Bees with Backpacks

​Students join global project to save bees from extinction

The opportunity to work on a world-first international scientific research project is usually reserved for academics. But Victorian school students will play a crucial role in a project to help save the world’s bee population, thanks to a partnership between Victoria’s Tech Schools and CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.

 

The Bees with Backpacks program will give students visiting Ballarat and Geelong Tech Schools, hands-on experience working with data collected from Victorian bees. This will be used by Australian scientists from CSIRO who have pioneered unique tracking technology to help better understand bee behaviour.

The bees are fitted with high-tech micro-sensors that work like vehicle e-tags to monitor their movements to and from their hives.

Students from local secondary colleges will analyse Victorian data for the global project to help researchers, beekeepers and farmers around the world understand how to improve their health and survival.

“Learning about how data and statistics can play a major role in finding the solution to saving bees and ultimately the planet, was really fascinating,” says William, a Year 9 student from Ballarat High School.

Honeybees are vital to food production, providing pollination for about 75 per cent of the fruits, vegetables and nuts we eat and one-third of all food. However, the bee population has declined dramatically over the past five decades.

International interest in the CSIRO Bees with Backpacks project has been huge, with research teams from more than eight countries now using the Australian technology invented by CSIRO’s Data61 Science Leader Professor Paulo de Souza.

“We are excited to be working with students and teachers on an internationally significant research project that will help the beekeeping industry secure the future of our world’s food,” says Professor de Souza.

”The project will be a fantastic way to introduce students to the scientific method and get them excited about future careers in STEM.”

Ballarat Tech School director Sofia Fiusco says the opportunity for Tech School students to work at an international level is very exciting.

“It shows how connected the world really is and how environmentally what’s happening in one part of the world can affect what’s happening locally. Technology enables us to gain information that we wouldn’t otherwise know,” she says.

Ballarat and Geelong Tech Schools have co-designed a learning program with the CSIRO’s Data61 team and local beekeepers and two sites have been set up with hives to collect data that the students will analyse.

“To think we could contribute to the world in a great way is just an awesome feeling,” says William.

For more information see Victoria’s Tech Schools.