In a rapidly changing world, there is much to be learned from our natural environment. Scientists and conservationists work around the clock collecting data on every imaginable species that may be impacted by habitat loss, pollution, over harvesting, and even climate change. With a plethora of data to be collected and a lot of ground to cover, scientists are actively recruiting citizens to pick up their binoculars, venture into the field, and contribute to science. Here are five studies you might want to become a part of:
Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study
The Silver King is a prized catch here in Southwest Florida and anglers from all over come to try their luck at catching this fierce fish. In order to understand tarpon migration patterns, reproductive habits, and growth rates, we need to first gain knowledge about individual fish. With the help of Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has created a program to encourage local fisher folk to collect tarpon DNA. By obtaining a sampling kit you can easily collect DNA by taking a swab of the tarpon’s jaw. With this information, scientists are able to assess Florida tarpon populations to ensure healthy stocks are here for anglers to enjoy for generations. Find out more information at:http://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/tarpon/genetics/faq/.
Audubon Christmas Bird Count
The annual Christmas Bird Count presented by The National Audubon Society is part of a huge conservation effort to protect and monitor bird species across North America – it’s the longest running citizen science project in the world! Every December 14th through January 5th,avid birdwatchers spend chilly mornings counting every bird they see in forests, parks, and along roads. Scientists use this data to understand long-term populations of birds and how their habitat can be protected. Christmas Bird Count locations for this year will be posted this month – stay tuned at http://birds.audubon.org/get-involved-christmas-bird-count-find-count-near-you.
Horseshoe Crab Nesting Monitoring
After roaming the seas for over 400 million years, horseshoe crab populations have recently declined from habitat destruction and over harvesting - it is crucial to curtail these threats before local populations are lost. The Fish and Wildlife Research Institute is encouraging people to report horseshoe crab mating to biologists, so that critical breeding grounds can be protected. Scientists aren’t able to cover all of Florida on their own, so they need help reporting these sightings. Horseshoe crabs mate during full moons in shallow water, and you will see the smaller male clinging to the larger female’s back. If you observe this behavior, please report it here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=f8QN2JV2JBVp4TIiJ61IE2SMDiXDaIm0rDWbe7aJ7xY=&.
Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network
Who doesn’t like watching butterflies dance through the air? It’s even better if you get to watch them for a good cause! The Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network (FBMN) has partnered with citizens of Florida to protect butterflies from habitat loss in our rapidly urbanizing state. All you have to do is commit to monitoring a designated site 6 times a year and FBMN will train new volunteers on species identification and the field/data collection methods needed for the project. This study enables biologists to track population trends to determine if certain species are declining in Florida. Find a county near you that participates in butterfly monitoring: http://flbutterflies.net/locations.jsp.
Ever wish there was a source that contained all of your fish identification needs? We are happy to share that FishBase is exactly what you need! With 32,900 species recorded and 54,800 photos, this website is sure to give you a positive fish ID. The goal of this database is to collect taxonomic, behavioral, and distribution of fish across the globe by publishing submissions from the public. If sea creatures are more your style, check out SeaLifeBase, which houses information on all marine creatures aside from finfish. Sanibel Sea School is a close collaborator with FishBase, so if you have a photo you would like to submit, send it our way! All we need to know is where the fish was spotted and what species you think it is. Try this great tool here: http://www.fishbase.org/search.php.