Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Nature, the outdoors, and becoming a Citizen Scientist

One of the most amazing things about being out in nature, whether it is enjoying the weather, hiking through a stand of trees in the boreal forest, or watching birds are the possibilities open to each and every one of us to become Citizen Scientists!  In the amount of time it takes to update your Facebook page or post a tweet you can make a meaning contribution to scientific research, ensure the preservation of local birding habitats, and the protection of regional and national natural resources!

Getting involved in the Citizen Sciences fosters a deeper connection in nature which follows your own interests!  So if you think lizards are cool, there is an app for that, if you think trees are awesome (and they are) there are online resources to help you ID them, and if you think birds are top notch then there are apps and projects for them too! In addition getting involved in the Citizen Sciences can help you identify many of those plants and animals along the trail that you were always curious about but never knew the names of!   The Citizen Sciences allow people from all backgrounds, abilities, ages, and circumstances to be involved.  If you love birds, flowers, or insects but don't know what most of them are called, that's okay!  With the iNaturalist App you can upload your photos and have an expert ID them for you.  There are also many free field guide Apps to help you learn about the nature you see.  One example is Merlin which helps beginners learn to ID birds.  If you're into birds, you can also join people from around the world who've entered millions of bird records through eBird. It's free, it's easy, and it doesn't weigh an ounce! Such apps allow you to upload on the go or to record your sightings from your armchair while watching your bird feeder! And best of all, the Citizen Sciences don’t require a huge investment in time or money, just a few moments spent after your adventure to input what you see! 

Now this isn’t all just for the Sciences!  Taking the time to observe outdoors, amid activities such as bird watching benefits us as well!  Time in nature improves our mental and physical health, gives us a moment to reconnect to ourselves, improves our powers of observation, improves our memory, and makes us more attentive.   When we are outdoors, it inspires our innate curiosity, encourages us to explore, to observe, and to discover.  For children, time spent outdoors, exploring nature, and reporting their observations helps to focus their digital usage and screen time!

As we trek along The Great Trail starting in June 2019 we hope to encourage children across the country to get involved in the Sciences by reporting what they see outdoors and discovering that not only can they make an important contribution to exploration and discovery but that there is an abundance of wonder in the wild spaces of our nation!  See you on the trail….

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