Sunday, April 10, 2011

Citizen Science Spring & Summer Field Season opens

The warmer weather calls us outside to run, jump and play.  And if you take a close look or listen, you'll notice that the nature is all-abuzz, too.  All of that new life sprouting and peeping around is waiting on someone just like you make very important scientific observations and report them.  There are alot of projects out there and scientists like myself who could use a hand and your eyes!

Why get involved in a citizen science project?

It's a perfect way to spend time with your family. You're always wondering what you can do that's different, will make for a great adventure and doesn't cost alot of money.
Start a fun learning project. If you're a home schooling parent, after-school teacher or camp counselor and you want the kids to have a meaning experience that will go with them forever. This is it. Just a little time once a week or once a day yields the perfect opportunity to do a big end-of-camp presentation and capstone experience.

It is so easy! Seriously, simply visit a website, sign-up for a project (and sometimes you don't have to do that), and email the results back (or fill out an online form).  If you find a local project, then you show up and lend a scientist a hand and get a chance to get up close and personal with some exciting plants and animals.
Here are some Citizen Science projects you can do right now!

1. Nature Notebook with The USA National Phenology Network.
Basically, you adopt a special place, like your backyard, special area of your neighborhood park, your school yard, or even the empty lot along your street.  You visit your special place at least once a week. Make notes in your nature journal (are you journaling? if, not it is so much fun and you should do so right now) and share your results with the online data base. The data from you and others all over the nation will be used to track any changes our natural world is making to climate changes and human influences. Go to their website to learn more and  sign up. Also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

2. Firefly Watch.  As a child I loved catching lightning bugs and putting them in a jar.  I didn't know it then, but the little fluorescent bug was a scientific wonder - producing this yellow-green glow to communicate with other fireflies to mate or catch prey.  How neat! Now, you can take that simple pastime and make a difference.  Scientists using that information to track any changes in firefly distribution, habits, and population growth. You can sign up to be an observer and submit your weekly observations at the website sponsored by the Museum of Science.

3. If you live in my neck of the woods, you can participate in BioBlitz in Creve Coeur Park! The Academy of Science of St. Louis is leading an expedition of citizens and scientists on a 6-hour exploration and cataloging of urban wildlife biodiversity of this St. Louis Metro area park on Saturday, April 16, from 6 am - 12 noon. This is Creve Coeur Park’s first BioBlitz. Teams of public volunteers led by biologists, naturalists and environmental enthusiasts search natural areas within the park, listing as many different species as they can find. You can follow the Academy @AcademyofSciSTL on Twitter.

4. Shark tagging. My friend David Shiffman needs volunteers to help him with his research for school.  Do you like Shark Week?  Then, you're going to love being a citizen science with David.  He tags (small) sharks for his research in sharking feeding behavior and ecology; and his research also helps to measure the size and health of the shark populations in the Coastal South Caroline sea.  Over 30 different species of sharks call that coast home. It's very interesting work and definitely will give you something to talk about at parties forever.  You can learn more about his research here and follow his blog about sharks, marine biology and conversation of the ocean and its creatures at Southern Fried Science and on Twitter @WhySharksMatter.

5. Interested in more citizen science ideas? Then check out Science for Citizens. You can look up upcoming projects or submit your own ideas.  I bet you find something perfect.  Be sure to come back and let me know what you've been up to.

demystifying nature letting everyone experience

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