Science is not just for scientists. In our changing world, citizen science can play an important role in answering significant scientific questions. This growing field depends on volunteers who participate in research, monitoring, and data collection to deepen shared knowledge and achieve results that scientists could not accomplish on their own.
Often, web-based portals facilitate data entry and communication between project leaders and citizen scientists, and results are available to a world-wide audience. Many citizen science projects involve classification and pattern recognition (eg., Phylo, Zooniverse, Ancient Lives, Foldit, and Eyewire). In most environmental projects, the focus is on data collection and data entry (eg., eBird, Bumble Bee Watch, phenology, water quality monitoring, invasive species early detection).
At the Arboretum, citizen science is not a new enterprise. For many years volunteers have helped address scientific questions through participation in local, regional, or global projects. Here are some examples:
- Arboretum rangers, naturalists, and volunteer stewards monitor phenology following Aldo Leopold’s studies of 1935–46. This enduring practice provides valuable information about seasonal changes in plants and animals, and it continues to address questions about changing climate.
- The Arboretum actively collaborates with The Xerces Society and Bumble Bee Watch on bumble bee monitoring and conservation. Interested volunteers document bumble bee species, floral resource use, phenology, and nesting. To get involved, contact Susan Carpenter.
- Since 1988, bluebird nest monitoring has fostered and traced the recovery of American Bluebird populations. See the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin for information.
- The Arboretum monitors dragonflies and their habitat. Interested volunteers document the presence of adults dragonflies throughout the flight season (May–September) at Arboretum ponds and wetlands. To get involved, contact Brad Herrick.
- Avid birders collect data on breeding and migratory birds at the Arboretum, and many other locations, and submit to eBird, a global tool for the birding community.
- Snapshot Wisconsin is a statewide volunteer-based wildlife monitoring program using trail cameras. The Arboretum hosts two cameras. Our goals are to learn about animal behavior at the Arboretum, support citizen science initiaitves, and contribute data to the statewide database. Snapshot Wisconsin is a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources partnership.
- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources monitors bats at many sites statewide, including the Arboretum. See the Wisconsin Bat Program website to learn more about their projects.
- The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey and the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program, also sponsor the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey. Its primary purpose is to determine the status, distribution, and long-term population trends of Wisconsin’s twelve frog and toad species.
- Community volunteers monitor water flow and salinity in local freshwater springs ringing Lake Wingra.