Volunteer capturing data with a smartphone at a NCC BioBlitz event (Photo by Brent Calver)
Whether you’re a backyard birdwatcher or an avid outdoorsperson, citizen science is a way for anyone to contribute data for environmental research. All you need is access to nature and a way to share your findings!
Regardless of where you are located, citizen science is easy to participate in. Apps like iNaturalist allow people to record their observations by uploading images to an online database where experts can help to identify your species. This data is used by scientists to understand when and where species are being sighted. It is also a great way to expand your knowledge by talking to and learning from other naturalists.
An easy initiative to get involved with citizen science this summer is by participating in the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) Big Backyard BioBlitz. The four-day bioblitz runs from July 29 to August 2.
To participate, download the iNaturalist app for free on IOS and Android. After joining the biobBlitz project page, participants are encouraged to go outside and take pictures of the plants and animals they encounter in their local green space.
All of the observations uploaded will be available to view on the iNaturalist project page, where they will be reviewed by scientists around the world.
As an added bonus, participants also have the opportunity to have their photos shared across NCC's social media pages and website by using the hashtag #nccbioblitz.
Another great way to get involved in a global science project is the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). Occurring in the spring, the GBBC aims to capture photos of bird populations before the annual spring migration. The data collected is used by scientists to monitor the trends in bird populations.
Throughout the four-day event, participants are encouraged to take 15 minutes out of their day to observe birds wherever they find them. Mobile apps such as the Merlin Bird ID and ebird are used to track and identify the different species.
Similarly, butterfly enthusiasts can use ebutterfly to share their observations with scientists around the world.
Citizen science projects such as the Big Backyard BioBlitz and GBBC are great ways to contribute to the greater scientific community, especially when in-person volunteering events are not possible. The data collected will be used in conservation research, which will help protect Canada's vulnerable natural areas.