By: Karen Rennich, founding Executive Director of BIP, current UMD Program Manager, and Anne Marie Fauvel, BIP Technical Transfer Team Coordinator
In January 2011, two remarkable partnerships were born. The USDA approved grant funding for what would become the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) and so began a frantic year assembling the team across 8 universities, launching our first Loss and Management survey, and talking to many commercial beekeepers about the services they needed. Since we would not be formally recognized as a 501 (c)(3) non-profit until 2014, we asked Project Apis m., just a fledgling nonprofit herself but akin to our big sister, to purchase the BIP website domain name (BeeInformed.org, the same one we still use) and to initially host the website before it even went live. Later that year, PAm generously agreed to serve as our first fiscal sponsor - a very crucial step along the path for a rookie non-profit. Then, and now, we have always considered PAm as a sister organization and they have encouraged us, supported us, and been pivotal in our collaborative efforts.
This support has manifested in numerous ways, from the practical, day-to-day work and then larger in scope as we moved further into researching management recommendations. Early on, we found out the hard way that 3 BIP technical transfer team members could not sit comfortably across the cab of the rental truck we were first using in California, and that rental trucks were expensive. Dan Cummings, one of the founding directors of Project Apis m. stepped up and donated one of his F150 trucks for use in the field. His quickness to contribute was an enormous morale booster we needed at the time when there was so much to do and an urgency to prove ourselves. Christi Heintz, Founding Executive Director of Project Apis m., instantly saw the need for advisors in the bee industry and became one of BIP’s most outspoken founding board members and was an outright and passionate proponent of our organization. PAm’s funds allowed us to grow and expand the technical transfer teams into new areas of the country, from North Dakota, to the Pacific Northwest, to Texas and beyond. Without these funds it is highly unlikely that we would be able to support as many beekeepers as we do.
As BIP matured, the two nonprofits supported each other with technical transfer teams helping with PAm research and PAm promoting and encouraging beekeepers to take our annual Loss and Management survey, a survey that has been, and continues to be, the gold standard for examining correlations between management practices and colony loss in the US. The experts at Project Apis m., beginning with Christi and then to Danielle and staff, have their fingers on the pulse of the industry. Their willingness to foster efforts across so many diverse teams is a priceless attribute and their contacts and good will in every piece of the pollination pie is invaluable. University of Maryland Bee Lab
Although some of BIP’s staff and the processing lab is headquartered at the University of Maryland (UMD), the research arm of the UMD Bee Lab has also been one of the fortunate recipients of PAm’s grants. When our UMD Bee Lab gets excited about a discovery that we want to investigate further, PAm has always been supportive of contributing funds to get us further along the path of investigating anything from varroa mite feeding on fat bodies (and how that fundamentally changed so much of what we know about varroa!) to how blueberry pollination affects commercial colonies. This initial research is often enough to garner larger, impactful grants from the USDA. Our collaborative partnership is precious and unique. We are able to rapidly pivot to research that we are finding in the field or lab, and quickly share the results with PAm and her stakeholders. That expeditious feedback is incredibly rare in the sciences and continuing those partnerships is so important. Project Apis m. is the ideal response to the needs of the bee industry and we cannot sing her praises loudly or long enough.