Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More Observations for your Nature Notebook

Last week "Spring into Citizen Science" looked at eBird (an online nature observation journal) and Project Budburst (which watches plant changes over time). Today we look at combining these two ideas with Nature Notebook, the flagship project of the USA National Phenology Network.  All of these work toward a very similar goal...understanding the lifecycles and growth phases of plants and animals.  With this information scientists can learn which species are thriving, discover the causes of those changes, and research how those species fit into the local ecology and climate.

With Nature Notebook you pick a site and track local plants and animals through an online project space. The web site remembers the location data and plants/animals you've seen before, and you just update with that days observations. You can even add previous observations from records made before you joined the site. As long as you can identify what you saw and where you saw it, the site (and scientists) can use the data.

Getting Started is Easy:
  1. Visit the USA National Phenology Network web site and click on USANPN: Participate to learn about their citizen science observation programs. 
  2. Register with the site by providing some basic personal information (name and address).
  3. Identify the location you want to watch on a regular basis...preferably at least once a week.  You can use the USANPN: How to Observe web page for guidelines on appropriate sites and tips on providing the most accurate, consistent, and scientifically useful data.  You can also use the How to Observe Field Handbook available here.
  4. Log on to the Nature Notebook with your registered account and describe the site you will be observing.   Now this information will be available and connected to all your future observations from this site.
  5. List any plants you will be oserving and any animals you expect to see in that area.  These will pre-populate each time you log on and prompt you to provide information.  This way you don't have to re-enter the target species each time.
  6. That's it!  Nature Notebook makes organizing and submitting the information easy.  All that's needed is for you to make the observations.
Okay.  That isn't all. The Network has also collected observations from thousands of nature observers from before World War II and even into the 1800s. But they need our help to digits the data and make it useful for 21st century scientists. So consider this a preview of tomorrow's Coming Attractions. And in the meantime, let us know your thoughts on these Notebook projects...I'd love to see your comments below!

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