El Proyecto Chile

An International project to survey the pollinators of chili plants. 

About this lesson

We are interested in learning what insects are pollinating the flowers of chili plants. Participants in this project will photograph pollinators seen at flowers on chili plants so that scientists can finally identify what insects are coming to the flowers.

Help us as we piece together what helps bring our food from farm to table.


Data Card


Help us learn about the insect pollinators of India’s diversity of peppers.

It’s impossible to think of Indian cuisine without thinking of chilies. They’re such a fundamental part of all Indian dishes that it’s hard to imagine they aren’t originally from India at all. Columbus and other spice traders first brought them over to Asia and the Indian subcontinent from Central America in the 15th century.

Chilies are important spice in India and they play a major role in our everyday lives. While we know quite a lot about different varieties of chilies, their diseases, their production type and how hot they are, we know little on their adaptation in India, who pollinates their flowers to transform into fruits like those spicy green, red, yellow or purple chilies. Moreover, what insects pollinate them in the home gardens of urban, suburban and rural areas in different regions of the Indian subcontinent?

This is where the Chili Project comes in. We are interested in learning about how the insects carry pollen from one small white flower to the other flower. Participants in this project will learn about bees, butterflies and other insects that come to the flowers. They will learn about different stages lifecycle of plants and how do the plants grow, and will be able to connect with natural world within the their homes and local area. Participants will also learn about where their foods come from. This project will help the scientists learn and understand interactions between insects and chili plants in various part of the subcontinent which otherwise would be difficult to study by one or a few scientists.

How to Collect Data

  • Plant Chili Peppers (or find an existing plant)
  • Photograph pollinators and record on iNaturalist page

Materials needed

  • Pen
  • Paper for data recording
  • Smart phone and access to internet
  • Camera
  • Plants

About the Scientist

Dr. Kaberi Kar Gupta is an ecologist trained in wildlife biology from the Wildlife Institute of India, and in Anthropology from Arizona State University. She studied the Slender Loris in the wilder forests of Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve for about a decade for her Ph.D. thesis research. Her current research draws upon her training in multiple disciplines to study the ecology of cities and other places where people live alongside wildlife. She is currently a visiting scientist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @lorises

Dr. Nina Sengupta is an ecologist. She lives in Auroville, India and works around the globe as an independent consultant integrating biodiversity conservation and development options – including access to water and renewable energy. Her work includes program/protocol development, forest, program or policy assessment, Safeguard Policy compliance, etc. She has worked in South / South-east Asia, Africa, Finland and the USA.  She is passionate about food forest, food gardening and making life science active and participatory for all. She has published a coloring book for adults, the first in India, on Edible Weeds.

Next Generation Science Standards

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Asking Questions and Defining Problems
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information