Archive for the ‘dragonflies’ tag
Editor’s Note: This post has been republished and shared in celebration of SciStarter’s Back To School campaign where you will find 10 citizen science projects aligned with Next Generation Science Standards.
Citizen Science in the Classroom: Using the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership Pond Watch Project to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards
While most people are aware of the migration of monarchs and birds, most are unaware that there is also a large seasonal migration of dragonflies. The Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP) is an organization dedicated to developing a network of citizen scientists that monitor the spring and fall movements of dragonflies (five in particular). This includes monitoring migrations in Spring and Fall, Pond Watching, and collecting adults and shed casts (exuviae) for analysis of stable isotopes. The isotopes can help researchers identify how far dragonflies are migrating. The MDP projects span all of North America and can be conducted anywhere there is fresh water and dragonflies.
The migration study and Pond Watch are the two activities best suited for student participation. This is because the dragonfly collection requires euthanizing adult dragonflies, which may be a sensitive activity for children. For those working with elementary to middle school students I would strongly suggest participating primarily in the Pond Watch project. The Pond Watch project allows continual monitoring of a pond, or body of water, for the five key species of dragonflies that MDP has identified as migrants. The migration studies occur primarily in Spring and Fall, and for those not familiar with dragonfly migration (teachers or students) identification of “migration” behavior may be too difficult to distinguish from behavior that is “hunting” or “patrolling” without proper training. For this reason I’m going to focus on the Pond Watch project for all three projects are similar (Note: for the isotope project you will need to order a kit from the MDP website).
Materials You’ll Need:
- Computer with internet access.
- Binoculars (optional, but helpful)
- Clipboards and pencils
- Data sheets downloaded from the MDP website
- Access to pond or water with dragonflies (ponds, pools, landscaping, drainage areas, etc.)
- Digital Camera(s) (optional but encouraged)
- Meter Sticks (optional)
- Insect nets (optional)
- Dip nets and buckets (optional)
- A printed guide for identification of 5 species of dragonflies (supplied on MDP site)
- Field guide to dragonflies of your region (optional, but helpful)
Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:
- Dragonflies are ubiquitous throughout North America and they are familiar to most school children.
- You don’t have to be a dragonfly expert to participate, your class only needs to learn five key species of dragonflies and some basics of their behavior (egg laying, hunting, etc.).
- This project requires very little materials.
- Students develop natural observational skills and use quantification to measure population abundance.
- The project can be done three seasons of the year.
In July of 2009, a friend and I arrived at a lake to collect water samples for work. We had worked at the lake many times, but something was different that day: several hundred dragonflies were flying over the grass.
We often saw dragonflies, but there were 50 times the usual number and they weren’t in their usual places. We knew something exciting was happening, so we jotted down notes. I returned to the lake twice to record more observations of the swarm and simply appreciate the marvel of nature that I witnessed. Then they were gone.
That experience changed me. I am an aquatic entomologist with an interest in dragonfly behavior, but that swarm captured my attention like nothing else. I needed to know more about it! I looked into the scientific literature to find answers, but discovered that little is known about dragonfly swarms.