Are you an aspiring citizen scientist? All over the world, members of the public contribute to scientific research by reporting species sightings, surveying water quality and more. You can join these citizen scientists with the help of Ontario Nature’s new Directory of Ontario Citizen Science (DOCS).
DOCS is an online, searchable tool that can link you with citizen science projects in your area. It can also help groups coordinating citizen science activities to publicize their projects and attract volunteers. DOCS is aimed at projects with biological, environmental, or conservation goals, and there are lots of them available.
Citizen science has been around for more than 100 years. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count, considered by many to be the first formal citizen science program, began in 1900. Since that time, many more bird-related programs have been created. Today, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and its partners, including Bird Studies Canada, run numerous bird counts. They also oversee eBird, a website devoted to bird sightings.
But citizen science initiatives aren’t only about birds. I recently searched for projects in Ontario, and found surveys on bumblebees, butterflies, frogs, toads, turtles, salamanders, bats, worms, and even mussels.
The Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas allows people from all walks of life to report their frog, turtle, snake and salamander sightings, and helps scientists determine the status and conservation needs of these animals. Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (EDDMapS) Ontario tracks the spread of invasive species, while the Ontario BioBlitz gathers data on all species in a given area.
Others programs don’t focus on species at all. RinkWatch contributors report the condition of their backyard ice rinks to track climate conditions.
Citizen scientists generate valuable conservation data. The results from many of these endeavours are available to the public, and are often included in scientific publications.
This is a great time to be a citizen scientist in Ontario. Consider becoming one today!
Allison Nicholls is Ontario Nature’s Citizen Science Intern