Archive for the ‘Nature & Outdoors’ Category

The Search for Zombie Crabs: The 2015 Chesapeake Bay Parasite Project

By September 2nd, 2015 at 6:00 am | Comment

This is a guest post by Monaca Noble, a biologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s Marina Invasions Laboratory. For the last 10 years, Ms. Noble has worked on issues related to the transport of marine species in ballast water and the introduced parasite Loxothylacus panopaei.
Some young volunteers help measure fish and eels. Photo by Monaca Noble.

Some young volunteers help measure fish and eels. Photo by Monaca Noble.

This June, 49 enthusiastic volunteers came out to search for zombie crabs in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Together they searched through shells from 52 crab collectors distributed throughout the Chesapeake Bay’s tributaries. Volunteers found thousands of White-fingered Mud Crabs (Rhithropanopeus harrisii), hundreds of fish (Naked Gobies, American Eels, and others), and several parasitized zombie crabs at our site on Broomes Island, MD.

What are zombie crabs? Zombie crabs are mud crabs that have been parasitized with the introduced parasitic barnacle, Loxothylacus panopaei (Loxo for short). Loxo is a parasite native to the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and parts of Florida. It parasitizes at least nine species of mud crabs (xanthid crabs) throughout this range. Read the rest of this entry »

Make a Difference by Counting Croaks

By August 18th, 2015 at 10:32 pm | Comment

White lipped tree frog (by Felanox/Wikipedia,/CC BY-SA 3.0)

White lipped tree frog (by Felanox/Wikipedia,/CC BY-SA 3.0)

This is an except of a story that ran in the February 2015 issue of Association of Zoos and Aquariums monthly magazine, Connect.

Looking for amphibious citizen science projects? Look no further! SciStarter has some lined up for you right here.

By Cathie Gandel

At dusk, Carolyn Rinaldi and her 14-year-old daughter sit silently on the shores of the lake at Wadsworth Falls State Park in Middletown, Conn. Then their ears go into overdrive. For three minutes they count the different grunts, gribbets, croaks and peeps emanating from frogs and toads resident in the wetlands. Read the rest of this entry »

California Dreaming

By July 21st, 2015 at 9:48 pm | Comment

Red-eared Slider (Photo by Gregory Pauly)

Red-eared Slider (Photo by Gregory Pauly)

Citizen scientists document in collaboration with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles help document reptiles and amphbians in Southern California to aid in conservation efforts. Find more information about participating in RASCals, the citizen science project on SciStarter and watch out for our herptile themed newsletter!

by Sharman Apt Russell

This June, I walked the wilds of Los Angeles looking for lizards. And snakes. And turtles. And because I was finally looking for them, I also began seeing them—and isn’t that a basic truth of life as well as  citizen science?

I visit Los Angeles for ten days twice a year as a teacher for the low-residency MFA graduate writing program at Antioch University. My time in nature is mostly spent in a few long runs near my hotel and in walking back and forth from the hotel to the university campus. This summer, wherever I went, I also took along my camera. I was on a mission for the Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California (RASCals) citizen science project—to document any reptile or amphibian I came across and to send that image to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Read the rest of this entry »

I Used to Be A Moth Assassin. This is How I Fell In Love With Them

By July 11th, 2015 at 12:30 pm | Comment

Photo credit: Sandra Lanman

Photo credit: Sandra Lanman

Turn on your porch light at night and bring out your inner citizen scientist. Record observations of moths for National Moth Week and help scientists understand these unique Lepidopterans.

Guest post by Sandra Lanman

I used to be a moth assassin. I’d grab the swatter or scream for my husband whenever one fluttered erratically inside the house.  Either way, that critter would not make it out alive. Then I met Dave Moskowitz and Liti Haramaty. I would be “saved,” and so would a lot of moths.

For years, I’d hung around my town’s Butterfly Park and shot photos of beautiful swallowtails, monarchs, great spangled fritillaries, American ladies and more. I never considered that moths hung out there too. I once spent days trying to identify a lovely little Lepidopteran I’d photographed by searching butterfly websites. Finally, a friend found it on a moth site. It was an eight-spotted forester. I had no idea moths could be so cute.

I first met Dave and Liti at the park, where we’d mostly talk butterflies. In 2011, they invited me to a moth night, promising I would have a blast. I was amazed. In the glow of mercury vapor lights, dozens of moths and other insects alighted on white sheets. Children were holding them, even putting them on their noses. No one had a swatter. Even I held a moth on my hand that night.

In late 2012, Dave and Liti asked for my help. That summer, they had founded National Moth Week as a project of the nonprofit Friends of the East Brunswick (NJ) Environmental Commission. They envisioned a citizen science project observed during the last full week of July that encouraged people to “turn on a porch light” and contribute their sightings to partner organizations like Project Noah, Encyclopedia of Life, BAMONA and others.

In its first year, National Moth Week exploded beyond the founders’ wildest expectations. Thanks to social media and their connections in the entomology and environmental worlds (Dave, an environmental consultant, is earning his Ph.D. in entomology at Rutgers and Liti is a marine researcher there), events were registered in 49 states and 30 countries. They knew I worked in public relations. Would I help them with communications? Of course!

Being on the NMW team has been an extraordinary experience because we are engaging people of all ages in a new learning experience. Moths have barely gotten any positive notice outside the entomology community, and certainly got little respect from most people. NMW is changing that.

National Moth Week invites people of all ages and abilities to learn about the beauty, diversity and ecological importance of these often maligned creatures. Their photos and observations add to the body of knowledge about Lepidoptera and scientists’ understanding about impacts of development or climate on their local habitats. Whether observing moths in their own backyards, or attending a local moth night, citizen scientists can easily become more knowledgeable about what to look for.

Hummingbird Moth (Photo Credit: Larry Lamsa CC BY SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Hummingbird Moth (Photo Credit: Larry Lamsa CC BY SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Social media has been a huge asset in spreading the word to new and experienced moth-ers. NMW is now growing organically, and we often learn about NMW events that are not registered on our site. We give all participants a certificate of participation and keep them informed about how it’s being celebrated around the world. Last year, Jacob Gorneau, 17, became our youngest team member, representing the young environmentalists we hope to inspire.

National Moth Week has been featured on NPR’s Science Friday, in The New York Times, Washington Post and on many news sites. Among our biggest supporters are science media, bloggers and moth-aficionados out there encouraging citizen scientists to get involved.

To keep it interesting, NMW focuses on a different family of moths each year. National Moth Week 2015 which runs from July 18-26 is the year of the Sphingidae family, which includes the commonly called hawk moths, sphinx and horn worms. The day-flying “hummingbird moth” is among the most interesting, and we hope to get a lot of sightings.

This year, we began a campaign to have the Automeris io, symbol of NMW, designated the official state moth of New Jersey. If the pending legislation is successful, New Jersey would be the first – and hopefully not the last – to designate a state moth!

“Moth-ers” of all ages and abilities are invited to register their own events or attend a nearby public event listed on the NMW website. Registration is free. Venues have included National Parks and Monuments; nature centers; state, county and local parks and recreation areas; museums, libraries and camps, as well as backyards everywhere. Every year, organizers get more creative, hosting “moth balls,” “malt, hops and moths,” “moth mania” events, and more.

Needless to say, I am no longer a moth assassin. I’ve attended lots of moth nights and I’m planning to set up my own outdoor lights soon, so I can enjoy mothing whenever I want.

For more information about moths and mothing and to participate in this global event, check out the National Moth Week on SciStarter. Follow National Moth Week on Facebook and Twitter @moth_week for updates!

A former print journalist, Sandra Lanman has been a professional communicator for more than 25 years, working in the arts, higher education and public broadcasting. She and the rest of the National Moth Week team are all volunteers.

Can You Name this Paw Print?

By June 16th, 2015 at 8:00 am | Comment

Paw print (Credit: Andrew Mace/FlickrCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Paw print (Credit: Andrew Mace/FlickrCC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A citizen science program documents the movement of six species in the mountain ranges and river valleys of northern New Mexico helping create wildlife corridors. For more wildlife related citizen science projects, visit SciStarter.

by Sharman Apt Russel


Wild animals glide so easily through the landscape, into bushes and leaves, up trees, around corners, even diving into the earth, so that you often wonder: was that a fox or a wish? Did I really just see a bobcat? Is that whoofing noise a black bear, startled now and galumphing down the hill? Read the rest of this entry »