Archive for the ‘Nature & Outdoors’ Category
Follow a tree through its journey into spring! Citizen scientists can record budbursting, leafing and flowering with Track a Tree as seasons shift in the United Kingdom.
by Nina Friedman
As Citizen Science projects proliferate, so do the curious communities they create. Relationships begin between excited, everyday people as they explore their surroundings for the sake of science. But there is one United Kingdom based project that inspires the inception of a particularly odd relationship…
Track a Tree asks volunteers to visit their local woodlands, select a tree, and record seasonal events as they take place in the immediate ecosystem of the tree. Through recurring visits and focused observation volunteers become familiarized with the tree’s particularities. Maybe it’s the final Sycamore in the area to leaf. You, a volunteer, root for it to catch up with its peers, literally the parent of a late bloomer. You invest yourself in seasonal transitions, gaining insight into the life of the tree, surrounding flowers, and sometimes surrounding animals.
You become a scientist of phenology, the study of the seasonal-ecosystem interaction. Phenology observes timing variations seasonal events, and the resulting affect on plant and animal life. Recent rapid shifts in the earth’s climate make phenology evermore interesting and important. Tree’s that thrive in an April-June springtime may lose health if temperatures unexpectedly rise in March, triggering early blooming. When the Forestry Commission has access to ecological data, they can make informed decisions when harvesting and planting trees. When you have access to ecological data, you can learn about the nature that surrounds you. You can also create and play with interactive infographics.
Christine Tansey, the founder of Track a Tree, relayed the project’s impressive growth. “We expected a smaller, more dedicated group of participants because it requires a bit more commitment than other citizen science projects,” she says. Most ecological projects do not require multiple visits to the same location. Volunteers prove to be excited about the committing task. Since its launch in 2014, submissions include 2,000 observations spanning over 200 woodlands. Participants include school age students, families and individuals. Couples are also among the ranks. Tree tracking happens to be a great bonding activity, with the benefit of being lower commitment and lower cost than cat adoption and child rearing.
Steve Hallam (part-time tree tracker and full-time father) finds free moments to volunteer for several conservation projects in the UK. When life’s unexpected challenges arise, Steve finds routine and peace in data collection. “Gathering data on my trees forces me to stay quietly in one place for a few minutes- and it’s amazing what wildlife can make itself visible whilst this occurs,” he says. Local Nuthatches regularly make appearances while he scribbles the status of his Silver Birch.
One citizen scientist, a self-proclaimed “wayward botanist”, shares the tree tracking experience through sound. With every outing comes an audio upload.
Christine loves the unique way each volunteer approaches his or her experience. “They’re all following the outline of the project, but they’re able to individualize it and explore their own interests at the same time”. Christine aims to “give all [volunteers] the chance to hone their observation skills”. This goal is mutually beneficial. Years into her ecology research, she still notices new aspects of nature every time she goes into the field, attributing this to the volunteers fresh perspectives.
Ultimately, Track a Tree would like not only to collect data, but to educate citizen scientists. If UK woodlands are inaccessible to you visit the Track a Tree resource page to learn about tree identification. Or visit SciStarter’s Project Finder and use the “location” function to explore ecology underneath your local canopies!
Who needs chocolate, cards, roses, or a significant other, when you can celebrate Valentine’s Day with citizen science?
Below you’ll find five projects we love. Visit SciStarter to find 1000 more.
PS: If you have 30 seconds, consider taking this quick poll. We’re curious to learn more about the formal education level of the citizen science community.
The SciStarter Team
The Great Backyard Bird Count
This annual bird count runs from February 12th to 16th this year, and it’s open to anyone in the world. Simply pick a location (such as your backyard!) and count the birds that you see for at least 15 minutes; by participating and reporting your data you’ll contribute to our understanding of birds across the globe. Get started!
Beats Per Life
Is there a correlation between heart rate and lifespan? Help researchers find out by looking through published research results to compare the resting heart rates of all types of animals. Get started!
When it snows in your area, stick a ruler in the snow and tweet your location along with the snow depth. Your data will be added to a real-time worldwide map of snow depth which will help scientists calibrate the accuracy of satellite instruments. Get started!
Bonus! The SciStarter team will join Discover Magazine, Astronomy Magazine and the Science Cheerleaders at the AAAS Family Science Days in Washington, DC February 13th and 14th. This free event is open to the public! We’ll give away rulers with Snow Tweets instructions to help you get started.
Want to help fight heart disease? By completing a simple online survey about your health and behavior, you can contribute to our understanding of heart health. Get started!
Create a diary for your child and harness crowd wisdom to predict and improve her/his development. This project is part of an international scientific effort to understand the way children grow.
As monarch butterflies take their annual migratory trip to the west coast in winter, citizen scientists help researchers keep track with the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count. Find more migration projects on SciStarter!
Every autumn, the western North American population of monarch butterflies migrates from the lands west of the Rocky Mountains to the coast of California, where they spend the winter at about 200 sites scattered throughout the coastline. Last winter, I had a chance to visit the Monarch Grove in Santa Cruz, California, where thousands of monarchs were resting in eucalyptus trees and occasionally fluttering about in search of water or nectar. As a monarch conservation biologist who entered the field only after the monarch population plummeted in size, seeing the monarch overwintering in California was an amazing sight. In just one glance, I was able to see more monarchs in Santa Cruz’s Monarch Grove than I normally see in an entire summer. Unfortunately, even the thousands of monarchs I saw were just a fraction of the numbers once found at that overwintering site. Read the rest of this entry »