Citizen Science

Citizen science allows regular people like us the opportunity to participate in scientific endeavors, and allows scientists the ability to gather far more data than they could on their own. Also, it’s super fun!

General Nature Projects

  • iNaturalist is a site where people all over the world log their finds, both plants and animals. There are many projects specific to a location or species, so if you have a particular interest, there’s likely a relevant study going on. You can access a lot of the information yourself, if you’re wondering where to find a particular creature, for example. They have two great apps which can help you identify plants and animals in the field–iNaturalist and Seek.
  • Project NOAH gathers pictures and data on wildlife spotted around the world, so users can create their own “multimedia nature journals.”
  • Nature’s Notebook is a national program for collecting observations of the natural world. They currently have dedicated projects focusing primarily on different plants and insects, but observers can submit data on all kinds of things.

Reptiles & Amphibians

Spring peeper calling during a FrogWatch session in April 2018 in Bedford Hills
  • FrogWatch USA is a program run by the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Volunteers are trained to recognize the calls of local frogs and toads, and commit to visiting a single site throughout the spring and summer to collect data. There are two chapters just outside Westchester County–one is the Wildlife Conservation Society chapter, based at the Bronx Zoo, and the other is the Peabody-Beardsley-Maritime Chapter in Connecticut. Each chapter hosts a training and certification meeting early in the spring. At the end there is a fairly easy multiple choice test to become certified.
  • The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) organizes the Amphibian Migrations and Road Crossings project each year. In early spring, prompted by slightly warmer temperatures and a nice wet night, thousands of spotted salamanders, blue-spotted/Jefferson salamanders and wood frogs will make their way to vernal pools to breed. Sadly, many migration paths cross roadways and can be very dangerous for these creatures. If you are interested in becoming an amphibian crossing guard, check out DEC’s site for more information about scouting potential locations or any upcoming training sessions.
  • The New York Herp Atlas is collecting data on reptiles and amphibians throughout the State. It relies on citizen scientists to report sightings and submit photos to track populations and habitat ranges.
  • The Vernal Pool Mapper is an affiliated project, helping scientists locate this critical habitat throughout New York State.

Birds

Chestnut Ridge HawkWatch
  • The Audubon Society runs HawkWatch sites throughout the country, including in Mount Kisco and Greenwich. The Chestnut Ridge HawkWatch site is located in the Arthur W. Butler Memorial Sanctuary. There are staff and dedicated birders there every day during the season (mid-August to late November). It’s a quick, 5-minute uphill hike to a set of wooden bleachers perched on the cliffs, looking out over the hills and valleys. It’s a great spot to bring a picnic lunch and see what you can see! Good binoculars are a wise move.
Greenwich Audubon
  • Greenwich Audubon also has a HawkWatch site, just a short drive over the State line. They start with a great information session, and have a festival at the end.
  • EagleWatch is a collaboration between Bedford Audubon and Saw Mill River Audubon to monitor bald eagle roosting sites on the Hudson River.
Juvenile and adult bald eagles at Verplanck, NY
  • eBird is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with over 100 million bird sightings contributed each year. Log your finds in checklist format to provide data about habits and habitat.
  • The Cornell Lab’s Project Feederwatch is totally simple! Put up a feeder, watch the birds, then report what you see.
  • NestWatch requires online (free) certification, then asks you to find a nest, monitor and report.
  • Sponsored by both the Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Great Backyard Bird Count is one long weekend each February when they promote birdwatching and reporting. Dip your toe in the water–you can participate in as few as 15 minutes!
  • Help scientists understand hummingbirds by sharing information through the Audubon Society’s new Hummingbirds at Home program.

Mammals

  • eMammal collects images from camera traps. They also have a mammal identification game to test your knowledge!
  • iSeeMammals is a new wildlife tracking program, and the pilot project asks for sightings of black bears in New York.
  • Project Squirrel collects data about these common backyard visitors.
  • Bat Detective allows you to identify bat calls from recordings, so you can help support these important and vulnerable creatures from your computer.
  • If you see a fisher, bobcat, weasel, otter, marten or snowshoe hare in Westchester County, report it to the Department of Environmental Conservation!

Trees & Plants

Insects & Invertebrates

Monarchs laid eggs in my garden for the first time in 2018.

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