As we welcome the return of spring, we also welcome back all of the things we love about our gardens. There's something new to see out there every day! A new leaf on your favorite butterfly bush, flower buds on your columbine, or a buzz from a bee can bring so much excitement. Scientists are calling on you to help document these changes in your garden throughout April for Citizen Science Month.
What is citizen science? It's an opportunity for the public to learn more about science and make an impact in the scientific community in the process! Scientists need your help to collect, analyze, and report data on a whole range of topics. There is a plethora of projects to help with, and the best part is that you can choose whatever you like!
As gardeners (and pollinator enthusiasts), the easiest way to participate in Citizen Science Month is by collecting data in your own garden. The Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) Project is an effort to collect data on the Lepidoptera from Panama to Canada. It serves as a database for scientists to form or address research questions on Lepidoptera. This is a collaborative effort that heavily relies on citizen scientists for its success! Anyone can participate by submitting photographs of butterflies and moths, along with locations and any additional observations.
The process is incredibly easy. All you have to do is register for an account, submit a sighting, and wait for them to verify your findings! Once it's verified, they'll display your photographs and data in their image galleries. You can also volunteer to edit photographs or verify other users' images and information for extra support.
Looking for other ways to get involved? Consider using iNaturalist, an app that helps you record nature at your fingertip. Use your smartphone, tablet, or computer to record any organism sighting, from a common backyard flower to a rare insect and everything in between. iNaturalist uses this data to contribute to biodiversity science and shares your findings with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Join one of their hundreds of active projects, or create your own!
Here is a list of citizen science projects that I can't wait to join myself:
- Project BudBurst: record opening flower and leaf buds of trees, shrubs, flowers, etc.
- eBird: explore bird hot spots near you and record your sightings.
- Garlic Mustard Field Survey: record the abundance of invasive garlic mustard in your area.
- Monarch Larva Monitoring Project: collect data on larval monarch populations and milkweeds.
- National Phenology Network (NPN): monitor the impact of climate change on local plant species.
April may be Citizen Science Month, but scientists need your help all year long. Continue to help scientists by submitting simple observations all season. You'll be surprised with how much you learn along the way!