The NSF-Funded Driven to Discover: Enabling Authentic Inquiry Through Citizen Science project was featured this week in a story about the SciGirls television show. The PBS Newshour show briefly highlighted how citizen science is helping to involve young women to explore and observe their natural surroundings, learn and participate in scientific data collection, and even answer their own scientific questions.
National Public Lands Day was first held in 1994 with three federal agencies and 700 volunteers. The event is now hosted by the National Environmental Education Foundation, each year on the last Saturday in September. Nationally in 2014 over 2000 individual sites were registered to participate. Minnesota, Master Naturalist co-sponsored 10 sites across the state. Each site had a different activity to be accomplished.
At Itasca State Park, volunteers bud capped approximately 23 acres of red, white, and jack pine seedlings near the north entrance to the park and around the Mary Gibbs Headwaters Center. Participating in the crew were, 68 people, including 2 DNR staff, 4 Minnesota Master Naturalist volunteers, 49 students at the University of Minnesota Crookston, and 13 members of the UMC faculty, staff, or their affiliates.
In Rochester, Master Naturalist hosted two locations. Volunteers at Indian Heights Park worked on buckthorn removal. Volunteers at Chester Woods County Park hosted a crew who hand collected prairie seed.
Metro sites included Crow Hassan Park, where volunteers hand collected prairie seeds; and Carver Park, where volunteers removed woods invasives, mostly bittersweet and buckthorn. Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge site volunteers removed invasives and worked on site prep for a pollinator planting. Afton State Park had a crew working native seed collection and buckthorn removal. William Berry Woods hosted a buckthorn bust.
Picture: Volunteers learn about bullsnakes from Naturalist John Moriarity
Master Naturalist volunteers at Lake Vermillion State Park/Soudan Underground Mine State Park worked on a timber stand improvement project. This included GPS locating trees and bud capping seedlings for winter protection.
Northland Arboretum volunteers worked on removing Japanese Knotweed and cleaning up the memorial garden and Scout garden areas.
National Public Lands Day was coordinated and sponsored by the Minnesota Master Naturalist Program that provided lunch and a t-shirt to all participants. The University of Minnesota provided transportation for the students and faculty from Crookston. There were 10 sites across Minnesota that participated in the event and hosted 186 volunteers who recorded 781 hours of volunteer service valued at $18,986.
Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Education Specialist, Dr. Karen Oberhauser was featured in an KARE 11 story about the role of Minnesota Citizen Science in understanding the migration of Monarch butterflies. The story highlighted the new Butterfly House at the Science Museum of Minnesota, and associated Omnitheater film, Flight of the Butterflies. Oberhauser was an advisor on the film. She noted that the movie "not only captures the biology, but also this incredible human story," illustrated by one of the citizen scientists who tagged Monarchs for a research study at University of Minnesota. "This tag, a tag that was put on by Minnesota students and a Minnesota teacher, was the first one that Fred Erkhadt found in the over wintering sites when he went there. So it's a great connection with Minnesota," Oberhauser expained on KARE 11.
Visit the University of Minnesota Extension Citizen Science website to learn about ways to get involved in citizen science.
Many Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Education programs focus on empowering and supporting citizen science about Minnesota's environment. The Guardian recently published a brief Guide to Becoming a Citizen Scientist by BBC-famed scientist, Brian Cox. Cox aptly points out the critical need for citizen science: We have access to so much data in the modern age, but not enough professional scientists to analyze it all. However, there is amazing, largely untapped scientific potential in our interested citizenry. Today, we can all assume a critical role in the wonder of scientific research. Cox points out, "The real thrill of citizen science is being able to look at something no one has ever seen before, or discover something that no one knew about. I can try to describe that feeling, but it's not until you experience it for yourself that you'll understand the wonder. It's why people become scientists."
Cox points out a few large-scale and smaller, personal ways that you can get started in citizen science. He also briefly discusses the history and value of citizen scientific research. Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Education staff have likewise published a series of informative videos about citizen science on the University of Minnesota Extension YouTube Channel. The video What is Citizen Science provides a short description of the history and reason for citizen scientific research.
Visit the University of Minnesota Extension Citizen Science website to learn more about programming to support citizen science.
An October 4 Invasive Blitz training at Duluth's Hartley Nature Center trained a group of northern Minnesota volunteers to prevent the spread of Invasive Species. Watch FWCE Educator, Andrea Strauss, discuss the event on Duluth television news.
Invasive species such as buckthorn, garlic mustard and wild parsnip pose serious threats to Minnesota's natural resources, ecosystems, and economy. Participants in the one day workshop learned the impact of invasive species in Minnesota. They learned to identify and remove/treat selected problem species, and provide follow-up management and monitoring. Participants also practiced planning a community project to mobilize organizations and clubs for invasive plant removal projects as part of an annual statewide "Invasive Blitz" event.
Congratulations to all of the northland participants, ready to tackle a critical Minnesota conservation issue!
How do the cosmos and citizen science relate? Citizen scientists have been playing important roles in astronomy for a long time, discovering objects in the night sky, mapping our cosmos, helping to analyze large amounts of data. But, a recent post in the National Geographic Star Struck blog described how an 1833 meteor storm started citizen science. While our Extension video draws a different origin point for citizen science in America, this meteor story does describe an early scientist recognition of the power of 'crowdsourcing' scientific observation and analysis. We citizen scientists can accomplish some amazing feats of science when working in coordination.
Visit our website to learn more about University of Minnesota Extension citizen science programs.
Minnesota Master Naturalists are preparing to make an impact on Minnesota's Public Lands. National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is our nation's largest single day of public service for our public lands. According to the NPLD website, the event began in 1994, involving service from 700 volunteers. Last year, the event involved "more than 175,000 volunteers and park visitors celebrated at 2,237 public land sites in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico."
Minnesota Master Naturalist will be hosting service events statewide on the 2014 National Public Lands Day - Sept 27. Events will take place statewide at locations large and small - Itasca State park, Quarry Hill Nature Center, the Northland Arboretum, and Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. We look forward to this day of service with an engaged group of statewide volunteers.
Become a leader in reducing the invasive species in your community! We are calling all volunteers from the Minnesota Master Naturalist, Master Gardener, Forest Pest First Detector and other programs. As you know, invasive species such as buckthorn, garlic mustard and wild parsnip pose serious threats to Minnesota's natural resources, ecosystems, and economy. We want YOU to join in a statewide effort to tackle the growing problem of invasive species.
Sign up for a one-day workshop (qualifies as Advanced Training or continuing education hours) from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. on Saturday, September 13, 2014 in Spicer, MN. You will learn the impact of invasive species in Minnesota and be trained to identify and remove/treat selected problem species and provide follow-up management and monitoring. We will help you plan a local project that will mobilize organizations and clubs you belong to so you can host local invasive plant removal projects as part of an annual statewide "Invasive Blitz" event. You may even wish to adopt a local natural area (park, woodlot, camp, retreat center, etc.) you can regularly monitor and provide stewardship for into the future.
Visit the Minnesota Master Naturalist website to learn more about the Invasive Blitz workshop in Spicer MN.
A pollinator workshop entitled, Managing Prairies for Pollinators was held at the West Central Research Outreach & Extension Center on June 3-4, 2014. The University of Minnesota Extension and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources co-sponsored the event.
Sixty natural resource professionals attended the workshop to learn about the new legislation passed in Minnesota designed to protect pollinators. Participants were from organizations such as The Minnesota Land Trust, Great River Greening, MN DNR, SWCD, NRCS, The Nature Conservancy, USFWS, and others who manage land or help landowners make management decisions.
Speakers came from across the state to share what they know about pollinators, and to discuss areas where research is still needed. Participants were given the habitat evaluation form developed by the Xerces Society and then had a chance to do an on-site evaluation of the research station in small plots. This tool is available for landowners to use to do their own on-site evaluation helping them to plan for pollinators. One participant said, "I thought the workshop was great, tons of excellent information. It is just humbling to find out how after college, and years of managing grasslands, how little I know. Truth be told, when I went to college I never thought I would be worrying about pollinators."
Post by Amy RB Rager
WIRED columnist, David Lang explored the "weird, wild world of citizen science" in a recent post on the site. In this article, Lang describes examples of citizen science projects that are helping to pinpoint the cause of a starfish disease, and rescue a vintage spacecraft for NASA. He points provocatively toward convergence of "maker" and "hobbyist" movements with scientists, who increasingly need access to larger datasets and human resources/expertise to address critical research questions. This combination, Lang suggests, will lead to a "weird, feral form of science." In his words: "How these trends ultimately play out will be our decision. The potential is for both faster and slower science. It won't work for every field of study. But for any research that also hopes to inform and educate humans to make better decisions, especially about our planet's ecology, it's a substantial improvement."
Just what is citizen science? Watch a brief video on the University of Minnesota Extension YouTube site to find out. American citizens have been contributing for centuries toward important scientific discoveries. Citizen science projects contribute toward our understanding of everything from galaxies to animals to sub-atomic particles.
Want to get involved in citizen science? The University of Minnesota Extension citizen science website is a great place to get started. The Minnesota Master Naturalist program helps to connect people who are interested in natural history with high quality volunteer opportunities like citizen science. The Monarch Larva Monitoring Program involves volunteers from across the United States and Canada in monarch research. Driven to Discover: Enabling Authentic Inqury through Citizen Science uses citizen science as a springboard for engaging youth in the full process of authentic research. We look forward to welcoming you into these programs to dig into this "weird, wild world of citizen science".