Archive for the ‘Nature & Outdoors’ Category

Urban Citizen Science

By July 27th, 2016 at 7:16 pm | Comment

A recent article in the New York Times highlights the way urban environments are affecting evolution in a variety of species. From European blackbirds with high-pitched calls to beat the sound of traffic to spiders adapted to build their webs closer to light poles, the dynamic and harsh urban environment is changing our biodiversity. Citizen scientists are crucial to understanding and documenting these changes. Below we highlight 5 citizen science projects that can be done in urban areas so you can help researchers across the world! You can find 1500 more projects and events on the SciStarter project finder.


pinned-cicadas

Lauren Nichols

 

Urban Buzz

Collect cicadas and send them to scientists to learn how this insect is changing with climate change and habitat loss. Get started here.

 

 

 

urbanbird

Victor Loewen  

 

 

Celebrate Urban Birds

Observe birds in your area to help scientists learn how habitat improvement affects birds in urban environments. Get started here.

 

 

 

Urban Nature Research Center ProjectsNature_map

The UNCR out of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles runs several urban biodiversity studies on everything from squirrels to snails. Learn more about SLIME, RASCALS, the Southern California Squirrel Survey, and get started now!

 

 

 

Trees Please Trees Please

You can help improve Hamilton Ontario’s urban forests and air quality with Trees Please! You can collect data for an interactive database of urban tree health that will ultimately be compared with air quality data. Get started here.

 

 

 

 

DarkSkyMeter_-_Logo_-_Mockup_-_Web_-_3 (1)

Dark Sky Meter

Help measure light pollution in your area with the Dark Sky Meter app. You’ll help create a global map of nighttime light pollution. Get started here.

 


Want more citizen science? Check out SciStarter’s Project Finder! With 1100+ citizen science projects spanning every field of research, task and age group, there’s something for everyone!

National Moth Week is Back!

By July 24th, 2016 at 9:54 am | Comment

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)

by Nohra Murad

It’s that exciting time of year again: it’s National Moth Week!

But not just any National Moth Week. NMW 2016 marks the fifth year that the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission has run National Moth Week (NMW), a time for citizen scientists to go out moth-ing in their community. This year’s NMW will be run from July 23 to 31.

David Moskowitz and Liti Haramaty of the commission have been running Moth Nights in their local community since 2005. Since then, Moth Night has turned into an entire week for everyone from the seasoned biologist to the curious toddler to celebrate nature’s diversity together.

What’s so interesting about moths? They’re too often overlooked, but that’s usually because of their incredible ability to blend in with our environment. With wings camouflaged to look like tree bark or dark leaves, they aren’t noticeable, but once they’re flying, their real beauty goes on display.

Moths are also most active during the night, making for great citizen scientist events that can be anything from a grand “moth-ball” to a calm night on your own porch. All that you’ll need is a camera and a nice, strong light to photograph your findings and contribute to the ever-growing database of moth types.

Like any critter, moths will look a little different from place to place, but it’s not until moths of all different sizes and patterns are gathered in one place that you can see how diverse they really are. The same idea works with humans! Anyone can explore the secret night life of moths.

Check out NMW’s map of official events happening near you. There’s lots of exciting ways to get moth-ing!

If you won’t be here for NMW, no worries: the Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) has an online database year-round for citizen scientists to submit their pictures of moths, butterflies, and caterpillars. You can read about the opportunity here on SciStarter’s website and join in anytime.


Want more citizen science? Check out SciStarter’s Project Finder! With 1100+ citizen science projects spanning every field of research, task and age group, there’s something for everyone!

Southwest Monarch Study Taps Citizen Scientists to Track Butterfly Migration

By June 25th, 2016 at 1:52 pm | Comment

Migrating monarchs roosting (Image Credit: Nagarajan Kanna/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Migrating monarchs roosting (Image Credit: Nagarajan Kanna/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In Arizona and the surrounding Southwestern United States, over 400 people are participating in a nine-year ongoing game of tag. But these folks are not tagging each other. They’re actually romping about in meadows with small nets, hoping to catch and tag a Monarch butterfly.

In 2003 Chris Kline began the Southwest Monarch Study in order to track the migration pattern of the Monarchs that appear in Arizona. Much was known about the migration of Monarchs down the eastern coast to Mexico, but this was not enough. Kline rallied Arizona locals to achieve mass data collection across the state, uncovering information about the unique Monarch population.

Gail Morris is the current project leader of the Southwest Monarch Study and she radiates a passion for Monarchs. She sees beauty beyond the surface of their iridescent wings. Gail says that “it’s their incredibly long migration that gets me most excited.” She explains how wildly adaptable they are, as they use adverse weather conditions to their advantage. These little, thin winged creatures use Arizona’s annual monsoon to take flight thousands of feet into the air and fly fifty to one hundred miles a day. They can use columns of warm rising air called ‘thermals’ for travel. Once, after a day of meadow-romping, Gail was chatting with a friend by their cars: “This monarch shot up from a tree at angle like a plane ascending.” They marveled as it it joined a cast of hawks in a thermal and disappeared into the sky.

So where are these butterflies going when they catch a ride in the wind? According to the Southwest Monarch study, it depends. Arizona Monarchs have a unique travel agenda, and it even varies from day to day. Monarchs comfortably take the wind as it blows, following it to specific overwintering locations in either California or Mexico depending on how the wind presents itself on the day they take flight. These locations can be as specific as a single tree, flocked to year after year. Some Monarchs even stay in Arizona through the winter, merely migrating to lower altitudes.

All of this raw data was gathered by the locals, and analyzed by professional scientists. “The local people often see the movement but it had never been published,” Gail says. A while back Gail was searching for Monarchs with a group of citizen scientists in Northern Arizona. “These bird watchers heard we were looking for orange butterflies and they said ‘Stop at the fishery, you’ll find them there’”. This did not align with Gail’s previous knowledge about Monarch habitats, but she hesitantly followed her own mantra: the locals know best. When the group arrived at the fishery they were surrounded by walnut trees and these trees were showered in Monarchs. Gail was struck yet again by the Monarch’s adaptability to variable habitats.

Lisa Rensch also finds her free time best spent chasing butterflies. She’s a prominent citizen scientist with the study, as she has been tagging with her daughter since 2013. Her daughter, only one year old when they began, learned to delicately handle the butterflies. Lisa is a true nature lover, completely losing track of time as she tracks the Monarchs. While tagging she has run into goldfinches and even “a nest of deer mice,” she says. “It was lined with thistle down, the babies all snuggled cozy inside.” She never knows what she’ll find while searching for Monarchs.

Currently the Southwest Monarch study is expanding. Groups in California, Utah, and Colorado are now tagging. As science often goes, the findings of the Southwest Monarch study have led not only to answers, but to further questions about these resilient creatures.

Ultimately, the study hopes to further encourage conservation. Families and public areas are already inspired by the project, filling in the missing link to Monarch survival: rich sources of nectar for the butterflies to feed on. Southwest Monarch Study is teaming up with the city of Mesa, Tanto National forest, the Nature Conservatory, and the Bureau of Land Management, where each organization is adding milkweed to their property as a nectar source to support feeding of the Monarchs. Milkweed is a rich nectar source for other pollinators as well, so other animals will benefit a side effect.

If you are wowed by these little troopers and live in the Southwestern United States, check out the Southwest Monarch Study. Find caterpillars, tag butterflies, plant milkweed and watch your garden come alive. If you are elsewhere, keep learning about these fascinating creatures by checking out this video, or learning about the findings from the study. Knowledge breads conservation; discovering how cool science is breads passion.


Love pollinators and want to do more? Check out our newsletter featuring other interesting pollinator citizen science projects that you can participate in!

Celebrate Pollinator Week with Citizen Science!

By June 23rd, 2016 at 4:14 pm | Comment

Photo: Wendy Caldwell

This week we celebrate National Pollinator Week, in honor of the bees, butterflies, beetles, and other animals that provide essential services to ecosystems and agricultural lands everywhere.

Citizen science is at the forefront of pollinator research, and below we highlight six projects that you can join to help study and protect pollinators. To find more, visit the SciStarter Global Project Finder.

Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

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Helping Herptiles with Citizen Science

By June 13th, 2016 at 11:44 pm | Comment

Photo: USFWS
Amphibians and reptiles, also known as herptiles or herps, are the focus of many citizen science projects. Are you interested in frogs, turtles, and snakes? If you are, join one of the projects below to study the distribution and population status of these wonderful creatures!
Find more than 1,600 projects and events in the SciStarter Global Project Finder.
Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

Cuban Treefrog
Cuban Treefrogs are an invasive species causing trouble throughout the state of Florida. Report the presence of Cuban Treefrogs and native Treefrogs.

North Carolina Sea Turtle Project
Volunteers along the North Carolina coast are needed to search for sea turtle tracks and report nests and strandings. These activities help biologists monitor and protect the turtles.

Photo: Janalee Caldwell
OK Amphibian Disease Testing
Students and teachers in Oklahoma are needed to catch frogs, quickly swab their skin, and send the collected samples in to be tested for a fungal disease. Lesson plans are available.

Photo: Mike Pingleton
HerpMapper
Whenever you see a reptile or amphibian of any kind, you can report it to HerpMapper. You can easily keep a record of your own sightings and contribute to a larger database of herptile populations.

Photo: Henry Doorly Zoo
Amphibian Conservation and Education Project
Volunteers throughout Nebraska can participate in this project by monitoring amphibian populations, testing for diseases, and monitoring the quality of aquatic habitats.

Explore the Frontiers of CitizenScience in New Book from ASU.

The latest volume in “The Rightful Place of Science” series is a cutting-edge look at the changing relationship between science and the public. Co-edited by SciStarter Founder, Darlene Cavalier, with a blurb from Bill Nye the Science Guy.Get your copy today!