Annual Event: Berkshire Bioblitz

Annual Event Support Interests in Ecology, Zoology, Biology, and More!

Calling all amateur biologists: Mid-September is the time for the annual Berkshire Bioblitz! During a 24 hour period, teams of participants accompanied by an expert scientist will explore Springside Park, the largest municipal park in Pittsfield, MA, and see how many species they can find from a list. This is a great way to learn about local biology and get hands-on experience assisting with real scientific research. You’ll be amazed how much wildlife there is right under your nose. All ages welcome. Springside Park Conservancy. 413-499-7505. 58 Oak Hill Road. Pittsfield, MA.

Want to host your very own bioblitz? Resources for blitz-planning are available on the National Geographic website – the organization has provided everything from instructions for early planning to a suggested materials list!  A bioblitz can offer students a unique hands-on learning experience that will make them more aware of the amount of biodiversity in their neighborhood and will teach them to identify new species. Communities will benefit from the events as well – neighbors can gain a greater awareness of what’s in their backyards, and perhaps even become better connected to the natural world that surrounds them! For Western MA teachers, educators, and parents who are interested in learning more about using the outdoors as a living classroom, check out the Berkshire Museums Living Landscapes curriculum. Living Landscapes focuses on natural science but also includes connections to math, language arts, and visual arts, and is a terrific local resource.

Conversation Highlights: The Sunday Edition, March 31, 2019

HFVS Science & Education Episode with Danny Weinkauf of They Might Be Giants (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety Show

Science & Education Episode with Danny Weinkauf of They Might Be Giants


Danny Weinkauf guest DJs this week, demonstrating though song examples and commentary his love of science and education, and how it has influenced his favorite songs and personal writing style. −

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
September 23rd & 24th, 2017
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Featured video:   “I am a Paleontologist” from They Might Be Giants album Here Comes Science.

 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter


  • The Beatles – “Help!” (Help!)
  • Danny Weinkauf – “Archaeology” (No School Today)
  • Fountains of Wayne – “Hat and feet” (Fountains of Wayne)
  • They Might Be Giants – “Meet the Elements” (Here Comes Science)
  • The Okee Dokee Brothers – “Haul Away Joe” (A Mississippi River Adventure Album)
  • Danny Weinkauf – “Champion of the Spelling Bee” (No School Today)
  • Queen – “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon” (A Night at the Opera)
  • Danny Weinkauf – “ice Cream” (No School Today)
  • They Might Be Giants – “Alphabet Lost and Found” (Here Come the ABCs)
  • Justin Roberts – “Recess” (Recess)
  • The White Stripes – “My Doorbell” (Get Behind Me Satan)
  • They Might Be Giants – “Electric Car” (Here Comes Science)
  • Danny Weinkauf – “Marsupial” (No School Today)
  • Caspar Babypants – “Kangaroo” (I Found You)
  • Laurie Berkner – “Fireflies” (Laurie Berkner Lullabies)
  • Lincoln “To Build a House” (Lincoln)
  • The Ramones ” I Want to be Sedated” (Road to Ruin)
  • They Might Be Giants – “I am a Paleontologist” (Here Comes Science)

[Rebroadcast. Originally aired May 2014]

Invasive Species an Unlikely Catalyst for Community-Based Learning

Invasive Species an Unlikely Catalyst for Community-Based Learning

We’re unfortunately quite familiar with invasive species here in western Massachusetts. From the dreaded Emerald Ash Borer gnawing its way through every tasty tree in sight to Japanese knotweed crowding nearly every riverbank for miles around, invasive species have made our place their home… but how is it that this happens?

Though quite unwanted and dangerous to our fragile ecosystems, the numerous invasive species that have become part of the local landscape can serve as a community-based resource for learning. Through studies of local habitat, opportunities for citizen science, and targeted community service efforts, local families can use invasive species as a catalyst for building knowledge and cohesiveness both at home and in the community at large.

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BioBlitz in the Pioneer Valley: Experiential Learning for Novice Naturalists

BioBlitz 2016 Spotlights Citizen Science and Biodiversity in Hampden County

Organized by Elms College, BioBlitz 2016 offers an important opportunity to engage in citizen science in Chicopee! Designed to identify and record as many species of living things as possible, the BioBlitz provides experiential learning opportunities for novice naturalists!

The local landscape is filled with so much life, to locate and identify it all would take the work of many – luckily, that’s exactly what a bioblitz is for! On Saturday, April 30th, Elms College hosts BioBlitz 2016 at Memorial State Park in Chicopee from 9am-3pm. Pairing the knowledge and expertise of scientists, naturalists, and college students with that of children, families, and community members, the event is equal parts citizen science, community service, and community collaboration, and offers unique experiential learning opportunities as a result.

Used in locations far and wide but originating here in Massachusetts, the BioBlitz is a community event used to identify and record any and all species of life found in a specific geographic area. The purpose of such events is to gather information about the populations that locations can support, and to assess the health of an outdoor space. An additional use for BioBlitzes is to educate, allowing citizen scientists to learn about the complex ecosystem in which they live. Read the rest of this entry »

Locally-Based Citizen Science Connects Families to Place-Based Learning and Scientific Discovery

Locally-Based Citizen Science Connects Families to Place-Based Learning and Scientific Discovery

Citizen science projects have been around for quite a while, and have certainly picked up steam thanks to the accessibility offered by technology-based platforms. Now, thanks to the Pioneer Valley Citizen Science Collaboratory, families in western Massachusetts can engage in citizen science projects conducted specifically to research and protect the local landscape.

Created in order to address environmental issues in the Pioneer Valley, the Pioneer Valley Citizen Science Collaboratory brings together projects and resources from a host of local organizations and educational institutions. Through this collaboration (a literal collaboration of laboratories), the collaboratory is able to offer a collection of exciting, engaging, accessible, and scientifically significant projects to the community. Covering topics relevant to the study of biodiversity, climate change, invasive species, and habitat loss, the collaboratory’s projects seek to gather useful data that speak to the changes that take place in the local landscape.  Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen Scientists Needed to Digitize Scientific Collections!

Citizen Scientists Needed to Digitize Scientific Collections!

Generally reserved for experiential projects centered around data collection or observation, citizen science offers to public a means of becoming part of the world of scientific discovery. Two unique projects offer citizen scientists a language-based means of engaging with the world of science: by transcribing field notes, journals, and specimen labels, volunteers can help make over a century’s worth of scientific information accessible to the world!

Citizen science projects offer powerful opportunities for amateur scientists of all ages to participate in meaningful scientific research. Whether for anecdotal observation-based evidence or collection of specific data, citizen science opens up the world of scientific discovery to people of all backgrounds. Generally, citizen science projects involve experiential scientific work, such as tracking bird sightings, identifying constellations, or measuring snowfall – making them ideal for science-minded folks who love to learn in a hands-on fashion.

Amongst the myriad opportunities available through citizen science projects lie two unique language-based ways of engaging with scientific topics, Notes From Nature and  Smithsonian Transcription Center – both soliciting digital volunteers to transcribe field notes, journal entries, and other hand-written works so as to create digital archives of over a century’s worth of scientific information. Such projects are ideal for both science-lovers and those whose skills lie in language-based activities, and blend scientific thinking with language arts skills. Additionally, transcription-based citizen science seeks to accomplish an incredibly important goal: making decades of data and specimens to become easily accessible to researchers all over the world. Easy access to many years’ worth of data can help scientists to look at a bigger picture of changes in habitat and species populations – making transcription projects essential to gaining a deeper understanding of the changes that take place in nature over time.  Read the rest of this entry »

Listen for Frogs, Become a Citizen Scientist!

Listen for Frogs, Become a Citizen Scientist!

Just in time for the awakening of amphibian species, families can participate in the FrogWatch citizen science project! Using this and other resources, folks can learn about local species of frogs and salamanders and can engage in important conservation work.

Not long from now, local ponds, wetlands, and vernal pools will be teeming with life. Teetering somewhere between ice-crusted and mucky as of late, these aquatic habitats are home to a variety of fascinating species – including many types of frogs! As the landscape awakens, families can prepare for the appearance of local amphibian species by learning to identify common species, exploring the life cycle of amphibians, and engaging in citizen science opportunities.

Hibernating amphibians rise from their icy winter sleep on the first rainy night when the temperature rises above 40 degrees. Known sometimes as “the big night,” this occasion is cause for celebration – and for science. Families can serve as salamander crossing guards, helping the creatures to reach their breeding pools and taking part in citizen science at the same time.

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Canines Breed Community-Based Service Learning and Citizen Science Opportunities

Canines Breed Community-Based Service Learning and Citizen Science Opportunities

Affectionately dubbed man’s best friend, dogs have a special place in human society. Through museum exhibits, opportunities for service-based learning, and psychology-centric citizen science, families can engage in meaningful studies of all things dog!

Lovingly known as man’s best friend, dogs have lots to offer to humans. Not only are they great companions, but they’re fascinating subjects of study, and can teach us a lot about ourselves – despite differences in genetics. By utilizing a range of resources, families can use dogs as a lens through which to explore service learning, citizen science, and the evolution of human society.

Currently, the Springfield Museums are hosting a special dog-centric exhibit. Titled, “Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs, the exhibit chronicles canine history all the way from its lupine forefathers to its close connections with modern humans.  Read the rest of this entry »

Astronomy Resources for Budding Scientists

Astronomy Resources for Budding Scientists!

Being accessible to everyone, everywhere, at all times, the sky is the ultimate community-based educational resource! Using a wealth of resources from books to apps, citizen science to local planetariums, families can explore outer space together and learn experientially about the sky above us.

Studies of outer space can be intriguing to young minds – particularly due to their mysterious nature. In plain sight all day and all night, the sky is filled with fascinating things both big and bright that are impossible to touch and nearly impossible to experience (there aren’t a lot of job openings for astronauts these days).

In order to support young Earth-bound astronomers in their pursuit of learning about all things outer space, families can utilize online resources, books, and – best of all – numerous community-based learning opportunities and resources!

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The Birds are Back!

Help Out with Spotting Birds

Springtime brings many migratory bird species back to western Massachusetts and, as these feathered friends return, opportunities for citizen science centered around species preservation arise! Help Mass Audubon to monitor some species whose populations are in decline, and learn about three fascinating bird species in the process.

Springtime is filled with sightings of all kinds of exciting natural wonders, and the season’s outdoor appeal makes it a perfect time of year not only for enjoying our natural surroundings, but for learning about conservation and species preservation, too! In particular, springtime ’tis the season for exciting bird sightings, as well as the discovery of new nests and treasure troves of beautiful and tiny eggs. As western Massachusetts becomes filled with northward-moving migratory feathered friends, families can learn to identify these warm weather visitors and, using resources offered by Mass Audubon, learn about and perhaps participate in efforts to support declining populations of a few key species.

Species to keep an eye out for this season include orioles, Eastern whip-poor-wills, and American kestrels. While all three of these birds can be found locally, their populations are in decline and preservation of each species depends on close monitoring by both ornithologists and citizen scientists. Read the rest of this entry »

Become A Citizen Scientist & Get to Know Your Local Dragonfly!

Community-Based Education Right In Your Back Yard

Families can join in on an important citizen science project called Dragonfly Pond Watch.

While a season filled with winged insects may seem months away, now is the time to begin learning how to be on the lookout for seasonal indicator species! Certain creatures who migrate to warmer climes during Massachusetts’ winter can help to make the start of warmer weather with their presence. Just as returning robins dotting late-winter feeders mean that spring is near and the emergence of salamanders marks spring’s first good rain, the appearance of dragonflies can serve as an important seasonal indicator, too! Read the rest of this entry »

Bird Feeding Month Feeds Famished Birds & Hungry Minds

Learning Opportunity In Your Backyard

As much as humans express our discontent with the dark and cold (and resulting feelings of isolation) that winter brings, the cold months bring far more challenges for wildlife than they do for humans. While animal adaptations help them cope with the difficulties that New England’s winter weather brings, surviving the coldest and snowiest time of the year is not without struggle. For birds in particular, February is the hardest time of year. Food is at its most scarce, making it tough for feathered creatures to stay full and warm until springtime comes.

In response to the challenges that late winter brings for birds, February has been designated National Bird-Feeding Month. Designated as such in 1994, National Bird Feeding Month helps not only to provide birds with food sources, but also supports community- and place-based learning about local species and the environment… Read the rest of this entry »

FrogWatch Citizen Science Opportunity for All Ages

Learn More About Amphibians While Helping Larger Efforts In Identifying Species

FrogWatch USA is a citizen science program that provides people of all ages with the opportunity to learn about amphibians and help with conservation efforts. Every year from February through August, volunteers collect data on the calls of frogs and toads. This data is then used to identify the species, gain information on their populations, and is used directly in conservation work.

On Friday, February 6, from 6:30pm-9pm, older students and adults can join the Hitchcock Center for the Environment and Mass Audubon for a FrogWatch USA citizen science training session at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary (127 Combs Road, Easthampton, MA). At this program, adults and older students can learn about our native frog and toad species and how to identify them, as well as how they can participate in FrogWatch USA.

Although this particular program is geared towards adults, it is a great chance for parents and caregivers to learn about the citizen science project so they can teach their kids about it – this is not only a great chance for students to become involved in a national citizen science project, but it’s also a wonderful opportunity for families to learn and work together in nature. Call the Hitchcock Center at 413-256-6006 to register. (>$)

Wonder how frogs survive the winter and don’t freeze to death?  Check out this article in Scientific American.

Birding in Winter Offers Great Reward

Becoming a Citizen Scientist Opens Your Awareness to Birdlife In Your Backyard

The American tree sparrow can be spotted more easily in the winter due to its markings popping against the neutral tones of the season. Also with the curtains of leaves not offering any cover, it’s a great time of year to study birds and how they hop and fly.

During the chilly months of winter, many of the creatures we’re used to seeing around us make themselves scarce. Small mammals hunker down in nests and burrows, and insects, amphibians, and aquatic life hide out in different ways, patiently waiting for the climate to warm up. In a seemingly barren landscape, some of the best winter wildlife watching opportunities can happen right in your own backyard! Feathered friends of all shapes and sizes flock to feeders during the winter months more than ever, and they’re easier to spot this time of year thanks to trees’ leaf-less limbs. Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen Scientists Wanted to Map the Stars

Loss of the Night Citizen Science Project Maps the Night Sky and Levels of Sky Glow

What do you see when you look into the night sky above your home? Turn informal observations of celestial bodies into citizen science with Loss of the Night! Created by German researchers, Loss of the Night is designed to collect information about the amount of sky glow (also known as light pollution) present in populated areas all over the globe. An additional goal of the project is to help users learn more about the stars that they see above them and the seasonal changes that take place in the sky.

A byproduct of densely populated areas, sky glow occurs is the obstruction of night sky views by an excess of light produced on land (by and for humans). Not only does sky glow negatively affect studies of the night sky, but researchers suspect that it may also influence species of plants and animals whose cyclical growth and change rely on their relationship to seasonal changes and, therefore, the moon and stars.

To participate and learn, families must download the Loss of the Night app for your smartphones. The program determines the phone’s GPS location and uses the information to generate information about the stars and planets visible above that part of the earth. Read the rest of this entry »

111 Years of Counting

Citizen Science: Audubon Christmas Bird Count

The Christmas Bird Count becomes more important every year;” said Audubon President David Yarnold. “The information gathered by its army of dedicated volunteers leads directly to solutions. At a time when people wonder if individual actions can make a difference, we know that our volunteers enable scientists to learn about the impacts of environmental threats like climate change and habitat loss. That’s good news not just for birds but for all of us.” (Photo credit: Jerry Acton)

From December 14th, 2010 through January 5th, 2011,  family volunteers throughout New England will bundle up and head out into the cold to participate as citizen scientists as part of the Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count (CBC).

111 years ago, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count began when Frank Chapman, founder of the Audubon magazine, suggested an alternative to hunting birds and proposed that people “hunt” them only to count them. Now armed with binoculars, pad and pen, tens of thousands of volunteers head outside to count and record the winter resident population of birds in their region. This data helps with conservation efforts.

Mary Alice Wilson, organizer of the Northampton CBC writes, “Collecting data about birds is a year-round project. In the summer, there are breeding bird surveys and breeding bird atlases. In the spring and fall there are hawk watches, and places to observe (and count) all kinds of migrating birds. In the winter, there is the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Groups gather all over the country to spend one day counting all the birds in a circle 15 miles in diameter. The data is used by researchers to determine population concentrations and trends.”

According to Audubon, counts are often family or community traditions that make for fascinating stories. Accuracy is assured by having new participants join an established group that includes at least one experienced birdwatcher. These field parties allow inexperienced observers to observe along with seasoned CBC participants. Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile diameter circle or can arrange in advance to count the birds at home feeders inside the circle and submit the results to a designated compiler.

George C. Kingston, organizer of two Western Mass counts writes, “The Springfield Area Christmas Bird Count will be held on Saturday, December 18th, 2010. The count covers the area from Ludlow to the Connecticut line and Agawam to Hampden. If you are interested in joining a team in the field or in counting birds at your feeders, contact me at 413-525-6742 or by Dec 15. Potluck dinner and compilation for participants at 6:30 pm.

“The Cobble Mountain Christmas Bird Count will be held on Sunday, December 26th, 2010. The count covers the Westfield area. If you are interested in joining a team in the field or in counting birds at your feeders, contact Seth Kellogg at 413-569-3335 or by Dec 22. Pizza and compilation for participants at 4:30.”

Wilson writes, “To find out more about the Northampton Christmas Count, scheduled for Sunday, December 19th, 2010, go to, click on Christmas Count at the bottom on the page, and look through the various documents including the map of the territory.”

Studying birds together can be a fun family hobby. Grab the kids and discover the songs of many New England birds with these audio samples:

To find out more, visit the Audubon Christmas Bird Count web page.

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count During February Break

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count
February 12-15, 2010

Heading south for some sand and surf during the February school break? Bring along a tally sheet and count the sea gulls, sand pipers and pelicans at a nearby beach or wildlife refuge. Click on the image above for a printable tally sheet. Use your postal code, town or name of National Park to generate a custom tally sheet. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Bird watchers coast to coast are invited to take part in the 13th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, Friday, February 12, through Monday, February 15, 2010.  Participants in the free event will join tens of thousands of volunteers counting birds in their own backyards, local parks or wildlife refuges.

Each checklist submitted by these “citizen scientists” helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology,the National Audubon Society , and Bird Studies Canada learn more about how the birds are doing—and how to protect them. Last year, participants turned in more than 93,600 checklists online, creating the continent’s largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded.

Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from novice bird watchers to experts. Participants count birds for as little as 15 minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the event and report their sightings online at One 2009 participant said, “Thank you for the opportunity to participate in citizen science. I have had my eyes opened to a whole new interest and I love it!”

On the website, participants can explore real-time maps and charts that show what others are reporting during the count. The site has tips to help identify birds and special materials for educators. Participants may also enter the GBBC photo contest by uploading images taken during the count. Many images will be featured in the GBBC website’s photo gallery. All participants are entered in a drawing for prizes that include bird feeders, binoculars, books, CDs, and many other great birding products.

Participants submit thousands of digital images for the GBBC photo contest each year. Participants are also invited to upload their bird videos to YouTube tagged “GBBC.” – Businesses, schools, nature clubs, Scout troops, and other community organizations interested in the GBBC can contact the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at (800) 843-2473 (outside the U.S., call (607) 254-2473), or Audubon at or (215) 355-9588, Ext 16.

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