Category Archives: citizen science

Environmental Volunteers in Space?

Through the TreesPhoto by Robert Barossi

by Robert Barossi

Ok, so the volunteers aren’t actually in space. But they are using images taken from space to do important volunteer work that’s having a major impact. As this article from Christian Science Monitor points out, satellite images and aerial photography are being used as an important tool in the work of environmental volunteers. Working along with organizations such as SkyTruth, volunteers can use the images taken from space to identify earth-bound locations that are impacting the local environment, such as fracking well sites.  Images taken from space can be now be an important part of environmental activism and advocacy as well as an essential element of citizen science efforts aimed at collecting environmental data.

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Climate Change, Birds and Volunteers

P1000364(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

According to Weather.com, it’s 44 degrees Fahrenheit today, here in the Boston area. Above normal, for sure, but perhaps not as shocking as this coming weekend. Temperatures are expected to hit the high 50s by the end of the week and then reach 62 degrees on Sunday. That’s Sunday, December 13th. These types of unusual temperatures have numerous impacts and ripple effects, on us humans as well as every other animal species.

This great story out of upstate New York details how citizen scientist volunteers are helping collect data on birds of prey. The volunteers are working alongside professionals in Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, cataloging the presence of raptors, from owls to hawks and numerous others. They are also seeing some of the ways temperature changes are impacting the birds, such as changes in migration observed in certain owl species.

Surveying and monitoring birds is just one way to deal with the ways climate change impacts our avian friends. As described in this blog post from the National Audubon Society, volunteers can also help by  protecting and maintaining bird habitats. Specifically, the story deals with volunteers with Audubon Miami Valley in Ohio who are working to remove invasive species which are negatively impacting places where birds find food and shelter. It’s another way that we can help birds, and other species, survive in the new environments and ecosystems created by the changing climate.

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Volunteers in the Water

IMG_1584(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

Bodies of water all over the world are in need of regular monitoring to ensure the health of the natural ecosystem as well as the humans who live in the local watershed. In countless places, it’s environmental volunteers who do the monitoring. This story, out of Delaware, features a volunteer team who are a prime example of the kind of work these citizen scientists are doing. They offer a great example of not just the kind of work, but how it benefits both them and the organizations they volunteer for. Check out this link for more info on the University of Delaware’s Citizen Monitoring Program and all of the work being done by their dedicated volunteers.

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Volunteers and Drones

367(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

This volunteer story jumped out at me immediately this morning. The topic of drones and their use, whether military, commercial or personal, is a hotly debated one these days. Drones have become one of the primary means through which the U.S. military does its job. And corporations like  Amazon are trying to use them to revolutionize the way they do business. There are countless other ways drones can be used, including humanitarian efforts. In Great Britain, both drones and volunteers are being used to survey and study the impacts of sea level change and coastal erosion. Working together, drones and volunteers will gather information and data that will indicate how the changing sea is impacting the coast and important historical sites along the shore.  There are many other potential uses for this kind of drone/volunteer work related to the environment, such as surveying populations of endangered species or finding areas of pollution in bodies of water. While using drones is highly controversial, it can have both positive and negative impacts and is an issue that likely won’t be settled any time soon.

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Volunteers Track Down the Trash

P1000689(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

Well, this may have been the longest hiatus I’ve taken from the blog since it started a few years ago. With crazy the summer finally winding down, I’ll be back here more frequently, posting more stories of environmental volunteers. Today’s story didn’t take much searching to find and it deals with one of the biggest threats facing our oceans. Known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, this enormous area of litter and trash, some say larger than Texas, has become a major focus for many scientists and environmentalists. This article from National Geographic does a great job of detailing exactly what the Patch is, where it is and why it’s there. Recently, a group of volunteers took part in an expedition to map the Garbage Patch and find out just what kinds of trash, plastics and debris are in there. According to this article from the Associated Press, these citizen scientists, on 30 boats, measured the size and mapped the location of “tons of plastic waste.” This volunteer effort will go into a report by The Ocean Cleanup, an organization that hopes to develop technology in the next few years that will reduce or eliminate this enormous mass of trash that’s polluting our oceans.

If you’ve enjoyed any of the stories on this blog, download my eBook – Being Where You Are: How Environmental Volunteers Impact Their Community and the Planet Every Day. Download it at the following links:

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Volunteers and Snapping Turtles

1024px-Common_Snapping_Turtle_Close_Up(Photo by Dakota L., Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

by Robert Barossi

As many stories on this blog have demonstrated, environmental volunteers are often citizen scientists. They collect the data that professional scientists will use for a variety of experiments, tests and research. In Connecticut, volunteers are collecting samples from snapping turtles, samples which are part of a number of research projects. The information obtained from this research will do more than reveal the health of the turtles. It will also reveal the health of the ecosystem as a whole and the health of the humans who sometimes eat the turtles. Volunteers will be an important part of collecting the samples  that researchers at Mystic Aquarium will turn into invaluable data.

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Volunteering for Coral Reefs

P1000689(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

There are some mixed and unconfirmed reports this morning about a possible oil spill in the Great Barrier Reef. Hopefully, it won’t turn out to be a major spill that’s devastating to the Reef. Coral reefs are just one of the many types of fragile ecosystems that need so much protection and preservation, especially in our overdeveloped and continuously developing, and changing, world. So, this morning, a few stories about how some people are volunteering to help out reefs in their area. In Australia, a group called UniDive has won the 2015 Healthy Waterways award for their work as citizen scientists. In over 500 dives, the divers collected large amounts of invaluable data on the local reefs and their diverse ecosystems. In the Caymans, a filmmaker has volunteered his time to make a documentary film about a threatened local reef. The film may go a long way toward educating people about a reef in the area where a cruise ship berthing facility is proposed.  And in Florida, wounded and disabled veterans are helping to restore coral along the coast. The veterans are working with the organization Diveheart and Nova Southeastern University to rehabilitate and restore coral heavily damaged by many factors, including pollution and boats.

If you’ve enjoyed the stories on this blog, download my eBook – Being Where You Are: How Environmental Volunteers Impact Their Community and the Planet Every Day

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Volunteers and Butterflies

IMG_2139(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

The unexpected theme of today’s environmental volunteer story search is butterflies. The first story comes out of New Jersey, at the Howell Living History Farm, where volunteers are counting butterflies. Like the bird watchers in my previous post, these volunteers will help collect data on all the butterfly species in the area and how healthy those populations are. Not too far away, in Maryland, volunteers will be part of creating and maintaining a newly protected area of land. One of the major goals of this effort is protecting and preserving the state insect, the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly.  The Susquehannock Wildlife Society and the Maryland DNR are working together to create the protected area where the butterfly can hopefully establish itself and thrive. Here’s a link to a page where you can check out a  photo of your own state insect.

If you have enjoyed the stories on this blog, download my eBook – Being Where You Are: How Environmental Volunteers Impact Their Community and the Planet Every Day

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Can Volunteers Reduce Roadkill?

Digital Camera(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

Not long ago, I posted a story about volunteers helping toads make it across a busy road, in an effort to prevent the toads from being killed during the crossing. This morning, a similar story out of California, where volunteers are helping to create an enormous database of roadkill sites. According to the article, the California Roadkill Observation System is the largest database of its kind in the country. By collecting this data about where roadkill incidents are happening, these citizen scientists are helping both wildlife advocates and highway  planners. With this information, there will hopefully be more attention paid to where and how animals migrate, where the highways are already causing major problems and how future highways and animal crossings can be designed to reduce wildlife deaths.

For more environmental volunteer stories, download my eBook: Being Where You Are: How Environmental Volunteers Impact Their Community and the Planet Every Day

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Volunteers Helping to Predict Tree Diseases

Up a Tree(Photo by Robert Barossi)

by Robert Barossi

This morning, I came across this great environmental volunteer story out of University of California, Berkeley. A study just published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment offers more support for the efforts of volunteers as citizen scientists, even concluding, in part, that “using long-term citizen-science data to predict the risk of emerging infectious plant diseases in urban ecosystems holds substantial promise. ” The study reveals just how successful volunteers have been at predicting sudden oak death (SOD), a disease that has killed numerous trees in California. Data from the volunteers was gathered during an event called the SOD Blitz, during which, ““The data we got…resulted in the formulation of the best predictive model yet about the spread of sudden oak death in California. Additionally, we were able to identify new infestations and identify trees that needed to be removed,” according to one of the study’s authors. The SOD Blitzes have become a massive project which take place every year and are, according to UC Berkeley,  “part of the largest citizen science effort in the country.”

 

For more stories of environmental volunteers, check out my eBook, Being Where You Are: How Environmental Volunteers Impact Their Community and the Planet Every Day

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