Science Research Explainer: Tracking Bees

In early 2020, we worked with Tom Oliver, an environmental science researcher from Lancaster University, and the research group ENVISION to create an animation about Tom's research that tracks bees to help understand their habits with the aim of stopping their decline.

Wild bees and many other species of insects are in decline because of human intervention. The pesticides we spray on our crops hurt wild bees’ ability to fly and forage, and the destruction of their natural food sources and habitats limits their diet and potential nesting sites. Because wild bees are a crucial part of our food chain, a reduction in their numbers could result in ecosystem collapse, having devastating effects on the natural world and human food sources.

This video aims to share Tom's scientific research in an engaging and accessible format to the general public and policy makers. It also aims to raise awareness of the decline of bees.

This is one of the five animations we created for ENVISION PhD researchers in early 2020. In autumn 2019 ENVISION ran a competition where candidates submitted a brief for an animated film. The winners were selected by a judging panel and the prize was to have an animation produced about their research work.

Production Process

Style design for the animation. A bee being followed by a drone in the countryside.

Style design options

A style frame was designed to give an idea of how the final animation would look. The style designs were created using Procreate on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. 
Illustrated storyboard

Sketched Storyboards and Animatic Video 

A storyboard was sketched out based on the script. The storyboard images were then put into a video sequence with a draft voiceover recording so we could test the timings and ensure the script and images made sense when played together. At this point we made some script and image revisions before moving to the next stage. 
ipad illustrations for environmental research bee animation storyboard illustrations for environmental research bee animation

Illustration of Animation Assets

Once the sketched storyboards were signed off, the storyboards were illustrated in the style design. 
The illustrations were created using Procreate on an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. They were then polished and prepared for animation in Adobe Photoshop.
Some revisions were made before moving onto the next production phase. 


The animation phase started by preparing all the illustrations for animation. This involved separating artwork out onto layers and naming them.
The Photoshop illustration files were imported into Adobe After Effects then animated!
A professional voice over artist recorded the script then the audio track was mixed and edited so it could be animated in time to.  


Tom is using his animated video to successfully explain and engage people in his research.
The animation was released publicly on Twitter and received positive feedback and engagement. 
Tom oliver twitter animation