Science: Something Worth Marching For

Science is the foundation of our work here at the Xerces Society. It underpins everything we do. From unraveling the intimate relationship between bees and flowers to understanding the lifecycle and habitat needs of rare stoneflies to working out why monarchs migrate to overwintering sites—and how they navigate there—the work of scientists has helped explain and illuminate the natural world. Science informs our projects, guides us toward successful solutions, and provides a consistent thread lacing through our work.

Surveying for freshwater mussels provides insight into stream conditions after a restoration project. Photo by Justin Wheeler.

We undertake applied research to determine the extent of decline for bumble bees, freshwater mussels, butterflies, and many other invertebrates. We work with landowners and land management agencies to determine where at-risk species occur, so we can target conservation dollars to protect their habitat. We monitor restoration sites to make sure that our efforts produce effective results. Beyond our own studies, we collaborate with scientists at universities around the world to advance the science of invertebrate protection. Whether it is working to protect bees from toxic pesticides, improve habitat for the maximum benefit of pollinators, or understand the influence of climate change on butterflies, we only promote the best evidence-based policies and practices.

We harness the power of thousands of people throughout North America to gather valuable conservation data. Through Bumble Bee Watch, people from all walks of life help identify the locations of rare bumble bees—the first step in protecting them and managing their habitat. Pond Watch participants help unravel the mysteries of dragonfly migration, and volunteers who count monarchs at overwintering sites help us prioritize restoration projects to protect these beautiful butterflies. Engaging others to participate in this essential work is vital to our conservation success, as it vastly increases the amount of data available. It also helps build an ever-greater constituency for insect conservation.

Everyone wants to plant flowers on farms, along roadsides, in school gardens, and around their yards to help pollinators. This level of enthusiasm is fantastic, but to bring the greatest benefit to bees, people need access to accurate information on what to plant and how. By drawing from academic research and our own planting trials, we can provide the most practical advice for a range of situations. We also go beyond flowers to provide guidance on creating nest sites for bees and protecting habitat from pesticides.

At Xerces we work on solutions. Taking a deliberative approach to all of our work and using the best possible science takes extra time and may mean that Xerces is not the first organization to speak out on issues, but ensuring that our actions are backed by evidence is the most effective way to achieve lasting change.

In the conservation world, we are the go-to source for reliable and accurate information on invertebrates, and our outreach and education creates effective results. We have protected dozens of at-risk species and tens of thousands of acres of wildlands that they need to survive. We have worked with agencies and farmers to restore more than 420,000 acres for pollinators. We have trained over 50,000 people through face-to-face workshops, short courses, farm tours, field days, and conferences. Our resources have reached hundreds of thousands more—empowering all to be part of the solution.

All this comes from science—and yet, if you listen to current rhetoric, you might think that science is a distraction from reality, something that is used to justify burdensome regulations. We live in a time when the value of science is being dismissed, research is questioned to plant a seed of doubt, or evidence is cherry-picked or distorted to fit desired outcomes.

That is why we at the Xerces Society are proud to be a partner in the March for Science. It is time to stand up for science and the scientists, and in defense of evidence-based policy. Across the nation this Earth Day, people will be gathering to march in support of science. I encourage you to take this opportunity to add your voice to the thousands speaking out for science and everything that it brings to your life.

by Scott Black, Executive Director