How to Become a Citizen Naturalist

Naturalists
Sparechangemedia / Flickr

 

It doesn’t take a science degree to help conservationists in your region monitor wildlife and undertake other important duties for ecosystem health. Citizen science, a practice through which members of the public assist scientists’ research, is growing in popularity, spawning conferences, school programs, publications and more.

Do you want to learn more about the wildlife in your area and contribute vital knowledge for its protection? Become a citizen naturalist! Here’s how:

Make a list of your interests. Are you a birdwatcher who wants to share your discoveries with the world? Do you love to kayak? Do you like getting outside in the winter? Cataloging your interests will help you identify an appropriate opportunity.

Reach out. Contact your local university, conservation nonprofit, cooperative extension or government office to find out what research opportunities are available to the public.

Learn your wildlife. Do you know how to tell the difference between the mating calls of a green frog and those of a bull frog? Before hitting the field, citizen scientists usually receive training on how to identify targeted species.

Start counting. Audubon’s Great Backyard Bird Count, National Geographic’s BioBlitz and FrogWatch USA are some popular citizen science surveys that give researchers a better picture of animal populations. The National Wildlife Federation has a more complete list of opportunities here.

Go mobile. New digital technologies have made it easier than ever to track the wildlife around you. Apps like Leafsnap and  iNaturalist let you record species sightings on your mobile device.

Analyze. Citizen scientists don’t just collect data: they can also help analyze it. Try it from the convenience of the web by taking a few minutes to count creatures on the sea floor or identify recorded whale songs through Zooniverse.

Pass it on. Children can make a difference too! Share your passion for nature with the kids in your life by browsing the free lesson plans and ideas from the National Environmental Education Foundation or starting a schoolyard bioblitz.



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