A Citizen Science App Worth Checking Out!

A Citizen Science App Worth Checking Out!

Today’s blog is brought to you by Christine Favilla

During the spring semester, the SIUE STEM Center was offering an after-school program, called Y-CITYSCI, for middle school students at one of our local schools. The students had already learned about online citizen science apps, as well as air, water, and soil pollution. In mid-March, the state of Illinois issued the “Stay at Home” order, and unfortunately we were no longer able to teach these students in person. We know that keeping the students engaged in STEM learning is paramount to the project’s continuation, while also helping these students learn how they can be viewed as citizen scientists.

Online apps are an easy, free, and engaging way to keep us connected to students in our region—and students everywhere—while allowing them to use environmental health monitoring techniques to gather, analyze, and share data in their community and the larger science community. I want to introduce a timely citizen science project going on in the Metro East that is easy to download and share your data with others: the 2020 Backyard Birding Blitz on iNaturalist. iNaturalist is a free smart-phone app, but can also be downloaded onto your home computer, although it is much easier to record the bird songs or take pictures on your phone to upload.

Local non-profit HeartLands Conservancy is hosting the Blitz during April because we live in an area that sees 40% of migratory birds stop in on their way to their breeding grounds. Birds are often overlooked and taken for granted in nature, but there are many ecological health signs that birds tell us, such as if there are enough native plants to host the insects that birds eat. So if you are interested in participating in local science, take some time out of your day to observe the birds outside your window and enter them in the app. When you do this, you help others understand  insight into the health of our ecosystems in southwest Illinois. The data you collect are valuable information for scientific research, such as shifts in local pollution levels, habitat loss, climate change, and migration timing.

To participate:

  • Be in one of the following counties in Illinois: Bond, Clinton, Madison, Monroe, Randolph, St. Clair, or Washington
  • Download the iNaturalist App or visit their website.
  • Take a picture or a sound recording of a bird in your backyard and upload it using the Taxa: Birds

While the format of iNaturalist allows other users to help you ID bird species, we encourage you to try bird identification on your own, too! This website has an easy bird identification tool.

Heartlands plans to use the images that you submit to make a Bird Bingo card to share on social media at the end of the month. They will give you credit on the images selected – so the more observations you make, the more likely your images will be featured!

Make sure to support local research and scientists and check out more about what is going on in southwest Illinois by following the HeartLands Conservancy on Facebook and Instagram.

Remember, when people engage in this information gathering and sharing, they are active in citizen science! 

Feature image from https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-and-brown-wild-duck-on-water-112548/ credited to Pixabay.