Archive for the 'Citizen Science Projects' Category

Evolution of the Great Texas Birding Classic

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018
2018 Great Texas Birding Classic Poster.

2018 Great Texas Birding Classic Poster.

This is Passport to Texas

Twenty eighteen marks the 22nd anniversary of the Great Texas Birding Classic. Shelly Plante, Nature Tourism Manager for Parks and Wildlife, has been involved for 21 of those years.

In the beginning, Plante says most participants were “hard core” birders. Since becoming a statewide event, she says it’s evolved into a tournament for everyone.

We have a lot of different categories. There are categories for beginners; categories for kids who are just getting started; categories families can take part in—or bird clubs can take part in. And so, I’ve seen this really huge growth in the generalist, which I think is fantastic. That’s who we would love to connect with nature. They may not have a connection. So, we’re hopefully making that connection for them with an event.

The Great Texas Birding Classic is April 15 through May 15; registration deadline is April 1st. Money raised through fees and sponsorships goes toward conservation grants.

The more money we raise through registration fees and sponsorships, the more money we are able to award to conservation grant projects throughout the state. So las year, we gave out 36-thousand dollars’ worth of grants. And, some of the winning teams got to pick which projects received that funding. So, it’s really a fun way to take part in conservation, and maybe even get to choose who gets those conservation dollars.

Put together a team and register before April 1, at birdingclassic.org.

That’s our show… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti

City Nature Challenge Seeks Experts

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018
Upload images to iNaturalist during the City nature Challenge.

Upload images to iNaturalist during the City nature Challenge.

This is Passport to Texas

In about a month, competitors from around the globe will head outside with their smart phones to photograph the flora and fauna of their regions, and then upload those images to iNaturalist as part of…

The City Nature Challenge.

Marsha May is a biologist and challenge coordinator for the Austin region—one of seven TX regions involved.

And there are over 60 cities worldwide that are involved in this challenge.

April 27th—30th, participants worldwide will try to “out-document” their competitors, for bragging rights.

All that data is collected in iNaturalist, and it will be evaluated a week after the challenge is over.

Regions can win for most observations, verified species or members. May said last year’s event drew nearly more competitors than they had experts to verify the data.

We really needed more people to help with verifying the observations. That’s the call [to action] I would like to make. So, if you’re a herpetologist, a birder, a botanist and such—please, help us verify. Go to iNaturalis[.org] and look for the projects. You can go to any one of the cities and help verify these observations. Because, the more we get verified—that’s research grade observations—so those count more toward this contest.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Compete in the City Nature Challenge

Friday, February 23rd, 2018
Cities taking part in 2018 City Nature Challenge.

Cities taking part in 2018 City Nature Challenge.

This is Passport to Texas

Document local flora and fauna when you participant in the Worldwide 2018 City Nature Challenge, April 27-30.

Each city will have a leader; that leader will bring in partners [like the city, county or environmental organization]. And they will ask participants to do bioblitzes within that city. A bioblitz is where you collect data on all the plants and the animals throughout the area.

Marsha May is a biologist and Austin area challenge coordinator. Teams from six continents will upload their observations to iNaturalist.org in an attempt to document more species than their competitors.

Then all that data is collected in iNaturalist, and it will be evaluated a week after the challenge is over, and a winner will be announced.

Experts from various fields will verify the data. No prizes will be given to winners, but they will get bragging rights, and a chance to help researchers.

We have many species in Texas that are species of greatest conservation need. And when we do these biolblitzes, oftentimes those species are identified within that project. And those species are very important for us to know where they’re located, and how many there are out there. And this is just a way that citizens help quite a bit.

For more details on the 2018 City Nature Challenge, April 27—30th go to citynaturechallenge.org.

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

Christmas Bird Count Winding down

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018
Christmas Bird Count participants. Image from Audubon.org, by Camilla Cerea.

Christmas Bird Count participants. Image from Audubon.org, by Camilla Cerea.

This is Passport to Texas

The National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count began December 14 and ends this Friday—the last day to collect data.

Teams of birders go in the circle and they repeat that every year. So the circle never changes. And after decades, you have some really neat data to look at.

More than one-hundred, 15-mile diameter counting circles dot the state. Cliff Shackelford, non-game ornithologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, says circle organizers, called compilers, choose one day during the 3-week timeframe where observers tally species over a 24-hour period.

Some of the circles with few observers, [those people] cover that whole area in that circle. Some of the circles that are in really populated areas with lots of bird watchers like down on the coast, they’ll break up that circle into piece of pie: ‘And this is your piece of pie. You stay in this section and you count all the birds you can.’ If you want to get up at midnight and start counting one minute later, you can look for owls. Or listen for owls. It’s a 24-hour counting period per circle.

What happens to the collected and compiled data?

We use information from the Christmas bird count to determine where hot spots are for wintering species.

And with that knowledge researchers are better prepared to provide these birds with what they need to thrive.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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

Whooper Week: Become a Whooper Watcher

Friday, October 20th, 2017
Whooping crane in flight.

Whooping crane in flight.

This is Passport to Texas’ Whooper Week

People of all ages can become citizen scientists through Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Texas Nature Trackers program.

Texas Nature Trackers is a program that gets citizens involved in helping us collect data on rare species.

Marsha May is a biologist in the program, which includes Texas Whooper Watch. When Whooper Watch started in 2011, the state was in drought; this affected wetlands at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where the whoopers winter.

Their main diet down there is the blue crab. But, that particular year [2011], there was not a lot of freshwater coming down to the coast, so the wetlands were really salty. So, a lot of the birds went further inland.

Two hundred miles farther inland at Granger Lake, where they ate mussels instead of their usual diet of crabs.

That’s where Texas Whooper Watch comes in. We want to get sightings of whoopers outside of their normal range at Aransas. Is this something that’s going to happen continually in the future? Are they expanding their range? These are questions we would really would like to see answered. Citizen scientists can get involved by documenting birds in the areas where they’re not normally found.

Find details on Texas Whooper Watch on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

The Wildlife Restoration program supports our series.

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