If you ever asked me how many kinds of spiders were there in the world, I would say there are two that I know of. The one with thin long legs that inhabit the walls of my house and keep me up at night, and the enormous one with hairy legs that inhabit theater screens around the world … and also keep me up at night. And boy would I have been wrong. As it turns out, there are more than forty three thousand species of spiders in the world (43,678 as of 2008 according to the American Museum of Natural History, to be exact).
As scary as they may seem, spiders play a critical role in our ecosystem. Since they are an important predator for insects, they act as natural insect control agents, keeping their populations in check. And like any other living organism, they are affected by climate change. However, the impact of such temperature or other environmental changes on spider distribution in their habitats are unknown.
This is where community science project ‘Where is my spider’ initiated by the Explorit Science Center steps in. This project is hosted on the website iNaturalist.org, a place where observations of living species are curated online. In ‘Where is my spider,’ you can join other eager spider seekers and upload a picture on to the project website, adding in details such as when and where you saw it (just make sure it has eight legs!). Don’t know what species you saw? Not to worry. If you have the time, you can play the sleuth and discover the species for yourself using online resources such as the Encyclopedia of Life. Or you can always rely on the community of curators at iNaturalist to help you out. Either way, ‘Where is my Spider’ will be a fun way to contribute to citizen science while learning something about the world around you.
Start off by going through SciStarter to get an Explorit ID and use the ID when uploading your observation on the iNaturalist project page. iNaturalist has a host of other citizen science projects so it will definitely be worth your while to register there and check out other projects as well. Oh and if you’re in the Sacramento/Davis area be sure to find out about exciting science events hosted by Explorit.
Spiders not scary enough? Be sure to check out other Halloween themed projects on SciStarter!
Arvind Suresh is a graduate student in Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology from PSG College of Technology, India. For his thesis, he has been studying the molecular mechanisms behind uterine contraction during pregnancy. He is also an information addict, gobbling up everything he can find on and off the internet. He enjoys reading, teaching, talking and writing science, and following that interest led him to SciStarter. Outside the lab and the classroom, he can be found behind the viewfinder of his camera. www.suresharvind.com