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Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas art contest

It’s time for citizen scientists to stretch their artistic muscles! The Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas (ORAA) welcomes creature sightings from anyone observing Ontario’s reptiles and amphibians, and our art contest is for everyone as well. You don’t have to be a professional photographer or artist to participate. Just grab your camera, brush or crayon and give it a go!
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Monique Aarts and the travelling atlas show

In spring 2014, I signed up as an ORAA area coordinator for the Ausable Bayfield Watershed. I promoted the atlas in various ways, beginning with a herpetofauna-focused BioBlitz in Huron County in early June. Participants were able to find and interact with reptiles and amphibians and submitted sightings using the free atlas app for smartphones. In the fall, I reached out to Huron County schools through my position with the Huron Stewardship Council, and engaged nearly 2,000 students in herpetofauna education and monitoring.
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David Seburn has gaps in his atlas

Ontario is a big place to conduct a detailed herp atlas. Mapping the distribution of species using 10×10 kilometre grid squares carves the province up into big chunks. There are over 1,000 grid squares in southern Ontario alone. Trying to get coverage in all, or even most, of these squares is a challenge. As an atlas coordinator for the Ottawa area, I wanted to know how well we were doing covering the area and where else we should be looking.
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Volunteer spotlight: Skye Regan

Student volunteer Skye Regan evaluated the ORAA website and app for her class, “Catalyzing Change: Sustainability Leadership for the 21st Century,” co-taught by Harvard University and affiliates. She aimed to, “pique the interest of new users (citizen scientists)…creating a pool of steady, reliable and current information for the database.” Skye’s project provided her with program evaluation experience and allowed her to add her voice to many who offered new ideas for the ORAA. Stay tuned for new technology updates in 2015! Feedback is always welcomed at atlas@ontarionature.org.
 
Thank you volunteers!

The ORAA would not be possible without the support of thousands of volunteers. Citizen scientists of all ages reported more than 20,000 reptile and amphibian sightings from all over Ontario in 2014. Volunteers also help with behind-the-scenes tasks like data entry and outreach. We are in special need of dedicated volunteers from northern Ontario to help coordinate ORAA efforts for local watersheds. If you can help, please contact us at atlas@ontarionature.org.
 

Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas is basking in its success

It seems like the last five years have been a whirl wind since starting the program. We are so pleased to have over 3,000 participants and our database now has more than 200,000 records. We learned of new spots and expanded ranges. We also added over 30 new local atlas area coordinator volunteers to help both spread the word and address local knowledge gaps. We are truly awed by the participation in this project. Based on feedback from you, we are working towards the release of a new version of the app and a more interactive online mapping display. With these tools and your enthusiasm, we can’t wait to see what is in store for 2015.
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Help the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas build a better website and citizen science program! Please take our user survey by March 1st.

Ontario Nature publishes the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas Newsletter with contributions from its staff.

Ontario Nature grants permission for use of the information above in member group newsletters. Please credit Ontario Nature.

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Photo credits: James Paterson, Jakob Mueller, Rosemary Oliver, Jory Mullen, Sarah Woods, Jakob Mueller