Making a Splash!

Buzz! Fun cookies at the Splash LOL event.
BUZZ cookies made by volunteers at the Splash dinner. Taken with my iPhone.

What a treat! Last week I got to attend an event at Sacramento Splash, called Love of Learning, or LOL.  These LOL events are held for Splash’s donors and, boy, have they found the right means to connect!

Sacramento Splash helps children understand and value their natural world through science education and outdoor exploration. That means they take fourth graders on week-long adventures in the vernal pools behind the Splash building, at the former Mather AFB, to learn about the flowers and critters that live there.  For some of these children, this is their first experience of nature and of doing real science.

And the LOL events show that people who support Sacramento Splash also want to continue to learn as adults. About 50 people attended last week, to listen to Robbin Thorp, professor emeritus at UC Davis, talk about several kinds of native solitary bees that live in the uplands surrounding the vernal pools.

(A vernal pool is an ephemeral pool that, because of the underlying hardpan, does not drain, but only dries by evaporation. The pools support a complex of plants and animals found only in California. Readers of this blog will have seen my photos of some vernal pools near where I live.)

Vernal Pool in Spring
This photo was taken during the wet year of 2011. According to Prof. Thorp, different bees collect pollen from the two flowers in bloom in the photo.

Here are a few tidbits I learned:

  • The solitary bees live most of their lives underground, in chambers built by their mothers. As larva, they feed on pollen from specific vernal pool flowers, such as goldfields or meadowfoam.  They pupate into adults underground in the fall, then wait until spring to emerge as the flowers they depend on bloom.
  • When they emerge from underground, the adult females mate, dig new underground brood chambers, gather pollen to feed their young, and lay one egg in each chamber.
  • All bees and wasps are haplodiploid.  The females can determine the gender of their eggs by selecting whether to fertilize the egg or not.  Males are born from unfertilized eggs, and so contain only one set of chromosomes (the “haplo” part).  Females are born from fertilized eggs, and so have two sets of chromosomes (the “diploid” part).
  • The bees do not venture far from their local vernal pools, so the flowers are pollinated mostly from nearby flowers.  This means that efforts to mitigate the loss of vernal pools by “building” them in new locations is very unlikely to succeed, in part because the bees that pollinate the flowers will not travel far enough to find them.

I discovered Sacramento Splash two years ago when they had an art show as a fundraiser. I am thrilled to be part of a community of people who care about the natural world we depend upon, and who want to pass along that world, and the love of that world, to the next generation of humans.

I donate a portion of the sale price of all of my artwork to conservation and nature education organizations. I am proud to support Sacramento Splash.

How do you give back?

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