Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Citizen Spots Squirrel, Springtime Science Succeeds!

"Spring into Citizen Science" continues today with a look at Project Squirrel, a University of Chicago initiative to understand the populations of grey and fox squirrels. 

While squirrels seem to live everywhere in the United States, previous data from this and other projects has shown that squirrels have more difficulty in some areas than other.  Nobody really knows why; are there local prey animals nearby?  Has human encroachment caused problems?  Are there environmental or diseases limiting squirrels in certain areas?  Science needs your help to find out.

The squirrel's  ability to live anywhere also makes this a highly accessible project for citizen scientists across the country.  People in both rural and urban areas can participate; squirrels live in both areas.  And even if there are none in your backyard, take notes at work or while you are driving; both regular and occasional observations are welcome.  All it takes is five minutes or less to start contributing.

Getting Started is Easy:
  • Visit the Project Squirrel web site to learn about the project and check out the Project Squirrel: Grey vs. Fox page to learn the difference between Grey Squirrels and Fox Squirrels.  And don't forget, inmost areas a black squirrel is actually a grey squirrel for the purposes of this project.
  • Click on the "Become a Citizen Scientist - Record Your Observations" button on the Project Squirrel: Participate page.  Or
  • Answer the quick 14-question web-based survey on the zip code and location characteristics of the squirrel sighting.  You can also fill out a paper version of the survey (available at http://projectsquirrel.org/Project%20Squirrel%20Mail-in%20Form.pdf) and send it in through the normal mail.
  • That's all there is to it.  But if you have any good Squirrel Pictures or squirrel stories, send 'em in!
No matter where you live this is a fun and easy project anyone can enjoy.  So start looking at your backyard and taking notes.  I'm sure you'll spot a squirrel soon enough!

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