Make Bees Great Again!

Team Members: Erick Friis, Krithi Chandrakasan, Sam Resnick, Willy Zhu

The USDA bee colony datasets show an alarming decrease in honey production by state between the years 2000 and 2016. The one exception to this trend is North Dakota, which remains the final safe haven for bees.  However, due to destruction of habitat through increased pesticide use and decrease in conservation efforts, this last home for the American honey bee is being destroyed. We want to tell this story to make people aware of North Dakota’s importance in sustaining the US bee population and the serious threats that lack of preservation legislation poses to these bees.

For our creative data map project we used the power of ten visualization technique to show both the drop in honey bee production and the loss in grassland that is contributing to the demise of the bees. The map initially shows how honey production varies by state over time at the largest scale(showing the whole US). The visualization then descends downward focusing in on North Dakota followed by a specific region in the state, a specific apiary in the region, and finally down to a specific hive in the apiary.  The story narrows down on one bee keeper, Zac Browning and allows the audience to hear his own personal story to gain a grounded, personal point of view on this otherwise large and expansive story. The visualization then quickly reverses direction and the field of view expands outward showing the rapid decrease in grassland in North Dakota and comes to rest after it has panned back to the original starting point. This positive, human interest story narrows down to a personal level while zooming in, then creates a negative, warning story that blows up again to the macroscopic scale.  At the end you are at the same place as in the beginning, but you are left with a new perspective and hopefully the motivation to help preserve grassland and habitat by signing a petition.

Our target audience for this sketch is Americans who want to understand the dynamics of the decline in bee population. This visualization would be particularly effective if it was embedded in a news story on the bee crisis. People who live in North Dakota and other Midwestern states may be more aware of the problem of loss of habitat than people who live in other parts of the country.  Most people have heard the story that we are loosing bees at an alarming rate many times.  This story does not just state this again, rather it gives the reason why and gives people a concrete way to help.  For local North Dakotans the story has a personal “what’s going on in my backyard” nature, and for the rest of Americans, the story educates them  on where this problem is occurring, why it is occurring, and how they can help.

Put simply, our goals for this project are to educate viewers on both the scale of this problem and the forces that are driving it, as well as to motivate them to advocate for solutions. We accomplish the first goal with the use of the power of ten technique. We are able to tell two complementary stories, the first showing the scale of this problem over time and the second showing the direct relation between the problem and the underlying cause. We accomplish the second goal with our call to action, giving viewers instructions and a direct link to support legislation that protects grassland and habitat for American Wildlife like the honey bee.