Citizen Scientists and Climate Change
Most of the stories you read in Keystone Wild!Notes are focused on research and conservation work done by professional scientists helping us understand and conserve Pennsylvania’s native species and habitats. As important as their work is, it’s not enough. There aren’t enough scientists or enough funding to do all of the research that is needed.
The need for more research is especially important now, because we need to monitor the impacts that climate change is having on our natural systems. Detecting shifts in migration patterns, population size and distribution, and the timing of natural cycles will be critical if we are to help our species and habitats adjust to these new conditions.
That’s where the citizen scientist comes in. There are many monitoring projects that rely on local observations collected by people like you. Here are just a few:
USA National Phenology Network collects information on the timing of plant life-cycle events, such as leaf emergence, flowering and fruit development. They are looking for volunteers to monitor 200 different plant species.
Project BudBurst uses citizen scientists to collect observations of plant life cycles to learn how plant species are responding to climatic changes.
Frogwatch USA has participants monitor frog and toad species at their local wetland or pond during the breeding season.
North American Bird Phenology Programcontains nearly all of the bird migration data collected from the late 19th century up until the Second World War. All of this information is contained on note cards that have been scanned, but until it is entered into a database, it can’t be analyzed. They’re looking for volunteers to enter the data from their home computers so that it can be used to compare historical trends with current migration patterns and timing.
Journey North is a global study of wildlife migration and seasonal changes, designed specifically for students. Students and school groups enter their local observations, which are then incorporated into a global database. Students can track the migration of animals ranging from monarch butterflies to gray whales.
You don’t need any formal scientific training to contribute to these projects; they provide all the training you need. So if you’ve ever wanted to participate in a scientific study or put your powers of observation and love of nature to good use, here’s your chance -- become a citizen scientist.