Countdown to Earth Day: Now Is The Time To Awaken Your Inner Scientist

Countdown to Earth Day: Now Is The Time To Awaken Your Inner Scientist

  • The Kane County Board Energy And Environmental Committee, Kane County Division of Environmental and Water Resources and Kane County Connects are teaming up for a “Count Down to Earth Day” series celebrating the success stories and spotlighting the environmental challenges we face right here, right now in Kane County, IL. Today’s essay is written by Forest Preserve District of Kane County Environmental Education Manager Barb McKittrick. She’d love to hear from you at mckittrickbarb@kaneforest.com or 630-444-3191.

Have you ever watched a monarch butterfly fluttering from flower to flower in your back yard? Or listened intently to a frog trilling in a nearby wetland and tried to identify the species by its call? If so, you are a scientist!

Community science (sometimes called “citizen science”) involves harnessing the power of scientists just like you, regardless of formal training, to conduct research that generates meaningful scientific data.

Amassing information from multitudes of community members enables ecologists and conservationists to collect more data over larger geographies than they could ever do on their own. Community science initiatives help scientific professionals speed up their study timeframes and help community scientists learn more about the world around them while having a real impact on local land management decisions and global-scale ecology solutions.

Whatever animal, plant, or environmental issue interests you, there is probably a related community science program. In most cases, the only tools you need to participate are a keen sense of observation, a desire to get outdoors, and a smart phone.

Here at the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, we support a number of local community science efforts by conducting training programs to get you started collected and submitting real-world data to scientific organizations. We host training sessions to prepare you to monitor frogs, butterflies, rare plants, odonates (dragonflies and damselflies), and singing insects in assigned tracts of local preserves and natural areas.

If getting up close and personal with birds is more your style, the Forest Preserve District has opportunities for volunteers to monitor American Kestrel and Prothonotary Warbler nest boxes and Purple Martin gourd racks. We also support other agencies that provide all the information needed to conduct community science work, and submit observational data, online.

Examples include CoCoRaHS (monitoring precipitation), Budburst (monitoring the effects of climate change on plants and animals), BeeSpotter (monitoring population status of honeybees and bumblebees), iNaturalist (observing all plants and animals across the world), and eBird (monitoring birds.)

Just in time for Earth Day, a very special bio-blitz style community science event is coming up soon. You can join people from more than 350 cities around the world for the City Nature Challenge.

By sharing observations of wild plants and animals in the Kane County area between April 30 and May 3, you can help local land managers and scientific researchers better understand and protect urban nature.

Taking part is easy! First, find any plant or animal in your city – even in your own back yard. Next, take a picture of what you find on your phone. Finally, share your observations through the iNaturalist app or website.

To learn more about participating in the City Nature Challenge, plan to attend a free webinar hosted by the Forest Preserve District of Kane County from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 29. Register for the webinar here or email programs@kaneforest.com with questions.

With so many community science opportunities to choose from, the hardest part will be settling on where to start!

Read The Countdown To Earth Day Series