Archive for the ‘biodiversity’ tag
Attention all backyard explorers and rosebush whackers: this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. Your days of leading patient parents on perilous neighborhood expeditions are over. Put down that “machete.” Stop mushing the dog. Grab your merit badges. Adventure is calling!
This Friday, August 24, the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society will host their annual BioBlitz species count at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Hundreds of students and thousands of local citizens will join about 200 scientists, naturalists, and explorers from around the country to collect and analyze wildlife data, transforming the forest into a massive outdoor classroom alive with curiosity and discovery.
“I am always moved by the commitment of the National Parks Service to protecting our country’s ecological diversity and sharing it with the general public,” said Daniel Edelson, Vice President for Education at National Geographic. “The BioBlitzes are…explicit strategies for preparing young people to care for their world.”
National Geographic has been “inspiring people to care about the planet” through its magazine since 1888, but it is relatively new to the business of “preparing” them to do so. With the rapid proliferation of digital media, the society saw an opportunity to provide teachers and students with the resources to learn (curricula, films, games) and the tools to take action through a more robust educational initiative, thus engaging with their audience in ways never thought possible. Can’t make it to Colorado to catch bugs, spot birds, and count elk on Friday? You can take part in the action via their Google Hangout starting at 3 PM (EST), or even plan your own BioBlitz by following their instructions.
“It’s exciting to see that other people are embracing the concept and using the resources we developed to conduct their own biodiversity research in their own parks in their own communities,” said Sean O’Connor, a BioBlitz project manager.
This year’s BioBlitz, the sixth in a series of ten leading up to the National Park Service’s Centennial in 2016, comes amidst the strain of another round of federal budget cuts and continued lack of funding for the program. As the National Park Service prepares to face the challenges ahead—political, economic, environmental, or otherwise—National Geographic aims to show its next generation of stewards why its 397 parks encompassing ver 84 million acres of land are worth preserving.
“We believe [the most important lesson] we can teach young people is how interconnected our world is,” said Edelson. “Even in our most pristine National Parks, you can’t escape the impact of human activities on the natural environment. A BioBlitz is a chance for young people to see those impacts and learn about the connections between their own actions and the health of ecosystems.”
From searching for invertebrates to measuring wind speed, everyone can gain new knowledge and skills and play their part in protecting the natural environment. This is the philosophy of Open Air Laboratories (OPAL), a project based in England that encourages the public to explore their surroundings, record their findings, and submit their results to the OPAL national database making their contribution available to scientists and others involved in environmental science and policy.
OPAL has created six surveys that the public can use to collect data and all are important areas of research:
Each one of these surveys has been designed so that anyone can use them – no specialist knowledge is needed to take part and equipment is either provided or is easy to make or find. The instructions are simple to follow and each survey contains a ‘workbook’ for recording results. Once people have completed their survey, they upload their results onto the OPAL website or send them by post.
This post was originally published on Citizen Science Buzz, a blog on TalkingScience that highlights science projects that are helping us better understand our planet and the Universe.
It seems strange to mark the location of a fish, doesn’t it? They can swim and move away from the marker, right? I wonder while standing on a dock waiting for the boat that will take about ten of us out to a reef. There, we will scuba dive for fun and also mark the locations of lionfish, an invasive species in the Caribbean.
Volunteer divers on the Dutch island of Bonaire are helping Bonaire National Marine Park eliminate invasive lionfish from its coral reefs by marking the locations where the fish are found. A diver who spots a lionfish is instructed to attach a small flag, provided by the park, to a rock near the fish.
The answers to my questions about marking fish locations become clear once I splash into the water and see the fish and flag markers for myself. Swimming along sections of reef, I saw dozens of flags that had been placed there by divers and each had one or more lionfish hovering nearby. It turns out that lionfish don’t stray far from their particular nook of reef. They stay near the markers.
It’s illegal to hunt or in any way harm marine life in the waters surrounding Bonaire. Except, that is, for lionfish.
Energy is a strange thing. It floats around you, fills you up until you’re about ready to burst, and then it skips off, leaving you to keep up as best you can. Last Thursday and Friday were two full days of such energy, when 60 professionals from such exotic places as Alaska, Colombia and New Jersey got together to discuss why and how public participation in scientific research (PPSR) is necessary if we are to save the world’s biodiversity. The amazing thing about this workshop wasn’t so much that these people had a similar goal (after all, who doesn’t want to save the world?), but rather that the participants brought such a diversity of backgrounds, academic disciplines and institutions to the table.
Although the participation of citizens in scientific research goes back centuries, it is only very recently that there has been a push and pull from many different areas, leading to an amazing expansion of this kind of research and a demand for new ideas, ways to engage, and methods to understand how and why this can ultimately lead us forward in conservation. The 50+ projects that were represented during this workshop illustrated this expansion not only by what they had in common – citizen engagement, data collection, and links to better conservation management – but also by what they didn’t. While some projects, like FrogWatch USA or Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, invite participants from across the United States to collect data on a wide geographical scale, other projects such as Ndee bini’ bida’ilzaahi (Pictures of Apache Land) and the Fresno Bird Count are place-specific, uniquely adapted to the needs of their local community and natural environment. Read the rest of this entry »
Did you know that you can contribute to science by blowing bubbles? It’s true! The Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) network is asking citizen scientists in England to use bubbles to calculate wind direction and speed.
All you need to do is create a “bubble cone” using a piece of paper and some tape. Then, with some bubble solution, you’re ready to start launching bubbles and recording in which direction and how far they travel. Researchers on OPAL’s Climate Survey will use this data to investigate how human activities affect the climate.
This is just one of five easy ways that you can help scientists study the state of England’s natural environment. OPAL’s projects offer a wide range of opportunities to study biodiversity, soil health, air and water quality, and the impact of humans on climate.
The best part: people from all age groups and skill levels can participate, and the project website offers easy step-by-step instructions. It usually doesn’t take more than an hour to make an important contribution to science.
During the past week, I’ve experienced nature from a state of semiconsciousness in my bed. Almost every morning, the same lonely male cardinal practices his songs for spring, occasionally interrupted by a pair of blue jays imitating a hawk or a small flock of monk parakeets flying overhead from their nests.
There’s something special about doing citizen science from your bedroom with your eyes closed – even if I have yet to find a project that will accept data that is taken while you’re half-asleep.
A couple of days ago, I had a brilliant idea: citizen science from the comfort of my bed! I can count the stars, peer through my window at birds (which has the additional benefit of freaking out the neighbors), and measure snow accumulating on my fire escape – all without experiencing the February cold!
I tried this for a couple of hours one morning, attempting to conduct as many scientific experiments as possible from my 8×4 foot bedroom. Yet, something was missing from the experience. I found myself getting bored and my mind floating between the unread emails in my inbox and the uneaten chocolate in the refrigerator. So, the next morning, I threw on some warm clothes, filled up a travel mug with hot coffee, and headed over to Prospect Park to figure out what was missing.
Ponder for a moment this quote written by Aldo Leopold in the late 1940s:
“We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, or otherwise have faith in.”
Food for thought, especially if you are a citizen scientist like I am. And even more so if you are a citizen scientist who cares about the environment and believes deep down that citizen science just may save the planet. But who am I to come up with such crazy theories? Hmm, I suppose this calls for an introduction…
My name is Anne, La Señorita Toomey, citizen science aficionado and lover of all things natural. I’m so into citizen science that I’m actually embarking upon a Ph.D. program in the fall to study citizen science as a tool for conservation in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, Madidi National Park in Bolivia. In the meantime, I’m spending my days – and some insomnia-ridden nights – thinking about how and why citizen science is likely to become the most important discovery for the environmental movement in the 21st century.
With the promise of solar energy, hydrogen-powered cars, and molecule transporters (okay, so that last one is on my fantasy wish list), citizen science may sound like a hokey solution to the incredible array of environmental challenges we are currently facing. But if we look deeper into the meanings of science and citizenship, we realize that encouraging non-experts to participate in the building of knowledge about how our world works may have profound implications for the way we, as a global community, will relate to our natural environment.