Student bee advocate wins award for launching Pollinator Week in Canada

Sabrina Malach has won the 2010 Pollinator Advocate Award for Canada from the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC).

The environmental studies graduate student organized Canada’s first International Pollinator Week in Toronto this June. Inspired by a similar event in Washington, DC last year, the 29-year-old decided to launch one at home. Over 30 per cent of all the food humans eat is pollinated by bees, many species of which are disappearing or under threat. Malach created a chance for Torontonians to learn about bees – how they live, eat and pollinate, and why they’re important to humans. It became her master’s thesis project.

Left: Sabrina Malach

“I am particularly interested in helping to raise awareness around this and to hopefully help inspire urban citizens to be pollinator stewards in their yards and gardens and play a part in enhancing biodiversity and investing in food security in a tangible way,” Malach told YFile in a June 3 story about International Pollinator Week.

During the final week of June, Malach scheduled a variety of art and science demonstrations at various Toronto venues. At the Gladstone Hotel, a weeklong multimedia exhibit included Malach’s own photographs, and a Pollinators Cabaret kicked off with a brief public lecture by York bee expert Laurence Packer, followed by an evening of songs, storytelling, short films and performance. At the Pollinators Festival at the Don Valley Brick Works, families could spend a Sunday trying to fly like a bumblebee; taking a bumblebee walk with Sheila Colla, a PhD biology candidate at York; learning to plant a bee-attractive garden; getting a close-up look at a hive; and finding out how to monitor and protect pollinator populations.

The NAPPC was impressed with Malach’s initiative. The organization that started Pollinator Weeks only three years ago says Malach’s excellent work and success in organizing the first Canadian Pollinator Week celebration in Toronto has inspired a new public appreciation of the importance of pollinators in Canada’s largest urban centre. More importantly, she has demonstrated that the public response to Pollinator Week celebrations is sufficient to make the event viable in future years, and in other Canadian cities. The organization cites Malach’s initial venture as a milestone for NAPPC’s public presence in Canada. It says her dedication, vision and hard work make her deserving of the recognition bestowed by this award.

“Getting this award reassured me that the work that I am doing is effective and important and has encouraged me to continue working to improve the relationship between humans and pollinators in cities,” said Malach, in an e-mail Wednesday from Washington, DC. “It empowered me to see myself as a leader in the field and has increased my confidence that the three grants I have applied for for pollinator-related work will come through.”

Malach received the award Thursday at the 10th Annual NAPPC International Conference in Washington, DC.