By Fallon Hayes, Communications and Education Specialist, The Land Between National Charity
Scientists have long kept to themselves doing research with minimal public engagement; however this approach is quickly changing with the expansion of popular community science programs. These programs acknowledge and celebrate the fact that the general public often has intimate knowledge about the area where they live including its history, haunts, wildlife, and spaces.
To incorporate this wealth of information while also involving the public in conservation, knowledge development and skills acquisition, traditional researchers are working together with people from all walks of life to monitor ecosystems, note any unique features of habitats or regions, and report any changes they notice, or species observed.
This widespread reporting of public observations helps researchers to gather vast amounts of data across large areas which would be impossible under typical circumstances where resources are limited. Such meaningful engagement between researchers and the public allows both parties to effectively communicate with, learn from, and empower each other to positively impact the environment.
The Land Between National Charity (TLB) is a conservation organization that works within the special ecosystems of Southern Ontario’s cottage country. The Land Between region has extremely unique geology that allows for a mix of species unlike anywhere else in Canada! However, as urban expansion continues and more people make their way to cottage country, the health and integrity of these ecosystems are becoming increasingly threatened. Often, new residents of TLB hailing from urban centres, do not necessarily have intimate knowledge of nature due to the lack of opportunity for exposure or immersion in cities. Therefore, to safeguard habitats, wildlife, and natural systems, while also connecting people with nature, TLB has created multiple community science programs! These are exciting, meaningful, and impactful opportunities where people can help gather ecological information and be on the front lines of saving vulnerable species such as turtles, snakes, and amphibians. Our amazing volunteers are visible eco-heroes in their communities! In total, TLB currently has six community science programs: Nest Sitters, Wetland Watchers, Road Researchers, Nightjar Surveys, Snake Supervisors and Phrag Fighters. Interested in getting involved? Keep reading to learn more about each of these community science programs!
Nest Sitters, Wetland Watchers and Road Researchers:
Turtles are some of the most vulnerable species in Ontario, with a single turtle taking 60 years to replace itself! With increased traffic and habitat loss, Ontario’s turtle populations have dramatically declined over the last few decades. This is why our Nest Sitters, Wetland Watchers and Road Researchers programs all focus on turtles! For each, community scientists learn how to identify turtles, help them cross the road, accurately record sighting locations and identify surrounding environments.
Aerial insectivores have seen their populations decline 75-90+% in the last 40 years. Two of these species, the Whippoorwill and Common Nighthawk, are the focus of our Nightjar Surveyors program. To participate, community scientists receive identification training and then are given routes to patrol and record nightjar calls during evenings around the full moon in June, when these birds are highly active.
These programs are so popular that we are expanding! Coming in 2021 The Land Between will have many insect community science programs as well! Help monitor and search for butterflies (including monarchs), dragonflies, and moths too! Do you have any good names for our new insect programs? Let us know!
If you are interested in joining one of our community science programs, please visit our website https://www.thelandbetween.ca/citizen-sciencevolunteering/ or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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