Archive for the ‘Nature & Outdoors’ Category

SMAP patches have arrived! Get one by submitting soil moisture data!

By October 16th, 2015 at 2:48 pm | Comment

SMAP patch final

If you’ve already signed up to participate in NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive research to ground-truth satellite data, great! (And thank you!) As soon as you input your data to the GLOBE site, you’ll receive an embroidered version of this patch.

Interested in joining SMAP? We are looking for teams in the following states: AK, AR, ME, NE, NV, NM, TN, UT, VT, WV

Learn more, sign up, and get trained soon!

The (Citizen) Science of Bird Branding

By September 14th, 2015 at 12:15 am | Comment

A citizen scientist at SFBBO's Coyote Creek Field Station bands a small passerine and collects data on the bird's age, sex, weight, and other characteristics. (Photo by SFBBO)

A citizen scientist at SFBBO’s Coyote Creek Field Station bands a small passerine and collects data on the bird’s age, sex, weight, and other characteristics. (Photo by SFBBO)

 

Have you ever been interested in bird banding? If so, the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO) has the citizen science program for you.

For over three decades, SFBBO’s mission has been to conserve birds and their habitats through science and outreach. One of our longest-running citizen science programs is our bird banding research at the Coyote Creek Field Station (CCFS) in Milpitas, California.

Tucked away from the Bay Area’s urban environment, the field station is situated near three riparian habitat restoration projects on Santa Clara Valley Water District land and is a favorite home and resting spot for many species of birds.

Every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday morning—year-round—citizen science volunteers in the program work with a staff biologist to capture sparrows, woodpeckers, thrushes, and other resident and migrating passerine landbirds in delicate mist nets.

They carry the birds to the field station in soft cloth bags, check the birds’ legs for silver bands, and if a bird does not have a band yet, the volunteers use specialized tools to gently fasten a tiny one to the bird’s leg. They then use scales, rulers, and other measuring and observation tools to collect and record data about the bird’s species type, age, size, and health on data sheets before setting the bird free.

Volunteers in the program go through a thorough apprenticeship training process that can take up to three years. During the first phase, volunteers patrol the mist net lanes to make sure predators like raptors or feral cats don’t get to the birds as they hang in the nets. During this phase, participants begin to develop their bird identification skills, become familiar with the tools of the trade, and get to work closely with field biologists.

During the second phase of training, volunteers learn how to deftly extract birds from the mist nets and bring them safely to the station for study. This tricky task requires the ability to make careful observations about how a bird has entered the net and what part of the bird is caught, and then undo sometimes intricate knots.

In the final phase of training, volunteers learn to use tools like specially-made pliers and viewfinder devices, as well as how to hold a bird securely in the “banders’ grip” while recording data.

Researchers are required by law to have special permits and training to handle wild birds like this, so volunteering at the Coyote Creek Field Station gives participants a unique opportunity.

In addition to the “cool factor” of getting to do avian science in the field, many volunteers also say they appreciate the opportunity to help promote bird conservation and the chance to enjoy nature with like-minded people.

“I really love volunteering at CCFS because it is like a little oasis in the city,” said Deanna de Castro, a citizen scientist with the program. “It’s also really great to be around other people who love birds and studying them as much as I do, and I feel like I learn something new every time I visit!”

Thanks to the commitment of our long-term volunteers, SFBBO has one of the longest-running data sets on birds in the region. We share our data with the U.S. Geological Survey Bird Banding Laboratory and with students at local universities, who use it to answer questions about bird populations in our area.

To learn more about SFBBO or become a volunteer, please visit our website at www.sfbbo.org or contact outreach@sfbbo.org.

Kristin Butler is a Bay Area journalist and Outreach and Communications Director for the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory.

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 »