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Citizen Science Investigators

May 25, 2012

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” – William Shakespeare

Museum Ornithologist, John Gerwin, with several CSI Spring 2012 participants, taking a bird out of a net prior to banding the bird.

For the past 5 weeks Museum and Prairie Ridge staff members have joined forces with the Achievement Academy of Durham to do a Citizen Science Investigators (CSI) series. In April, a group of 12 GED-seeking adults, joined by their fearless leader, Gayle, jumped headfirst into the science experience that would teach them a great deal about birds — how to participate in NestWatch, how to use binoculars, and how and why scientists band birds.

Citizen Science projects are vast, in a variety of fields and topics and enlist the help of the public with collecting large quantities of data across many habitats and over long spans of time — if you’re a citizen and you want to help study birds, bugs, or even frogs, you can probably find a project and quickly learn how to get involved in helping scientists.

Museum Ornithologist Brian O’Shea, and some CSI Spring 2012 participants learning to use binoculars.

This 5-week series was part of a collaboration of educators and researchers that strive to teach and reach under served populations in the state and get them involved with science. Over the past five weeks both Ornithologists from the Museum, John Gerwin and Brian O’Shea, and Education staff from both the Museum and Prairie Ridge, Liani Yirka, Kim Smart and Brian Hahn, respectively, have worked to incorporate GED learning with a fun-filled science experience. This past CSI group met weekly and participants were taught how they were to become responsible for checking nest boxes located at Prairie Ridge, all part of the NestWatchcitizen science project the ecostation participates in. The group was also able to learn about bird banding – why and how it is done by scientists. Some of the group was even brave enough to release some recently banded birds. At the conclusion the participants were able to explore some of the new exhibits at the Nature Research Center, including the Citizen Science lounge. They also had an opportunity to meet a familiar face — a black rat snake much like the one our group spotted while doing nest watches at Prairie Ridge.

Of all our group was able to learn, experience, and accomplish, there were some definite highlights: spotting a bald eagle flying overhead while learning how to use binoculars, having a juvenile great horned owl fly closely over our heads while walking at Prairie Ridge, and even catching a male kingbird in our banding nets! But to our educators, getting to truly impact others by showing them a little bit of the magic we feel everyday we work with and in nature is the best highlight of all.

Museum Ornithologist John Gerwin, explaining the intricacies of a Mourning Dove to CSI Spring 2012 participants.

We can’t wait to plan the next CSI series! If you are interested in learning how you can get involved with your own CSI projects look at the links below.

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (University of Minnesota)

Monarch Watch (University of Kansas)

Monarch Health (University of Georgia)

NestWatch (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)


Post by Liani Yirka

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