📝 EwA Ecological Studies

Intro to EwA Participatory Science » | EwA Science Model » | Massachusetts Program »

Plants, wildlife, habitats – There’s something for everyone

EwA runs a variety of biodiversity, climate, and ecosystem studies. We document consistently more than 40 sites in 8 cities in Massachusetts. We also contribute to global biodiversity collections. EwA’s projects cover plant event timing monitoring; habitat fragmentation and pollution assessment; arthropod surveys; biodiversity mapping and monitoring; bird activity monitoring; and vernal pool documentation and certification.

EwA participatory science has multiple goals, including answering climate and biodiversity conservation-focused questions, collecting scientific data to contribute to local, state, and national conservation programs and scientific efforts, fostering public engagement with nature and science, and social change. Projects’ documentation follows standardized protocols and is uploaded to global platforms so that the information can be used and shared between organizations and countries. The platforms that we use include Nature’s Notebook (USA-NPN)Caterpillars Count (UNC)iNaturalisteBird, as well as our own habitat-focused platform. We also partner with professional scientists to achieve common local goals. In short, we make our data count!


🦋 Insect & Pollinator Survey

Observing insect populations & life cycle

Surveying pollinators and other plant visitors is intended to help local entomologists and global conservation scientists. Continuous phenology and population data are lacking. The information that we record helps fill the gap.

We feed the info to different global databases that are tracking species occurrences (iNaturalist), species composition and abundance (Caterpillar Counts), insect phenophases (Nature’s Notebook), and insect assocations (EwA 🪲 Buggy).

Collecting such data is an important scientific effort that helps us better understand the collapse of insect populations, which is being observed throughout the world. This kind of data is critical to understanding the implications on avian populations, other fauna at large, and our own species (e.g., food security). A better understanding will lead to better societal actions and policies.


▶️ How EwA Helps Arthropods | 🖐🏽 » Volunteer in the Field with EwA | 📆 » EwA Events Calendar

🌱 Phenology

Recording nature’s seasonal events

Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate, as well as habitat factors (such as elevation). 

Phenology monitoring is part of our effort to collect information about the impact of climate change on the synchronicity of fauna, and flora phenophases (i.e., observable stages or phases in the annual life cycle of a plant or animal that can be defined by a start and endpoint). 

EwA is a USA National Phenology Network (NPN) partner. EwA uses the network’s national standardized protocol to document phenophases. The collected data is stored and aggregated via the NPN’s Nature’s Notebook program/platform (Search for the ‘Earthwise Aware’ project and partner group).

Two of our program leaders are NPN-certified local phenology leaders. Last but not least, EwA is the proud winner 🥇 of the NPN 2019 Pheno Champion Award!

We run studies in local parks, reservations, and urban open spaces. One of our study locations is at the Middlesex Fells Reservation, a 2800-acres urban woodland managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. There, we record seasonal fauna & flora cycles at 7 different sites.


🗺️ Massachusetts Phenology Sites | 🖐🏽 » Volunteer in the Field with EwA | 📆 » EwA Events Calendar

🦌 Biodiversity Mapping

The iNat EwA Biodiversity Projects » Explore & participate!

EwA systematically records and annotates the biodiversity occurrence of 10 sites in 4 parks and reservations (Massachusetts, US). We also document biodiversity wherever we happen to be in the US and in the World

★ EwA Biodiversity Projects

Our biodiversity-focused mission is simple: Give power to the people to understand the ecology of the habitats we survey in the region and participate in the active protection of these unique landscapes. The program gets nature enthusiasts and volunteers to data-collect relevant species and habitat biodiversity observations over time. It fosters a fundamental understanding of ecology, phenology, and ethics. It helps science and wildlife conservation advocacy. Our study sites include the Middlesex Fells Reservation, the Fresh Pond Reservation (Cambridge), Mount Towanda at Horn Pond (Woburn), and the Community Growing Center (Somerville), but we document pretty much the whole Middlesex county and anywhere we happen to visit, so don’t be surprised to see records from very remote places in the world! Check our projects list > here.

EwA observations on iNaturalist.org


» Join EwA’s iNat Biodiversity Projects | » iNat Essentials | 🖐🏽 » Volunteer in the Field with EwA | 📆 » EwA Events Calendar

🦉 Bird Monitoring

Observing bird populations, migration & seasonal activities

Together with the EwA Pollinator Surveys, monitoring birds at all our sites is intended to help local entomologists and global conservation scientists. Continuous phenology and population data are lacking, and the information that we record helps fill the gap.

We feed the info to different global databases that are tracking species richness (iNaturalist), population abundance (eBird), and bird phenophases (Nature’s Notebook).

Collecting such data is an important scientific effort that helps us better understand the collapse of insect populations, which is being observed throughout the world. This kind of data is critical to understanding the implications on avian populations, other fauna at large, and our own species (e.g., food security). A better understanding will lead to better societal actions and policies.


🖐🏽 » Volunteer in the Field with EwA | 📆 » EwA Events Calendar

🌿 Ecological Community Assessment

Tracking changes in ecological communities

Several times a year, we add to our phenology and biodiversity occurrence and abundance records and do ecological community assessments for some of our study sites, at the Middlesex Fells Reservation. This allows us to see how fauna and flora composition change over time in a rapidly changing world in critical at-risk habitats. These are necessary assessments measuring the health of our forests and geared to empower communities to inform environmental decision-makers.

Field protocols that we use include point count methods, habitat characterization methods, area searches, and species dominance assessment.

After gathering enough data, we report on the composition and changes and submit the information to the State’s institutions vested in the protection of the Fells.


🖐🏽 » Volunteer in the Field with EwA | 📆 » EwA Events Calendar

🥾 Habitat Fragmentation Documentation

Study the impact of habitat fragmentation in the Middlesex Fells Reservation

As urban ecologists, we encounter specific urban situations. One is the abundance of fragmented habitats, which alter the functional diversity of the different habitats of the Fells, degrades its flora, and harms its wildlife. Further down the line, it hurts us too.

“Over the past two years I have been monitoring habitat fragmentation, I have seen an increase in the number of people walking or biking away from established trails into more fragile areas of the Fells. Rocky areas and ponds often show large patches of degraded vegetation and even bare, compacted soil as people leave the trails to climb or explore, sometimes deep into the woods. Although early spring can bring more frequent bird activity, I have generally noticed more times throughout the year when the woods seem totally quiet and birds and other wildlife are difficult to spot.” – Tom Dempsey (EwA citizen scientist)

This is a mapping project to identify and study the impact of habitat fragmentation due to user-created trails–hiking and biking trails a.k.a. rogue trails–in the Middlesex Fells Reservation. The effort is also encouraged by the Friends of the Middlesex Fells.

🏵️ The Fells fauna and flora depend on stellar trail ethics. 🗺️ Be a Fells wildlife defender: download the DCR routes of the Fells on your Google Map and make sure that you remain on trails when hiking, biking, or simply enjoying the Fells.


🖐🏽 » Volunteer in the Field with EwA | 📆 » EwA Events Calendar

💩 Bio-pollution Mapping

Studying the impact of the dog waste littering in Urban Forests

This is a project to study the impact and raise awareness about the littering of the Middlesex Fells Reservation and the Blue Hills Reservation with Dog Poop (bagged and not).

As urban ecologists, we encounter specific urban situations. One is the abundance of dog poop in fragile habitats. We love our dogs, yet their parasites (harmless to them), and the chemicals in their processed diet food passing in their excrements (even when bagged) leach into the Fells wetlands when not disposed of properly. This in return harms a plethora of wildlife and their habitats. Further down the line, it hurts us too. We seem to forget that our parks are critical ecological reservoirs for us humans and our pets.

🗺️ Explore & Share the Fells’ map and the Blue Hills’ map – Share your sightings with us! We have a ‘poop app’, to record and count the unattended waste of our dogs in the Fells. Join the bio-pollution survey effort > here!


🖐🏽 » Volunteer in the Field with EwA | 📆 » EwA Events Calendar

⚠️ Invasive Species Patrol

Documenting & reporting invasive species pollution

Invasive species are one of the major threats to biological diversity. The annual U.S. cost from invasives is estimated to be $120 billion, with more than 100 million acres affected (i.e., about the size of California). So we’re tracking them! Our records help us understand the spread and dynamic of those species, act as an alert when they appear in new areas, and help monitor the success of eradication and restoration efforts.

Join the EwA Invasive Species Monitoring Project (Join link), and get your data in. We’re currently tracking more than 40 unique invasive species (species list & project description > here). We monitor invasives wherever we are, and extensively do so at all our study sites: Fresh Pond, Somerville, Middlesex Fells, and Horn Pond.

Join our invasive surveyor team > here. You’ll learn how to identify the species, how to take good photos, record good observations, and annotate your records to help document the phenology and invasive behavior of those species. 


🖐🏽 » Volunteer in the Field with EwA | 📆 » EwA Events Calendar

🐸 Vernal Pool Awareness & Protection

Documenting & protecting the vernal pools of the Middlesex Fells Reservation

The Vernal Pool Awareness & Protection Project is a cool community-based conservation initiative for protecting the vernal pools and wetland habitats of the Middlesex Fells Reservation through education, partnerships, and science.

⚠️ No (permanent or temporary) body of water in the Fells can be explored without a permit from the DCR.

The program focuses on the vernal pools of the Middlesex Fells Reservation that are not yet ‘certified’ (following the definition of Vernal Pools as defined by the State of Massachusetts). Working with local herpetologists, our goal is to document and certify those potential pools so that they get protected under the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act regulations. In doing so, we close species migration gaps between the non-certified and certified pools, therefore directly improving the conservation of wetland species, and specifically of the species of the Fells.


🖐🏽 » Volunteer in the Field with EwA | 📆 » EwA Events Calendar

EwA Data Attribution Policy

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🌱 [More…] Site Maps, Protocols, Guides, Logs & Field Notes » here 


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