Last article, we learned that those squishy, pink earthworms that we adore in our gardens are invasive and capable of dramatic changes in our natural habitats. We also learned what can be done to help the situation. This started a series of upcoming articles designed to inform our readers about opportunities to be good stewards of the environment.
stew·ard·ship [stoo-erd-ship] – noun the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving
Prior to the turn of the 20th century, people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt”. They would go out with their guns and whoever or whichever group brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won. At the time, conservationists and nature lovers were becoming alarmed about declining wildlife populations.
Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, proposed a new holiday tradition. “A Christmas bird census,” he called it. The goal was to count birds in the holidays, rather than hunt them. So began the Christmas Bird Count. Little did Frank Chapman know that more than 100 years later, the Christmas Bird Count and many other citizen science projects would be found around the globe and be remarkably valuable to scientists.
What is a Citizen Scientist?
Citizen science is where community members volunteer time to assist scientists in their research. Anyone can be a citizen scientist. All that is needed is an interest in some aspect of nature and a desire to lend a helping hand. Citizen science programs vary in type and scope. You might prefer to work on a local level – like collecting data on the nutrient levels in an area stream. Some of the more popular citizen science projects are nationwide. Many of the large scale citizen science projects have websites where you study up and learn protocols before heading into the field. Citizen science projects are a chance for people to connect with the outside world in a real, meaningful – and often fun – way.
Citizen scientists can support professional scientists in many ways: submitting data, sharing experiences or spreading valuable information. Scientists benefit from having a lot more data to analyze and a pool of volunteers willing to help.
Do a search and choose what interests you!
There are many ways to get involved in Citizen Science projects. Just do a search and you will find all sorts of projects. One is certain to interest you. Here are just a few projects that might be of interest:
• Fabulous Fireflies: With an occasional visit to your backyard to count fireflies, you could be helping scientists around the country study firefly behavior and population changes.
• Monarch Mayhem: Each year, the University of Kansas relies on citizens to monitor appearances of monarch butterflies in their communities. You can also learn how to plant a flower garden called a “monarch waystation” to help these butterflies survive their treacherous migration.
• For Birds Lovers: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology manages 12 bird citizen science programs, including Project Feederwatch, NestWatch and eBird. The National Audubon Society hosts a yearly end of winter bird count called the Great Backyard Bird Count. Anyone can participate no matter your skill level or location in the US and Canada. The Audubon Society recently launched its Hummingbirds @ Home project designed to help scientists understand how climate change, flowering patterns and feeding by people are impacting hummingbirds.
• Astronomy: In October, join citizen scientists worldwide as they try to observe constellations after sunset. The study gauges the impact of light pollution on your ability to see the stars and constellations at night.
FrogWatch USA is a frog and toad monitoring program where volunteers learn the calls of local frog species, identify them by song in the field and record their findings online. In the process, citizens can learn about wetlands in their communities and how to conserve amphibians. Thanks to the efforts of Biology Professors Cara Constance and Jennifer Clark, and Hiram College student Gurneet Raina, Hiram College is one of only a select few colleges and universities in the US that is an official FrogWatch USA chapter. Select wetlands at the Hiram College J.H. Barrow Field Station will be monitored this spring and summer with plans to expand this project throughout the region.
Frogs and toads play an important role, serving as both prey and predator, in wetland ecosystems and are considered indicators of environmental health. Many previously abundant frog and toad populations have experienced dramatic population declines both in the United States and around the world and it’s essential that scientists understand the scope, geographic scale, and cause of these declines.
Sooner or later spring will arrive and warm rains will draw frogs and toads to ponds, wetlands and even puddles. Join the “Amphibian Awakening” hotline by emailing Matt Sorrick at firstname.lastname@example.org. When conditions are right, you will be alerted to upcoming programs to explore frogs, toads and even salamanders.
Did you know…
Pay attention hockey fans: Citizen Science isn’t just for nature lovers! Concern about global climate change has prompted scientists from Wilfred Laurier University in Canada to create RinkWatch. The goal is for outdoor ice rink enthusiasts in North America to record each day the rink is ‘skateable’. The data is submitted online and compiled to track changes in climate.
Other Nearby Nature…
These programs are free and open to the public. For more information, email email@example.com or call 330.569.6003.
“When the BioMass Hits the Wind Turbine: How we got ourselves into this mess and how we are going to get out of it”
March 21 (5:00pm)
Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurship Center, Hiram College
The Green Energy Ohio Lecture Series kicks off with a talk by Jay Warmke, owner of Blue Rock Station, a 40-acre sustainable living center in SE Ohio.
Carbon Nation: A Climate Conversation
March 26 (6:30pm)
Gerstacker Science Hall, Hiram College
Join the Sierra Club and Hiram College for a viewing of Carbon Nation and following discussion on climate change. This forward-thinking documentary zeroes in on enterprising individuals, including a wind farmer to a solar-panel retrofitter, who are devising business-minded ways to avert the looming climate crisis.