were able to clearly identify the problem and move on to ideation. This step was all about brainstorming and conceptualizing possible solutions and narrowing the ideas down to a few to move on to the next step: concept refinement. This step was all about production of their concepts and testing it with the audience to understand what does and does not perform well. This refinement cycle would keep happening until a fully working solution was created. 

       Speaking with Craig Vogel and Live Well Collaborative helped the class better understand how we should approach our wicked problem and how we could come up with a solution. The purpose of Live Well Collaborative matched almost perfectly with the purpose of the class, so this was a great experience because we could understand how it was applied to something other than a classroom. With this information, the class will regroup and do further research on causes of colony collapse disorder and continue from there, using Live Well Collaborative’s project-solution process as a basis.

The Ideal Bee

       Rather than focusing on how humans can alter their ways to aid in the bees’ recovery from Colony Collapse Disorder, the class focused on how a bee could possibly evolve after many years to better survive in an environment riddled with pesticides, mites and much more.

       Many groups decided to change many things throughout the bee, the most popular being the stinger so that it would not remain in the target and lead to an untimely death of the bee. Another popular topic was how to change the bee so it was more resistant to pesticides, which is on what our group focused. Bees are up to 2.3 times more likely to die from pesticides when exposed to the wings rather than the thorax, and this is because of a multitude of reasons. Exposing the wings to the toxic chemicals causes the bee to fly more sluggishly, fly shorter distances and for a shorter amount of time, and prevent retrieval of necessary nectar. The bee dies from the pesticides getting into its blood system, and when it gets infected through the wings, it is much more vulnerable. If the bee does not die from the initial exposure, it may bring the pesticides back to the hive and expose other bees to those chemicals, resulting in the hive dying. In order to help bees become more resistant to the pesticides, our group decided to reinforce the wings by making them slightly thicker while also humanizing the bees in a way by giving them sweat glands on the wings. The idea was the bees would secrete sweat from the small pores on the wings, effectively washing away the pesticides. We did not research how the biology behind what a bee would have to evolve into to gain sweat glands on its wings, however this was one possibility to reduce the amount of pesticides exposed to bees. The idea of this project wasn’t to better understand the biology of a bee and how it could evolve to survive in their tough environment, but rather to look at how we can help them from their point of view.

Fishbowl Discussion

       A fishbowl discussion is a debate within a group over a question(s) while silent observers record notes and their thoughts on what was said by the debaters. This was done in the class and three questions were asked. One focused on the bee/human point of view, another on the ecological services bees provide and lastly if fictional works/films are considered Arts Based Research. I participated in the first question because I had the most knowledge and could provide more information for this question compared to the other questions. The other two groups felt more like discussions, however this one felt like a real debate, mainly because capitalism was brought into the conversation and there were very strong opinions for and against it. Other than that, the idea that bees should have animal rights was discussed and the consensus was that they should be treated better than they are being treated now, and this is because other livestock are treated better than bees, however those livestock aren’t at the risk of dying off. This meant that the human-bee interaction had to be reduced to let them increase their population and reproduce, however that would be tough given the need for bees to pollinate the massive crops needed to provide for America. The other option was to then have government regulations on what was or wasn’t allowed when handling bees. Capitalism then came into the debate on whether any of this would be cost efficient or ethical and eventually the bees weren’t part of the debate. This had been the most interesting part of the discussion because it showed the intensity humans can show when they feel passionately about an idea, however it was unfortunate because the reason for the discussion had been thrown out the window.

       As for the other groups, starting with the ecological services bees provide, the discussion arrived upon “What if bees die out? What would replace them?” and some interesting ideas surfaced. Robotic bees were a possible replacement to pollinate the crops, however there are many logistical questions that came along with it along with unintended consequences (Black Mirror episode “Hated in the Nation” is an example of one of these consequences). Human pollination is already occurring in China, however that is very inefficient because of the cost and time it takes to complete the job.

       The final discussion concluded that fictional works of art could be considered Arts Based Research if there were some sort of scientific basis for the film and the story allowed the viewers to research the topic further and learn about the moral of the story. “The Bee Movie” is a prime example of Arts Based Research, whether it was intended, because there are truths to how the bees lived. Obviously, bees are not able to speak to humans or lift a plane, however the movie brought to light the deaths of many bee hives in this country and did so in a family friendly way in which people of all ages could understand and hopefully take action upon. Overall, the discussions allowed great minds to debate on important topics regarding bees, and it resulted in new ideas to help preserve their life in this society.

Research Proposal

       The final project for this class was a research proposal on how to help the bees, which left it open for many possibilities. The proposal was intended so a different group could take our ideas and research and expand upon it and carry out its purpose. Our group decided to focus on the education and knowledge spreading aspect so that the next generation may be inspired to protect the bees.

       Our original ideation phase included a parody video on popular infomercials to appeal to the younger generations and their comedic styles. Along with this, a program was to be put in place at nearby elementary schools to get students excited and more knowledgeable about bees and their importance. The goal was to expose children to the necessity of bees in interactive ways (races to get to flowers from hives, stuffed bee animals, etc.), however this idea was soon ended because further research showed this had not been effective as other organizations have taken this approach with minimal improvement. This meant we had to rethink our approach to this proposal, which meant restarting the project.

       Although interactive experience was removed from the proposal, the video was kept. It was satirical yet still got the point across that we need bees. Summarized, the ~1 minute long video included a full fridge turning into an empty fridge due to the lack of bees. Paired with poor animation and exaggerated acting, the comical “infomercial” stresses bees give humans one third of our nutrition. Along with the video, the second ideation phase also brought an app and a website. The sole purpose of the website was to be a resource for children and teens to use to gain more knowledge on bees. This includes children shows and songs, DIY’s and articles on the causes of CCD.

       After the video and website were created, the app was designed. Although only sketches were drawn, the concept was fully thought through. Similar to “Clash of Clans,” players would create their own hive only after it had been destroyed due to CCD. They would rebuild from the ground up and even compete with other hives, collecting pollen and honey along the way. There would also be a social media aspect in which players could donate pollen and honey to others to help them rebuild. The whole idea was to encourage the players to think about the bees and help them in any way they can in the real world.

Link to video: https://youtu.be/IawUO3kzj24

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