(Bio)Diversity Bonds

2023 Houston, Texas

As a hybrid art exhibit and guided nature walk held at the Houston Arboretum, (Bio)Diversity Bonds empowers Houstonians to meet, celebrate, and ultimately support the many threatened local, native bee species that built and continually maintain the unique coastal prairie ecosystems that cradle our city, its people, and our astounding (bio)diversity.

Houston’s native bees are part of our city’s cultural heritage. Yet despite this intimate and ongoing connection, relatively few Houstonians can recognize these important pollinator partners. This project set out to change that.





Art Exhibition

To introduce people to Houston’s incredible native bee biodiversity, I created a series of larger-than-life pollinator portraits, which were displayed outdoors throughout the Houston Arboretum grounds.







Each portrait featured an accompanying QR code during the two-week exhibition window, which enabled viewers to download a Houston-centered native bee field guide that I developed in collaboration with entomologist Dr. Karen Wright and graphic designer Travis Brown. Designed specifically for mobile phones, this long, scrolling document includes information about the individual species, their behavior, and some tangible steps everyone can take to support them.




In just a two-week exhibition period, this field guide was downloaded by visitors coming from Costa Rica, Chile, Cypress, France, Israel, and other locations around the world.




Community Nature Walks
(Bio)Diversity Bonds also culminated in a community nature walk around the Houston Arboretum where participants could see, identify, and meet Houston’s native bees firsthand in the field.




Both sessions were led in collaboration with ecologist Chris Garza, who wrangled various native bee species and explained their individual behavior, partner plants, and overarching ecological importance. This also included teaching people how to gently catch, observe, and release bee specimens without harming anyone—human, bee, or otherwise.





Ongoing Community Archive

For those who couldn’t attend the guided nature walks, I also created an open and ongoing community archive project on iNaturalist, where anyone—including you—can upload and peruse images of  bees encountered across the greater Houston area.




Participation has been astounding, with 495 individual observations cataloguing 37 different species from May 20th–June 4th alone. As of Oct 1, 2023, it has risen to more than 2,600 observations cataloguing 64 species.

Looking ahead, I hope this ongoing archive will continue to inspire more intimate relationships between people and bees, while also perhaps providing a growing dataset of scientific value (e.g., information regarding bee species distribution, population density, plant interactions, etc.).





Acknowledgements

This project wouldn’t have been possible without the generous and joint support from the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance and The Idea Fund—a re-granting program funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and administered locally by DiverseWorks, Aurora Picture Show, and Project Row Houses. Thank you to everyone at the Houston Arboretum for your support, excitement, and partnership throughout this process. I’m also grateful for the combined expertise and participation of Chris Garza and Dr. Karen Wright. Many thanks as well to Travis Brown for contributing your incredible graphic design and to Que Imaging for your expertise in printing the pollinator portraits. Finally, thank you to all the bees who let me make your portraits, who made special appearances during our native bee bioblitz events, and for all that you do.



1. Data compiled from consecutive yearly reports issued by the City Nature Challenge on their Past Results page. [Accessed 7 June, 2023.] https://www.citynaturechallenge.org/past-results