By: Jacqueline Weber, Volunteer, EcoSpark
Spring is a wonderful time to reconnect with nature in your neighbourhood. Migrating birds are returning from their warmer wintering grounds, insects are emerging, and wildflowers are beginning to add colour to the forest floor. What better time to participate in a citizen science project that you can complete in your own backyard?
The City Nature Challenge is a global bioblitz event organized by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and California Academy of Sciences. Citizen Scientists from around the world survey the wild species that live in their communities. In 2020 City Nature Challenge gathered more than 800,000 observations from 244 cities around the world!
This year, EcoSpark is serving as the regional organizer for the City Nature Challenge in the Greater Toronto Area. To participate all you need to do is take photographs of plants and animals in your local green space and post them on iNaturalist. EcoSpark will map, organize and share the results of this citizen science challenge. You can visit the City Nature Challenge 2021: Toronto and GTA project page to learn more about the event!
If you want to learn more about how to find wildlife near you, take research-grade photos for iNaturalist and generally improve your skills as a Citizen Scientist, join EcoSpark for the Intro to Biodiversity Monitoring webinar on April 30th.
Launch Webinar: INTRO TO BIODIVERSITY MONITORING April 30th, 11-12am
Register now for this introduction to citizen science biodiversity monitoring. We’ll demo free apps and maps and provide ideas on where to look for neat wildlife. Learn tips for taking research-grade photos that provide the best data for conservation. After the webinar people of all ages will be able to find local species and share photos to iNaturalist.
Spring can be a time when we see the world in a new light, seeing things like wildflowers, mosses and insects that we had never noticed before. These tiny, sometimes underappreciated life forms were the focus of our recent StoryMap project The Hidden World Beneath Your Feet. This StoryMap takes the reader on a tour of life on the forest floor, and shares tips for finding and understanding the plants and animals you may discover. Have you ever considered how a moss lives, wondered how a mushroom grows, or wanted to take a closer look at a frog? Once you begin noticing the hidden world that exists on the forest floor, you will find interesting plants and animals every time you step into a local park. We hope that this StoryMap will excite you, inspire you, and bring you new enjoyment to your time outdoors this year.
If you seek out nature to engage your senses and relax your mind, our StoryMap Connecting to your senses in Ontario's Greenbelt can bring you new ideas on how to connect fully with nature as you explore the outdoors this spring. As you click through the StoryMap you can play audio clips of birdsong, frog calls and a gently flowing stream. Admire a photograph of the beautiful red buds of a Basswood tree, and learn about how engaging your sense of smell can lift your mood. While we don’t often employ our sense of taste on walks in nature, have you ever stopped to thank a Sugar Maple for its syrupy contribution to your breakfast pancakes?
Taking time to slow down and take in the natural world around you can be profoundly meditative; this is the basis for the practice of forest bathing. Some studies have suggested that a walk in the forest can boost the mood, lower stress levels, and boost immunity. Personally, my favourite part about connecting to my senses in nature is that it allows me to consider all the other lives - including fragrant flowers, rustling chipmunks and glossy-coated deer - that are sharing the park with me. Being immersed in nature makes me feel part of something beyond myself, something that is quite beautiful.
If connecting to your senses in Ontario’s Greenbelt has left you wondering about the beautiful plant, interesting bird, or curious frog call you noticed, adding a record to iNaturalist can help you identify the species you spent time with, and hopefully will enhance your connection with nature even more in preparation for your next visit to the park.
We can’t wait to see what you discover!
Learn More: Subscribe to EcoSpark’s e-newsletter for biodiversity updates at ecospark.ca. Dig deeper by booking a school, corporate or volunteer citizen science session. EcoSpark will help your group contribute to biodiversity and ecological health in the community all year.
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