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Shake Your Winter Blues Away with Citizen Science!

December 30, 2017

Special thanks to Julie Hall for contributing this post!  Julie is a citizen science educator based at Prairie Ridge Ecostation and coordinates the Dragonfly Detectives citizen science education program.  Thanks Julie!

birder with spotting scopeDo you ever feel a little blue in winter due to diminishing sunlight and your favorite plants and animals lying dormant or hibernating for the season? I do, but there is hope! Spending time in nature is scientifically proven to help with the blues, and many citizen science projects will get you outside. As a bonus, you’ll be collecting data for scientific research that will help shape the Earth’s future. Read on to learn about citizen science projects you can participate in at Prairie Ridge or your own backyard TODAY, no science degree required!

eBird has volunteers record the presence or absence of bird species and bird abundance by submitting a checklist of birds observed over a period of time. You can stay in one spot or hike a few miles to do this, the choice is yours. My favorite bird watching spots at Prairie Ridge are the balcony of the Outdoor Classroom and the bird blind at the pond. You just never know what you might see!*

iNaturalist participantiNaturalist enables you to help document the biodiversity of life by recording any living thing you see by taking a photograph and submitting it. The photo can be accompanied by an identification, or you can get help from other iNaturalist users to identify what is in your photo. This project is a great way to learn new species!*  Contribute to the Museum’s biodiversity project by sharing your observations with the Natural North Carolina project within iNaturalist and help us document all the plants, animals, and fungi in our state!

Natures Notebook participantsNature’s Notebook takes volunteers outside to regularly record observations of plants and animals to generate long-term data sets used for scientific discovery and decision-making. At Prairie Ridge, volunteers to make weekly observations of the changing patterns of individual trees on the property along the “Prairie Ridge Tree Trail.”

Information gathered from these projects builds the foundation for a better understanding of plant and animal distribution across our planet Earth. As citizen scientists, we are generating long-term data sets used for scientific discovery and decision-making. We are helping to “Save the Earth” and, by getting outside to do it, our own health benefits!

If these projects don’t appeal to you, don’t worry! Over 2,000 citizen science projects currently exist – simply pick one, read the protocols, and get started. To find out about more citizen science projects specific to location and/or topic, check out SciStarter online. Get out there and be a hero, become a citizen scientist today!

Interested in becoming a citizen scientist at Prairie Ridge? Join us on Saturdays from 10:30-11:30am for Citizen Science Saturday!  You’ll learn how to do a citizen science project while taking a leisurely walk during this drop-in weekly program.  Meet us by the entrance kiosk on any upcoming Saturday if you’d like to attend!

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