Elms College Bioblitz Encourages Citizen Scientists

Biodiversity in Your Neighborhood

Elms College is throwing a Bioblitz on Saturday, April 30, 9am-3pm at Chicopee Memorial State Park. Teachers, students, parents and friends of all ages are invited to team up with scientists to identify as many of the park’s living creatures as possible in a single day. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet people working in scientific fields and ask them questions about science in general or about their careers specifically. Participation can get community members interested in the biodiversity of their local lands, and as a result make them more invested in conservation efforts. Documenting of local species can give scientists clues for further research. You never know what you’re going to find until you look! Please register online at the Elms College website. 570 Burnett Road, Chicopee, MA. (FREE)

In the past twenty years, childhood in the United States has moved indoors. The average American child spends about thirty minutes of their day in unstructured, outdoor play, and more than seven hours in front of a screen (see this report for more information). Most people intuitively understand the connection between time spent in nature and positive well-being. Fresh air and exercise keep our bodies in shape and our minds focused. But did you know that time spent outdoors in childhood also is correlated with better distance vision? If you and your child pair your time spent outdoors with species identification, this may sharpen your visual skills even further as you try to spot birds, plants, insects, and mammals which may be small, or may dart away at the sight of you. This kind of activity also teaches patience and focus.

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Citizen Scientist Wanted for National Moth Week

Explore Night Time Nature
During National Moth Week
July 18-26, 2015

Did you know that there are over 11,000 moth species in the United States alone?  More than just an evening version of butterflies, moths provide necessary biodiversity to ecosystems all over the world!

National Moth Week will take place this year from July 18-26, and provides an opportunity for families to learn about and help to document the many different moths found in their surroundings!  There are Moth Week events planned nationwide, but the most exciting part of the celebration is the opportunity to help contribute to scientific research on moth species and populations.

Moth Week supports numerous organizations in their research efforts, and families are encouraged to contribute accurate data of any type that they collect.  By searching for moths, families can learn about the many different species who live in the environment surrounding them, as well as the role that the moths play within the local ecosystem.  For more information on how to submit data and ways to search for and identify moths, visit nationalmothweek.org.

The Lepidopterists’ Society can provide K-12 students, teachers and parents resources on butterflies and moth awareness either in the classroom to enhance your educational curriculum, or for your own personal interest and enjoyment.  Check out their projects at www.lepsoc.org.

Watershed Blitz: Support the Conservation Efforts of the Westfield River

Nature Hike Offers Community Based Crash Course on Environmental Science

It’s easy to see how the turkey tail mushroom got its name. These are just a sample of the biodiversity you’ll discover in the Westfield River watershed during the Westfield River Committee’s Watershed Blitz on Sept 27!

What do green frogs, turkey tail mushrooms, and poison ivy all have in common? They’re all things that can be found in and around the Westfield River – and they’re all things that volunteers will likely encounter at the Westfield River Committee’s Watershed Blitz! Held on Saturday, September 27, 2014,  from 9am-2:30pm, the event is being held in order to honor the 20 years of conservation that the committee has accomplished. More importantly, however, the event will gather important information about the Westfield River watershed’s biodiversity general health.

Participation in the event doesn’t necessarily require extensive knowledge of local plant and animal species, but it does require certain physical abilities. Volunteers should be prepared to hike 1.5 to 2 miles of the river corridor – territory that is challenging, but can make for a great adventure. Alongside nature-loving volunteers will be experts on all kinds of biology and environmental science topics – everything from salamanders to culverts! Armed with the knowledge of experts and some good field guides, participants will be able to help discover and identify all sorts of species to whom the Westfield’s banks are a happy home. 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 relies on their relationship to seasonal changes and, therefore, the moon and stars.

In order to participate and learn, families must download the free Loss of the Night app for Android smart phones. 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 »

Engage in Your Community as a Citizen Scientists During the Great Backyard Bird Count

Great Backyard Bird Count
February 14th-17th, 2014

During the winter, birds are perhaps the most easily spotted of all the wildlife roaming the snowy landscape. Our fine feathered friends flock to feeders, leave tracks in fresh snow, and flit around in the trees and bushes of backyards everywhere. Interested in learning more about the birds that share your surroundings? Participate in this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count!

An annual event since 1998, the Great Backyard Bird Count brings together over 100,000 citizen scientists (and real scientists) from all over the globe to collect data on over a third of the world’s bird species. Held this year from February 14th-17th, 2014, the bird count requires participants to watch for birds and track the species and number of each species that they see.

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Citizen Scientist Opportunity: IceWatch

IceWatch: Citizen Scientist Project Exams Ecosystems via Ice

In addition to the sophisticated data that climatologists collect, some of the most valuable information helping to inform studies of climate change can be collected by citizen scientists! By helping scientists to identify changes in the beginning and ending of the coldest part of the winter, citizen scientists can become a part of studies of the climate changes taking place in regions all over the country.

This winter, families can contribute to climate studies by participating in IceWatch, a citizen science initiative that works to collect information about the ice-in and ice-out times of various bodies of water across the continent. By regularly observing a lake, pond, river, or bay, families can help to inform scientists about the length of the cold season which, when compared to data from past years, can help to determine the amount by which climate change has progressed regionally.

In order to participate, families of citizen scientists must first identify a local body of water to observe. The best places to observe are areas that are largely unaffected by human interference, such as dams, industrial outlets, or agricultural operations (such as large-scale livestock watering or fish farming). Here in western Massachusetts, many rivers and streams are dammed, but not all are actively being used for hydropower – meaning that they may still be suitable for observation. A little bit of research into the role of a dam up or downstream from your desired observation point can help to determine whether or not the body of water is affected by human interference while gaining a better sense of your local surroundings… Read the rest of this entry »

The Ripple: Engaging as Citizen Scientists Along the River

Hilltown Families Citizen Scientists
4th Annual Assessment of the Westfield River

A few days ago a friend of mine, the talented Northfield potter Tom White, posted a Facebook picture of himself holding a wild King Salmon he caught in Pulaski, NY, on the Salmon River near Lake Erie.

That’s what 30 pounds of pure aquatic vitality looks like—and once upon a time our CT, Westfield and Deerfield rivers were teeming with their cousins, the Atlantic Salmon, that were declared extinct last year by the National Fish and Wildlife Service.

This past Friday, Hilltown Families Founder, Sienna Wildfield, and an energetic group of Hilltown Families citizen scientists and I conducted our fourth annual rapid biotic assessment of the Westfield River in West Chesterfield, and we marveled at how alive this beautiful watercourse is! Consistent with the two assessments we’ve done since hurricane Irene, we found that the populations of crab-like bugs has shrunken while the worm-types have increased (Compare assessments: 2011 & 2013).

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Though we would like to find a wide variety of river bugs, because biodiversity is a sure sign of ecological health, we did catch five types of the “most wanted” cold-water oxygen-loving bugs. They signaled that the Westfield River continues to enjoy “exceptional water quality,” the highest of EPA rankings. YAY!

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Citizen Scientists in Action in the Hilltowns

Hilltown Families Participates in Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch Citizen Scientists Program

Cick to hear their song.

Red-eyed Vireo’s were caught in our mist nests on Sunday morning in West Chesterfield, MA. (Photo credit: Sara Berk)

Every Autumn since 2010, Hilltown Families has participated in a yearly Citizen Scientist project with Biocitizen where families come together to conduct a Rapid Biotic Assessment of the Westfield River. This collection of data involves capturing and cataloging the bugs—benthic invertebrates —that live on the riverbed.  Certain bugs like stonefly-nymphs need lots of oxygen to survive, and when you find a bunch of them, it’s a sign that the river water is fresh and clean and that aquatic habitat is unimpaired.  If you find less, the data collected over a period of years will tell a different story.  In the end, contributions by citizen scientists help scientists in the collection of important data and in the preservation of our local watershed.

New this summer, Hilltown Families committed to another yearly Citizen Scientist project, Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch.  Recently expanding from the Washington, D.C. area to the Pioneer Valley, participating youth and families learn about bird populations while helping scientists from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center answer critical questions regarding the survival of backyard bird populations.

Early this past Sunday morning, Sara Berk from Neighborhood Nestwatch, a recent graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, joined us near the banks of the Westfield River in West Chesterfield to erect three mist nests to catch and record eight Nestwatch focal species.  Out of the eight Nestwatch focal species we were able to catch and band three different species, including a female Song Sparrow, a juvenile Carolina Chickadee and a beautiful (albeit, angry) male Northern Cardinal:

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[Photo credits: Sienna Wildfield]

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Neighborhood Nestwatch Citizen Scientist Opportunity for Families in the Pioneer Valley

Citizen Scientists Wanted to Monitor Backyard Birds:
Neighborhood Nestwatch Citizen Scientist Opportunity for Families in the Pioneer Valley

Ever wonder if the robins nesting in your backyard are the same birds that nested there last year? If they were color banded then you would know. Amazingly, many birds nest in the same place year after year. By joining the Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch Citizen Science project, you can help scientists answer important questions about the birds in your own backyard.

The Smithsonian Institution partnered with the US Forest Service in 2012 to expand their Washington DC based Neighborhood Nestwatch project to the Springfield, MA area.

Susannah Lerman from the Dept. of Environmental Conservation at UMass writes, “We are recruiting participants for the 2013 season. Participation includes a mentored experience in which scientists visit your backyard once every summer to band birds and help you find nests. We will teach you how to keep track of “your” banded birds, collect nesting data and monitor year-to-year survival for scientific study.

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10 Featured Citizen Scientist Projects for Families

Citizen Scientists are Studying All Over the World

From ladybugs to sunflowers to birds to babies… there are a number of ways average families can participate as citizen scientists and time of year!

You’ve got to love technology! Never before in the history of time have people from all over the world been so easily able to learn about and participate in true science.

Citizen Scientist projects are research based investigations that involve regular people in actual research experiments. By engaging the general public, professional scientists are able to amass a huge amount of data. The observers and data collectors get to learn more about the scientific process and whatever the scientists are studying.

Often in this column I focus on events that are coming up in Western MA; however, the thought of having a list with all of my favorite citizen science projects in one place proved irresistible.

So, here is a sample list of family friendly, year round, citizen science projects that involve the natural world, and sound intriguing:

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The Ripple: The Magic of Spring Peepers. The Science of Vernal Pools

How do spring peepers know when to start singing?

Vernal pools contain creatures (amphibians and bugs) that can only breed where there are no hungry fish. Citizen scientists are needed to find and report vernal pools in the Hilltowns. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

How do spring peepers know when to start singing?

They don’t have weather reports, or the ability to see the buds forming on trees, the snow melting, or teens walking around in shorts and T’s when it’s 40 degrees and climbing.

Certainly, there are scientific reasons that explain how peepers know when to announce the return of the sun and the warmth; but there’s a simpler reason that is worth considering and appreciating. The peepers feel the right moment to sing.

Peepers are a special family of frogs, and frogs have a unique physiology—a evapotranspirative skin that makes them especially sensitive to the slightest changes in temperature, humidity, chemistry and other things we don’t have words for including that feeling that we also get when spring arrives. There is, for example, a new kind of sunlight that appears out of the grey, slush and slog of the late winter months that Emily Dickinson noticed, and maybe you and the peepers notice too.

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Citizen Scientists Wanted to Monitor Plants as the Seasons Change

Project BudBurst
Citizen Scientist Opportunity for Families & Students

For younger children, BudBurst Buddies is a companion to Project BudBurst that encourages young learners to follow the seasons by making simple botanical observations. Check it out at www.budburstbuddies.org – (Photo credit: Dennis Ward)

Students can learn so much by following the seasonal patterns of plants found here in New England. Each plant’s cycle is different, and varies depending on factors like location and weather patterns.  Tracking a plant through its seasonal changes can help us to better understand the subtle changes that take place in our environment, and says a lot about where we live.

This spring, families can track these plant cycles by volunteering as Citizen Scientists for Project BudBurst, a national project that tracks buds, blooms, and leaves as the seasons change.  The project is used to generate useful ecological data that can be used in studies of the environment and to track annual changes of seasons and climate.  The project is open to families and educators living in any of the 50 states, and participation can be a one time project or a year-long educational expedition.

Working together to gather information to submit to Project BudBurst is a great way for youth to develop useful nature-related skills and to gain knowledge and experience in plant identification, while volunteering as citizen scientists.  Students will need to learn the anatomy of plants in order to check for specific growth patterns, and they will gain practice using field guides while working to identify the plants that they find.  They will also begin to understand the biodiversity present in the area, and will examine the relationship that changes in the sky bring to their environment.  Recording data will help with development of basic data analysis, and presenting data in a useful format is excellent practice for nonfiction writing.  Students of all ages can learn by participating in Project BudBurst, and it could be used by homeschoolers, K-12 classrooms, and higher education.

For more information on the project or to sign up to contribute, visit http://budburst.org/getstarted.php.

Citizen Scientists Wanted for Annual Christmas Bird Count

Christmas Bird Count: An Annual Citizen Scientist
24 Hour Hunt for Bird Species

This beautiful Cedar Waxwing is a year-round resident and a commonly seen during the Christmas Bird Count. (Photo credit: Leslie Reed-Evans)

Leslie Reed-Evans writes:

Imagine standing at the edge of a frosty field on a chill December morning.  Out of the corner of your eye you see an electric flash of blue- a male Eastern Bluebird flying to a wild rose bush to munch on its fruit1 – This is a scene played out all over New England, and indeed the country, as bird enthusiasts get out to find, identify and count as many individual birds and species as possible as members of the annual Christmas Bird Count.

According to the National Audubon, prior to the turn of the century people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt.” They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won. Conservation was in its beginning stages around the turn of the 20th century, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition -a “Christmas Bird Census”-that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt them. One hundred and thirteen years later, hundreds of citizen scientists head for the woodlands, fields, ponds and rivers to compete with fellow participants and find the most number of birds, building on the tradition started so long ago.  Everyone is looking for the most exciting and unusual species, but every bird sighted is a special one.

Counts may take place anytime between December 14 and January 5, and each count area is a circle extending from a center point with a 15-mile diameter, taking in as many habitats as possible.  The count period is 24 hours.  The north Berkshire count averages  between 45 and 55 species, depending on the weather of the day, and the weather leading up to the count day.  This year there have been many reports of winter finches, such as Pine Grosbeaks and crossbills, which in some years come from the north when cones or other food is in short supply.

Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind, or rain to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations – and to help guide conservation action.  Everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird Count does it for love of birds and the excitement of friendly competition — and with the knowledge that their efforts are making a difference for science and bird conservation.

If you are interested in finding a Christmas Bird Count to take part in, visit birds.audubon.org (or contact the organizers below).

You will be participating in a tradition that you just might adopt as your own!

Western MA Area Christmas Bird Count Dates & Organizers:

  • Springfield Area Christmas Count: Saturday, December 15th, 2012. Contact: George Kingston. 413-525-6742. gcking@yahoo.com
  • North Berkshire Christmas Bird Count: Saturday, December 15th, 2012. Contact: Leslie Reed-Evans. 413-458-5150. lre@wrlf.org.
  • Central Berkshire Christmas Bird Count: Saturday, December 15th, 2012. Contact: Tom Collins. tcbirder@nycap.rr.com.
  • Westfield Area Christmas Count: Saturday, December 22nd, 2012. Contact: Seth Kellogg. 413-569-3335. skhawk@comcast.net.
  • South Berkshire Christmas Bird Count: Tuesday, January 1st, 2013. Contact: Rene Laubach. rlaubach@massaudubon.org.

The Ripple: Families Work as Citizen Scientists for the Westfield River

Families Learn about the Relationship Between
Benthic Invertebrates and River Ecology
with Hilltown Families & Biocitizen

Halloween’s upon us and the leaves are almost down—and for river lovers that means it’s time to do Rapid Biotic Assessments (RBA), which involves capturing and cataloging the bugs—benthic invertebrates —that live on the riverbed. Certain bugs like stonefly-nymphs need lots of oxygen to survive, and when you find a bunch of them, it’s a sign that the river water is fresh and clean and that aquatic habitat is unimpaired. Given that in the last two years we’ve endured the yin and yang of weather extremes—hurricane last year, drought this year—we’ve been especially concerned that our river bugs are reeling from the stress.

A few days ago, on a lucky afternoon when the clouds parted and the sun warmed our shoulders, Hilltown Families conducted its yearly RBA in West Chesterfield. We forged into the bracing current of the East Branch of the Westfield River and at 3 sites where the water churned white we reached down into the numbing cold and scrubbed bugs off rocks and the riverbed; dislodged, they floated into our EPA approved net. On shore, we emptied the nets into basins and “oohed” and “ahhed” at the first signs of buggy abundance. I could see after our 1st sampling that the river was healthy; the drought had not decimated the bugs.

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How to Plan a Bioblitz

Organize a Bioblitz in Your Community!

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.

Are your kids curious about all of the many different plants and animals that they find while exploring outside?  Have you ever been curious about the amount of biodiversity in your community?  Would your students benefit from a hands-on species identification project?  Do a bioblitz!

A bioblitz is a community event designed to quickly compile information on biodiversity in a relatively small area.  Community members of all ages participate in the events alongside trained naturalists and scientists to find and identify as many species of plants and animals as possible in, generally, a period of 24 hours.  A shorter bioblitz (one the length of a school day or even just an afternoon) can be organized, though – if a smaller area of land is explored, a classroom of students or even just a few families together can work their way through the identification process.

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!

[Photo credit: (ccl) Katja Schulz]

The Ripple: Finding the Heart of the Watershed

Thinking Like A Watershed

Have you ever thrilled at a sunset—tried to take pictures of it so you could later return to the expansive glowing feeling-thoughts that came with it? Your identity magnified, your experience of life  intensified, a part of a larger magnificence… The fractal-ness of that experience of being a tiny shiny diamond in a vast galaxy of larger shiny diamonds, or of being a raindrop that becomes the ocean the moment it touches it, is also evident when we think like a watershed.

One of the funnier thoughts I’ve heard goes like this: “I want to be one with nature.” You might have heard of this thought, or a variation of it, too. The reason I find it funny is that it’s actually impossible not to be “one with nature,” if being “one” means directly, physically and existentially connected to the vital sources of being.

If, by any chance, you are worried you aren’t one with nature, here’s a simple way to find out: don’t take another breath. If you can do that, then perhaps you aren’t one with nature (or, you’re dead, and the issue is no longer of consequence). If, on the other hand, you hold your breath & feel that growing discomfort that finally consumes all other thoughts, and gasp and open your mouth and vacuum the atmosphere deep into your lungs, then you have empirical proof that you are air. For, without it, you are not you.

If you and I and our friends and family are air, then why does this fact—”Hi! I am an amalgam of air named Kurt”—seem so weird? Why isn’t the airy-ness of every moment as much a part of our surface consciousness as our cellphone # is? The answer: we take for granted, and then forget, that we are air because there are so many other things we are forced, or want, to think about. It’s these other business/family/social/daydream thoughts that remove our attention from what actually is (i.e., that we are always “one with nature”). We (over)emphasize these kinds of thoughts and they become the construction materials we hammer together to create that cell phone #-side of ourselves, that gets all the attention. Our airy side gets forgotten.This funny thought of wanting to be “one with nature” is caused by a way of thinking that presumes we are not already natural. My job (here at The Ripple) is to help you, and your family, emphasize the ways that you are perfectly “one with nature.” And one of my favorite ways to do this is to stimulate our imaginations by thinking like a watershed.

Before I do that, though, allow me to suggest a great read for Fall: The Sand County Almanac. It is one of the foundational statements of ecological philosophy, and it is written in a folksy, grandpa-ish style that camoflages its profoundly passionate explanations of how we are “one with nature.” There is a chapter in it entitled, Thinking Like a Mountain that changed, and continues to change, my life for the better. What is so wonderful about the chapter is that it explains that humans are gifted with an ability to think non-human thoughts; for example, through observation and deduction, we can think like the sky—which is another way of saying that we can forecast the weather. What is even more amazing is that thinking like the sky has a practical value (ask any farmer, sailor or pilot) but it also has other values, including aesthetic. Have you ever thrilled at a sunset—tried to take pictures of it so you could later return to the expansive glowing feeling-thoughts that came with it? What happened was your identity was magnified, your experience of life was intensified in a wonderful and glorious way not just by the image you beheld, but also by the fact that you—by witnessing and thinking it—real-ized you are part of a larger magnificence.

The fractal-ness of the experience of glorying in a gorgeous sunset, that feeling of being a tiny shiny diamond in a vast galaxy of larger shiny diamonds, or of being a raindrop that becomes the ocean the moment it touches it, is also evident when we think like a watershed (A fractal is form like a circle that retains its identity whether it is perceived on micro- or macro- scopic level.).

A watershed is a geological form that looks like, and is often called, a basin, the rim of which is defined by ridge tops. All rain that falls within the basin is pulled by gravity to the lowest altitudes, where it coalesces to form streams and rivers. Many Hilltown Families readers live in or near the Connecticut River watershed, which is one of the largest in the eastern USA.

As you can see from the map on the Connecticut River Watershed Council website, the CT River watershed is an amalgam of many smaller watersheds. Here is an example of the fractal-ness of nature—of the tiny worlds within bigger worlds within even bigger worlds reality that makes nature so fascinating and resilient. The Westfield River watershed is comprised of (at least) three smaller watersheds, all nested within the whole; and this whole is one of many smaller watersheds that make up the CT River watershed.

Notice, too, that the watershed form resembles a leaf. The streams are leaf veins, and they lead to the midrib which is a brook. The midrib leads to tree branch, in the same way a brook leads to a river; and a river, like the Westfield, leads to a larger river, like the CT, the way a branch leads to a tree trunk. From there, it flows back to the ocean from whence it came; like the trunk that returns to the roots and the earth, from whence it emerged. Aren’t fractals fun?  Read the rest of this entry »

Berkshire Bioblitz Invites Families to Participate as Citizen Scientists

Berkshire Bioblitz
Burbank Park in Pittsfield
Sept 22-23, 2012

Families are invited to be citizen scientists in the Berkshires, Sept 22nd & 23rd at the Berkshire Bioblitz! From their participation in the bioblitz, kids will learn to identify plant and animal species that they see often, and learn about the role that each species plays within the local ecosystem. Great for budding naturalists! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

When learning about biodiversity, students are often shown far away landscapes – such as jungles and deserts – as examples of places with unique sets of plants, animals, and interesting terrain.  The fields, forests, lakes, and streams of Western Massachusetts, however, are bursting with a wide variety of trees, grasses, flowers, insects, birds, fish, and mammals of all sizes!

The annual Berkshire Bioblitz, a community event centered around discovering and identifying the numerous species present locally, will take place in Pittsfield’s Burbank Park on September 22nd and 23rd.  The event includes workshops and nature walks, along with a group effort to scour the park to find and identify as many different species as possible.  At last year’s blitz, over 450 different species of lichens, fungi, mammals, mosses, plants, insects and more were found (including two species of bees never before formally identified in Massachusetts!).

Participating in the bioblitz is a way for families to engage with their surroundings as citizen scientists, and to learn to identify the many different species found locally (perhaps even in your backyard!).  There will be trained biologists and naturalists on hand at the event to help participants identify what they have found, and families can also utilize field guides to pair their findings with photos, drawings, and descriptions (great practice for kids learning to use research materials).  For more information, visit www.berkshirebioblitz.org.

The Ripple: Adopt Your Local Stream or River

Adopt Your Local Stream or River

If you and your family love streams and rivers, and would like to develop a deep and meaningful relationship with them, this is what I invite you to do: Adopt your local stream or river; make a commitment to care for and watch over it like a parent cares for a child.

Rivers and streams are beautiful. That’s why we are drawn to them, deeply and elementally. The first colonists in Western Massachusetts hugged close to the rivers because of the abundance of life that issued from and through them, and our (or at least my) favorite town of all—Northampton—still retains much of the vibrancy of its original biocultural character: an idealistic, community-oriented and caring character generated by the serendipitous confluence of river, fertile alluvial fields and small but striking volcanic mountains. Take away the river, and there would be no “Paradise City.”

Rivers and streams are creative. They speak to us of permanence amidst ceaseless change, and when we feel drained of energy and crazed by the myriad burdens of these crazy days, a trip to the river can ease our bodies, minds and souls. “In the woods is perpetual youth,” said the sage of Concord, and there are few other places adults can go in this world, and in our woods, to reflect upon existence and to return to the simplicities and sufficiencies that delight the child, both real (as in our kids) and metaphorical (as in that sacred part of us that never gets jaded).

Rivers and streams, our rivers and streams of the Connecticut and Westfield watersheds, are alive—and once you are initiated into the ways of perceiving that life (also known as biome), you pass through the portals of knowing them as “scenic” and begin to develop a relationship with them as intimate and fulfilling as that of a child to a parent. For they are actually the circulatory system of an otherwise listless geology; (ask any desert, and you’ll find they agree). Mid to late summer is the perfect time, for example, to see and touch the wild flowering plants such as Cardinal Flower and Joe Pye Weed our rivers “express.” Go—find some! Compare them, their supple composure and light presence, to the rowdy new “invasives” called Japanese Knot Weed and Purple Loosestrife that spread like the common cold and cram together along the banks, choking off all other knee-high plant life. What we see in the spread of invasives is the changing of our riparian landscapes from ancient reciprocal patterns of native plants and the creatures that depend upon them to a new and flashy pattern of chaos that starves and exiles our native creatures. Wherever Loosestrife takes over, Cardinal Flowers disappear—and that’s why Mass DEP recommends eradicating invasives wherever you find them .

Rivers and streams need us to love them, and it is actually possible to do this, out of gratitude (for the life, health and beauty they generously share) and out of concern (that their integrity is disrupted by our present way of living).

If you and your family love streams and rivers, and would like to develop a deep and meaningful relationship with them, this is what I invite you to do. Adopt your local stream or river; make a commitment to care for and watch over it like a parent cares for a child. To care for it, you have to know it, and to know it you have to look deeply into it and understand how it works—where comes from, where it goes, what it’s connect to, whose water supply is derived from it, what kinds of specific creatures depend upon its living waters.

One of the best ways to perceive, and care for, the life of our rivers is to participate in the annual “citizen scientist” activity of Rapid Biotic Assessment (RBA). A RBA is done in the early Fall, takes about 2 or 3 hours to do, and involves collecting the bugs (called benthic invertebrates) that live in the stream bed. The health of the river can be understood by the amount, and type, of bugs that you collect. A RBA is an annual health check up, actually, and when done year after year, you can find out if your river is getting healthier or sicker.

Biocitizen, the non-profit school I work for, has been setting up an RBA program that “cares for” the rivers and streams in the Hilltown Families region; in fact, Hilltown Families has been conducting RBAs of the Westfield River in West Chesterfield for the past 2 years with us. I invite you to contact me at info@biocitizen.org if you would like to participate in our initiative, either by joining in an established RBA, or developing a program for your local stream or river. You can also log onto biocitizen.org, where I’ll be posting RBA events in coming weeks.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kurt Heidinger, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Biocitizen, non-profit school of field environmental philosophy, based in the Western MA Hilltown of Westhampton, MA where he lives with his family.  Biocitizen gives participants an opportunity to “think outside” and cultivate a joyous and empowering biocultural awareness of where we live and who we are. Check out Kurt’s monthly column, The Ripple, here on Hilltown Families on the 4th Monday of every month to hear his stories about rivers in our region. Make the world of rivers bigger than the world of pavement inside of you!

[Photo credit: (ccl) Steve Guttman]

The Ripple: A Call for Biotic Citizens!

What Are We Going to Do Now

I invite readers to join us at the beginning of Fall, as we help people become stewards of their local stream and river as biotic citizens. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Aldo Leopold was one of the shining lights of our long-awakening ecological movement; and he said that one of the drawbacks of seeing the world from the ecological perspective is that, at the same time you see the incredible beauty of the kinship of all living creatures, you also see the damage being done to our great shared life. He implored educational leaders to not only teach ecology, but to act on that bittersweet feeling of loss by getting involved in the “real world” of political activism to change the course of our collective destiny from that of the “conqueror of nature” to that of the “biotic citizen.” For this reason, he—a professor at the U. of Wisconsin—started the Wilderness Society.

I have always believed that, given the grim news coming from other parts of the world, our Happy Valley and Hilltowns were doing better ecologically than those parts. There are so many farmers concerned about soil and plant health, thought I, and so many nature lovers watching out for their favorite species and landscapes, and so many smart people acting rationally about energy and consumption issues hereabouts that we don’t need to worry about most of the grim things that are occurring elsewhere. It was a shock, therefore, to learn that our air quality gets a grade of “F” from the American Lung Association.  We aren’t making most of that air pollution; we inherit the wind from the cities and states out West. We are connected to everything else; that’s what ecology tells us; that’s how the world works.

If you’ve been following the news about what is happening to the Atlantic Salmon, you know the news isn’t good. Despite the best technology the state and federal government could muster, the salmon are not coming back again. Technology did not provide the solution. So what will—what can—prevent further extinctions of fish species in our rivers?

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Citizen Scientist Wanted: Cloud Watch for NASA

Cloud Rover Observers Wanted
As Citizen Scientists

Tracking clouds is an excellent way for kids to learn about meteorology!  Watch the skies from home and anywhere else you adventure, and compare changes in conditions based on your location!  (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

What shapes do you see in the clouds?  There may be rabbits, eggs, vines, airplanes, and shoes… and no matter what you see in the sky, NASA wants to hear about it!  The organization’s S’COOL program uses data provided by Citizen Scientists, as well as official weather reports, to track cloud cover across the country.

By collecting data on the type of clouds, the height they are at, the thickness of the cover, and related weather conditions, NASA is able to work to create a more comprehensive understanding of the earth as a system.

Scientists use submitted data to track patterns in weather and atmospheric conditions, which then contributes to their understanding of the atmosphere as a whole.

Kids can contribute their observations on the project’s website,  scool.larc.nasa.gov/rover.html. Participants, called Rover Observers, can set up a schedule of times to submit comments or send information periodically as it is gathered – students can use the site as a tool to help them track weather patterns in their community over a long period of time, or just spend a few days monitoring clouds and share what they noticed.

Before heading out, show your kids/students this video from NASA to learn how clouds are formed.  In this video, watch an experiment to make a cloud using liquid nitrogen, and find out how scientists classify clouds according to their altitude and how clouds reflect and absorb light, giving them different colors:

 

Citizen Scientists Wanted for Franklin County BioBlitz

Families as Citizen Scientists this Saturday
BioBlitz at Northfield Town Forest

Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust is joining with the Town of Northfield to host a BioBlitz on Saturday, June 9th, at the Northfield Town Forest. Volunteers are invited to come down and join the BioBlitz—an event in which people gather to survey a property and compile an extensive list of species, both plants and animals, present in the area.

Help to identify plant and animal species and to provide a foundation for future stewardship at the Northfield Town Forest.  The Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust and the town of Northfield are hosting a BioBlitz on this Saturday, June 9th at the forest.  A BioBlitz is an event where community members volunteer  as citizen scientists (alongside experts in wildlife biology, forestry, etc.) to survey an area and compile an extensive list of the plant and animal species present there. Not new to Western MA, Berkshire County and Hampden County have played host to a BioBlitz in year’s past, and now Franklin County will have one happening in Northfield.

Northfield’s BioBlitz will feature two “shifts,” one during the morning and one in the afternoon.  The first part of the event is a bird walk, which takes place from 7:30-9:30am, while the second takes place from 1-5pm and will focus on identification of plants, fungi, and small (and maybe large!) non-avian creatures.

Citizen scientists of all ages and levels of experience are welcome – there will be plenty of people and resources available to help out with proper identification of specimens.  There will also be a craft table for kids, where they can create illustrations of the species they found and help to design a logo for the forest.

Participating in the BioBlitz is a great supplement to studies of local ecology, habitats, and ecosystems, and can provide students of all ages with a new perspective on their local environment and help them to develop awareness of the many different organisms that live and grow nearby.  For more information, visit www.mountgrace.org.

Directions to the Northfield Town Forest: From the Northfield Town Hall, head south on 63, turn east (left) onto Maple St. Continue onto Gulf Rd for about 2.2 miles. The event headquarters will be at the parking area for the Brush Mountain Conservation Area.

3 Apps Aid Citizen Scientists & Nature Enthusiasts

3 Apps to Explore & Engage with Your Environment

While adventuring outdoors to enjoy local landscapes this summer, families can integrate their mobile devices into their trek to create environmental learning opportunities! Three applications – CreekWatch, Leafsnap, and the WildLab – are all designed to teach users about their environment and to help monitor and conserve natural resources.  All three applications provide ways for families to integrate technology into their outdoor adventures in a way that promotes learning and engagement with nature, rather than detracting from the experience. Try one (or all!) of them on your next outing.

WATERSHEDS

CreekWatch allows families to monitor the health of their local watershed by using pictures of streams and creeks (taken by users and submitted via the app) to determine water level and amount of pollution and debris present in the water.

ARBORICULTURE

Leafsnap, called an “electronic field guide,” compares pictures of tree leaves using photorecognition software, and helps users identify trees  – allowing them to learn about the biodiversity present around them while sharing information with a public database, helping to aid scientists.

ORNITHOLOGY

For bird identification, check out the WildLab – it uses GPS-tagged photos taken by users to monitor bird populations, and the user learns what bird(s) they’ve seen using information provided in the app.

Citizen Scientists Wanted for Vernal Pool Habitat

Western MA Youth  Can Help
Deerfield River Watershed Association Protect
Vernal Pools as Citizen Scientists

During springtime, our surroundings burst with new life!  One of the most interesting and least known about natural environments is the vernal pool- pools develop in the early spring while snow melts and the ground becomes softer, and pools of water gather becoming home to a laying ground for frogs and salamanders.

BECOME A CITIZEN SCIENTIST

Vernal pool habitats are often accidentally destroyed or disturbed due to lack of knowledge about their existence.  This spring, older students have the opportunity to be citizen scientists and help report data about vernal pools in their neighborhoods!  Kids ages 10 and up are invited to monitor populations of vernal pool-breeding amphibians.

The project is coordinated by the Deerfield River Watershed Association, and requires that kids take part in two training sessions prior to assessing the pools; and also that kids visit a vernal pool twice during the month of April to check on their frogs and salamanders!  The project allows kids to become involved in the preservation of their local resources, and to learn about a unique habitat.  Taking part in the project can supplement studies of biology, ecology, environmental science, and species evolution (take a look at how species evolved to depend on vernal pools).  For more information, contact Pat Serrentino at 413-772-0520.


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Citizen Scientists Wanted for the 15th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count

Great Backyard Bird Count Perfect for Families

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Get out your bird books- this year’s 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) takes place from February 17th-20th!  

The GBBC helps researchers gather an accurate count of bird populations, as well as determine the location of bird species.  Sponsored by Audubon and Cornell University, the event requires citizen scientists to watch and count birds in their backyard for at least 15 minutes on at least one of the days during the bird count.

After you’ve collected your data, you can submit your information online.  Tallies on the data site will grow as the count continues- check back to see how populations in your area look and to see how many other people are participating!

Although it’s called the Great “Backyard” Bird Count, the count extends well beyond backyards. Lots of participants choose to head for national parks, nature centers, urban parks, nature trails, or nearby sanctuaries. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The GBBC is essential to ornithology research because without the help of volunteer citizen scientists, researchers wouldn’t be able to gather accurate data about populations and locations of birds.  The event is incredibly easy for families to take part in, and also offers ample learning opportunities!

While counting birds, families can practice identifying the different species they see, discussing with your kids why each bird looks (color, shape, and size) the way that it does, and talk about what the bird’s natural food sources are during winter.  Kids can also learn about habitat by thinking about where they saw each bird and what kinds of birds they didn’t see because they’ve migrated south.  For more information on the event, visit www.birdsource.org.  Happy counting!

Citizen Scientist Opportunity in the Berkshires with Mass Audubon

Bird Count at Canoe Meadows in Pittsfield

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

There have been lots of opportunities lately to become a Citizen Scientist and assist with bird population counts!  Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count and Bald Eagle Count both took place recently, but there’s another bird count that you can do any time of year!  Mass Audubon offers a checklist of birds that visitors to Canoe Meadows (located in Pittsfield) can print and take along on their excursion.

After visiting, you can submit your bird observations to Audubon’s website to assist with the Oriole Project, Whip-poor-will Survey, Breeding Bird Atlas, and other projects.  In participating, you’ll not only get to have a great outdoor adventure (go for an afternoon hike or strap on some show shoes once the flakes come down!), but you’ll learn more about their behaviors and habitat while contributing to an important study!  Citizen scientists’ contributions to Audubon’s studies are very important, as the organization’s observation capabilities are limited.  Along with this ongoing opportunity at Canoe Meadows, Audubon is hosting numerous birding events over the course of the next few months:

Arcadia in Easthmapton, MA:

Citizen Scientists Invited to 2nd Annual BioBlitz in Berkshire County

2nd  Annual BioBlitz in Berkshire County: Scientists and Neighbors Working Together to Survey Local Biodiversity

“This is a great opportunity for people from all walks of life to get back to nature and to learn about the amazing lives of plants and animals in their own backyards.” said Lisa Provencher, entomology curator assistant at the NY State Museum, and founder of Dr. Augie’s Science Education Programs. “It’s a powerful tool we can use to get people away from their television sets and computer monitors, and spend time outside—providing an antidote to what some educators have dubbed ‘nature-deficit disorder’.” Further, LaGreca added, “It provides valuable information about Mt. Greylock’s flora and fauna that can be used by DCR staff to better manage the Mt. Greylock Reservation’s resources.” (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

In celebration of local biodiversity, Berkshire Museum is holding Berkshire County’s second annual BioBlitz at Mt. Greylock Reservation in Lanesborough, MA on Friday, June 10 to noon on Saturday, June 11. It is co-sponsored by, Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Dr. Augie’s Science Education Programs, MCLA STEM Pipeline and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation (DCR) and Recreation. The weekend event will allow scientists and local residents to document the extensive variety of life in their immediate area and see first-hand the diversity and importance of the clean and active ecosystems in their own community.

The BioBlitz is an opportunity for biologists, naturalists, and environmentalists to gather in a given area and in a 24-hour period complete a formal survey of all living species. Specialists such as Charley Eiseman (co-author of Field Guide to Invertebrate Tracks and Signs), Cornell’s botanist Scott LaGreca (lichens), Berkshire Wild Mushrooms’ John Wheeler (fungi) and NY State Museum’s Lisa Provencher (insects) will be on-hand to explore, identify and educate. The public is welcome to attend to watch the scientists work, and even participate in sorting specimens.

The biological survey is the “core” of the Berkshire BioBlitz, with a variety of family-friendly, interactive, nature-oriented programs taking place during the 24 hour event. Family programs will start Friday night (6/10) when there will be a “Meet the Scientists Session” at Bascom Lodge. As darkness falls, folks will be invited to participate in the “BioBlitz Drum and Campfire Jam” and to make their own take-home natural lanterns. Later, there will be a “Moth-Light” demonstration, an “Owl Prowl” hike and firefly count.

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Citizen Scientists Wanted this Weekend for the Great Backyard Bird Count

Western MA Families Can Participate as Citizen Scientists During the 14th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count This Weekend

“Whether people notice birds in backyards, parks, or wilderness areas, we ask that they share their counts at http://www.birdcount.org,” said Judy Braus, Audubon’s senior vice president of Education and Centers. “It’s fun and rewarding for people of all ages and skill levels.” (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The 14th annual Great Backyard Bird Count began today Friday, February 18th, and extends through the holiday weekend until February 21st. Parents and kids of all ages and skill levels are needed to count birds in their yards, neighborhoods, or other places they may be traveling to during school vacation. Simply tally birds for at least 15 minutes on any day of the count, then go to www.birdcount.org and enter the highest number of each species seen at any one time.

Coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada, the count provides an instantaneous snapshot of birdlife across the continent for all to see. Anyone can watch as the tallies come in at http://www.birdcount.org. Organizers hope to receive more than 100,000 checklists during the event, with tallies of more than 600 birds species in all.

Last year’s participants reported more than 1.8 million American Robins, as well as rarities such as the first Red-billed Tropicbird in the count’s history. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

“When thousands of people all tell us what they’re seeing, we can detect changes in birds’ numbers and locations from year to year,” said Janis Dickinson, director of Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Data from the Great Backyard Bird Count can provide an early signal of changes in bird populations. Past counts showed a drop in reports of American Crows after outbreaks of West Nile virus in 2003, a finding consistent with studies showing crow populations declined by 50–75% in some states. Maps from the count have also captured the paths of migrating Sandhill Cranes and recorded the dramatic spread Eurasian Collared-Doves. Introduced to the Bahamas in the 1970s, the species was reported in just 8 states during the 1999 GBBC. A decade later, it was reported in 39 states and Canadian provinces.

For more information, including bird-ID tips, instructions, and past results, visit  www.birdcount.org.

Calling All Backyard Bird Feeders!

Citizen Scientists Wanted to Participate in
Mass Audubon’s Focus on Feeders Weekend
February 5th & 6th, 2011

Stringing bird seed pine cones, orange slices and toast cut into shapes onto your trees for attracting birds is a fun hands-on activity to do with the family - and a great way to opportunity to participate in the annual Focus on Feeders Weekend. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Families in western MA are invited to take part in the Mass Audubon’s free annual Focus on Feeders Weekend. During the first weekend of February, take note of the diversity of bird species visiting your bird feeders. Kids will have fun identifying cardinals and blue jays as their bright colors enliven your backyard, and bird enthusiasts can record the different species of winter birds in the region on a simple report form to to be submitted to Mass Audubon. All participants will be entered in a random drawing to win one of several prizes.

“The data collected each year during the Focus on Feeders Weekend adds to an impressive legacy of research on bird population trends and distributions in Massachusetts,” says Mass Audubon President Laura Johnson. “Receiving reports from across the state helps to prioritize conservation efforts. Plus it’s fun!”

For over 40 years families have been participating as citizen scientists by counting and recording the diversity of our fine feathered friends visiting backyard feeders for one winter weekend.  According to Mass Audubon, Focus on Feeders helps to raise conservation awareness and to further their efforts to protect wildlife and habitat in Massachusetts.

Suet cakes are great for attracting woodpeckers and nuthatches. And they are easy to make. Click on the photo to find out how you can make these with your kids. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Last year over 1,000 citizen scientists from 259 of the 351 towns and cities in the state of Massachusetts participated by submitted their observations. Get the complete rules here.

Report forms are available online or request a form at focusonfeeders@massaudubon.org. Then, submit your completed report online or mail it to Mass Audubon/Focus on Feeders, 208 South Great Road, Lincoln, MA 01773. Encourage your friends and neighbors to also join the fun as the value of the data collected increases with the number of participants.

Amateur photographers are invited to participate too by photographing visitors to your birdfeeders. Prizes will also be awarded in several categories for those who submit wildlife photos of any species along with their bird count results. Report observations and submit photos by February 28.

For more information visit www.massaudubon.org.

Who Dwells in the Pittsfield State Forest?

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Bioblitz in the Berkshires
Friday & Saturday, June 4th-5th in Pittsfield, MA

Specialist will be on-hand to explore and educate, including reptile and amphibian specialist, BCC Professor Tom Tyning. Link to schedule is below. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Celebrating the United Nation’s “Year of Biodiversity,” the Berkshire Museum is holding Berkshire County’s first BioBlitz in Pittsfield State Forest from noon on Friday, June 4th to noon on Saturday, June 5th, 2010. The weekend event will allow scientists and local residents to document the extensive variety of life in their immediate area and see first-hand the diversity and importance of the clean and active ecosystems in their own backyard.

The BioBlitz is an opportunity for biologists, naturalists, and environmentalists to gather in a given area and in a 24-hour period complete a formal survey of all living species. Specialists such as BCC Professor Tom Tyning (reptiles and amphibians), Harvard botanist Walter Kittredge (flowering plants), Berkshire Wild Mushrooms’ John Wheeler (fungi) and Sage College Professor Emeritus Nancy Slack (mosses) will be on-hand to explore and educate. The public is welcome to attend to watch the scientists work, and even participate in sorting specimens.

The biological survey is the “core” of the Berkshire BioBlitz, and anchors a number of interactive, nature-oriented programs which have been scheduled around it. For example, on Friday night, a lively “BioBlitz Drum and Campfire Jam” will take place, followed by a “Moth-Light” demonstration and an “Owl Prowl” hike. A bird walk and a “fitness hike” will be held the following morning, as well as a presentation on Asian Longhorned Beetles—an invasive insect species recently discovered in Worcester, MA.

“It’s a great opportunity for people from all walks of life to come together and learn about their own backyard,” said Berkshire Museum Natural Science Coordinator, Scott LaGreca. “It’s a powerful tool we can use to get people away from their television sets and computer monitors, and spend time outside—providing an antidote to what some educators have dubbed ‘nature-deficit disorder’. It provides valuable information about Pittsfield State Forest’s flora and fauna that can be used by Pittsfield State Forest staff to better manage the local resources.”

The Pittsfield State Forest is located just five miles from downtown Pittsfield. From Park Square, go west on West Street for 2.7 miles. Turn right on Churchill Street and continue for .7 miles. Turn left onto Cascade Street and continue for .3 miles. The entrance to the forest in just over a mile on your left-hand side.

All events are free and held at the Pittsfield State Forest. Friday evening programs and Saturday morning naturalist hikes are weather-permitting. For a full schedule, click here. Call Scott LaGreca at 413.443.7171, ext. 17 to sign up

What’s Living in Forest Park?

Bioblitz in the Pioneer Valley
Saturday, June 5th in Springfield, MA

What’s Living in Forest Park? Forty seventh-grade students and a dozen local experts/scientists will try to answer that question on Saturday, June 5th, 2010 in a first-ever attempt at a bioblitz in Springfield’s beautiful Forest Park.

What is a Bioblitz? A bioblitz is a 24 hour event to find, identify, and record as many species as possible, from microbe to mammal, at a given location. Bioblitzes provide valuable information to park managers and get kids excited about science and the natural world.

During the weekend students will head out on various themed nature walks to explore, investigate, and record what is found. About a dozen local area experts have been recruited to lead these walks. For example, John Foster, of the New England Naturalist Training Center will lead an ecology exploration walk, and Charley Eiseman and Noah Charney, authors of Tracks & Signs of Insects and Other Invertebrates, will help students identify insects and more in the park.

According to Ms. Cesan, science teacher at Duggan Middle School, the United Nations Program for the Environment has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity to draw attention to the rapid loss of biodiversity the planet is experiencing. The Forest Park Bioblitz is a small, local action that we can undertake to increase awareness and appreciation for the biodiversity in our own backyard. In addition, the event applies and reinforces several state science standards that students have been working on this school year. Students are creating a booklet about the ecosystems in Forest Park and the data collected during the event will be included.

The event will not be all work and no play as kayaking lessons, a zoo tour, and campfire s’mores are also scheduled. Joining students around the campfire will be their entire team of teachers. Students and teachers are excited about this event. Consider coming to the park on Saturday and visiting our “base camp” near the grandstands to view student work and check in on our data as students collect and report it. The event runs 8am-3pm on Saturday June 5th.

For more information contact Duggan Middle School Science Teacher, Kerry Cesan at cesank@sps.springfield.ma.us.

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