Archive for the 'Citizen Science Projects' Category

Climate Change Lottery and its Affects

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017
Bracken ferns at Bastrop State park

Bracken ferns at Bastrop State park

This is Passport to Texas

Texas wildlife has a stake in the climate change lottery.

Climate change is going to affect species that are found – and breed – in backyards here in Texas.

Former Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist, Cullen Hanks, says models that predict impacts of climate change on wildlife vary, so we need baseline information on each species.

To be able to document change, we need to know where things are before they change. And, this highlights the need of documenting the distribution of species that we have today in Texas. And, there aren’t enough biologists to do all of that. And so, what we do is we reach out to citizens. That’s exactly right! Texas is a big state with a lot of species, and the community of naturalists and citizens interested in wildlife in Texas can play a huge part in documenting wildlife in Texas.

Monitor backyard species, and then share your observations online.

ebird, a citizen science platform, created by the Cornell laboratory of Ornithology is a great way to maintain your checklist of birds. In addition, iNaturalist is a really useful platform for documenting your wildlife sightings of any species — not just birds.

Texas Parks and Wildlife has various projects on iNaturalist. Just go to the Texas Nature Trackers page on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website for details.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Watch the Birdie (at the Feeder)

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016
Project Feeder Watch

Project Feeder Watch

This is Passport to Texas

The Christmas Bird Count, a project of the National Audubon Society, is December 14 through January 5. Volunteers count birds during a 24-hour period inside defined 15-mile diameter circles throughout the state.

But there aren’t any on December 25th—you can’t compete with family time and ripping open presents.

Nongame ornithologist, Cliff Shackelford says if you’re unable to participate in a Bird Count circle, you can still contribute to the count as a feeder watcher.

That’s someone that just merely watches out their back window and looks at the birds coming to the feeder and just counting those things. It’s a really good niche for someone that’s not able to get out if it’s too cold, or you’re just not physically able to get out, or maybe you have a newborn at the house, These are people that might have their eyes open watching the feeder and can contribute.

Get in touch with your area Audubon Christmas Bird Count Compiler through the Audubon website.

Contribute to the world of citizen science all year long as a feeder watcher. Just go to feederwatch.org for details.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series and funds diverse conservation programs in Texas.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

Count Birds, Help Science

Monday, November 28th, 2016
Christmas Bird Count participants. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

Christmas Bird Count participants. Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

This is Passport to Texas

More than a hundred years ago people participated in a time-honored Christmas tradition.

People would go out and do what was called a side hunt, and the winning group would come back with the biggest pile of dead critters.

Most of the critters in those piles were birds. Cliff Shackelford, non-game ornithologist with Parks and Wildlife, says conservationists had a better idea.

Early conservationists thought that we ought to count birds and not try to collect birds.

Today we have the Christmas Bird Count, December 14th through January 5th. Volunteers, armed with a bird list and binoculars, head into the field on a specified day to count birds over a 24-hour period.

What people do is they get into teams, and they have a defined 15 mile radius circle that they’re counting in, and that circle never moves. The hope is that you would count that circle for decades and decades and over time you would see trends.

Everyone turns in their data to a compiler who sorts it out and sends it to researchers; they use it to assess the health of bird populations, and to guide conservation action.

Go to audubon.org for more information and to register.

The Wildlife Restoration Program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Texas Pollinator Bioblitz

Thursday, October 6th, 2016
Save the Pollinators

Participate in the Texas Pollinator Bioblitz this month and #savethepollinators.

This is Passport to Texas

Calling all citizen scientists. We want you to participate in the Texas Pollinator BioBlitz, October 7th through 16th.

[We have] two goals in mind: to increase awareness about pollinators, and about the habitat that they require.

Johnnie Smith is Texas Parks and Wildlife Conservation Education Manager. Pollinators include bees, butterflies, beetles, moths and other critters that move pollen while foraging.

If you participate in the pollinator bioblitz, you’re going to have an opportunity to observe pollinators at a site that you visit, like your local zoo or aquarium or nature center. And observe the pollinators that are there. Grab a picture of the pollinators you find, and you can post them onto Instagram. We’re asking all of the participants to use the hashtag #savethepollinators.

State parks offer pollinator observation opportunities, too. And, you can also post findings, on iNaturalist.org. Texas Parks and Wildlife’s website, has pages dedicated to the Pollinator Bioblitz.

Where people can learn what pollinators might be in their area. Links to what might be blooming in your area right now—that’s hosted out of the Wildflower center—and then also, to be aware of habitat you have that supports pollinators. And if you don’t have habitat in or near your home, school library… We’re encouraging people to try and get organized in planting pollinator habitat.

The Texas Pollinator BioBlitz is October 7 through 16. Participating is as easy as stepping outside.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Getting to Know Native Amphibians

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016
American bullfrogs

Photo of young American Bullfrogs in a pond at Mason Mountain Wildlife Management Area, courtesy of the site’s Facebook page.

This is Passport to Texas

Did you know Texas is home more than 40 different frog species, and other myriad other amphibians?

Scott Kiester, Texas Amphibian Watch volunteer, says you don’t have to travel far to find a frog or toad. In fact, he says they may be closer than you think.

The Gulf Coast Toad you’ll find anywhere where he’s got a moist place he can hide in the daytime and come out at night and hunt bugs. The Rio Grande Chirping Frog is endemic to the southern valley. They’re about as big as the joint on your little finger and they hang out in plants. They like particularly Bromeliads.

Not only can we identify these creatures by their habitats, we can also identify them by their distinct calls.

Different frogs and toads call at different times of the year. There are some that are year-round: the Bullfrog, [bullfrog sfx] the Southern Leopard Frog, and the Northern Cricket Frog. They may not breed year-round, but you can hear them. There are other species, like the Spring Peeper, [spring peeper sfx] and the Upland and Spotted Chorus Frogs; you will only hear when the weather is cool. Their idea of a perfect day is fifties and rainy. Frogs mostly call to attract mates. In fact, only really male frogs call.

If you’re interested in the education and conservation of indigenous amphibians, consider becoming a Texas Amphibian Watch volunteer. Find details on the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.

That’s our show for today… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti