Earthwise Aware https://www.earthwiseaware.org Nature Conservation as a Way Of Life Fri, 11 Oct 2019 01:45:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 https://i0.wp.com/www.earthwiseaware.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/cropped-thumb_Logo-circle_1024.jpg?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Earthwise Aware https://www.earthwiseaware.org 32 32 167785601 Forest Explorations — September in the Fells https://www.earthwiseaware.org/forest-explorations-september/ https://www.earthwiseaware.org/forest-explorations-september/#comments Tue, 24 Sep 2019 17:25:41 +0000 https://www.earthwiseaware.org/?p=15423

Forest Explorations

September in the Fells

It didn’t feel much like fall this Saturday on our Forest Exploration in the Fells, given the unseasonably warm weather. But all through the forest, we found evidence of the coming of autumn. The asters and goldenrods are blooming, acorns are falling, and leaves are beginning to change color.

Laura is a citizen scientist, co-leader and author for EwA. Together with Laura we explore the botany of New England and that she shares about in our Forest Explorations blog series. Make sure to also check Laura's blog 'A Land Like This One' about a piece of a forest that she enjoys at every opportunity that she has. It's also a marvelous way to see how different things may be just a state away and compare the timing of seasonal events!

“The world around us is so intricate and interconnected. The more I look, the more there is to see. The more I learn, the more I want to find out...”

Once a month, Laura and Claire lead a biodiversity walk in the Fells. It’s a free form activity of ours which the only purpose is to explore what Nature wonders are in season: what is flowering, fruiting, passing by, living here?

Here are highlights of what we enjoyed this time!


What’s in Flower?

My favorite find during this trip was beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana), a parasitic wildflower that attaches to the roots of beech trees. Beechdrops are one of those treasures that are easily overlooked and thus all the more special when found.

When you’re in an area with mature beech trees in the fall, look at the base of the trees for what looks like clusters of twigs. Up close, the tiny purple-and-white flowers are quite beautiful.


Bluestem goldenrod (Solidago caesia) with yellowjacket.

Fall in New England is rich with goldenrods: we have around 25 different species! Bluestem goldenrod has a characteristic smooth, purplish stem. (Don’t ask me why it’s not called purplestem goldenrod!)


White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata) is common in sunny patches on the forest floor.

Insects seem to love it – a patch we saw at a trail intersection was alive with bees.


Ghost pipes (Monotropa uniflora) are past their peak, but we still spotted a good number. Instead of photosynthesizing like most plants, they steal their energy from fungi in the soil. This allows them to live in the understory of dense woods where little sunlight reaches the forest floor.


Silverrod (Solidago bicolor) is another of the easier-to-identify goldenrods. Unlike all the other New England goldenrods, its flowers are mostly white instead of yellow.

Goldenrod is often mistakenly blamed for allergies this season. In fact, goldenrods have heavy, insect-borne pollen you’re unlikely to breathe unless you put your nose in it. It’s the light, air-born ragweed pollen that’s probably making you sneeze. 


What’s in Fruit?

Mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) are sporting their beautiful, deep-blue berries and purpling leaves right now.

Deer, skunks, mice, rabbits, and chipmunks all eat the fruits.


Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) is one of the most common plants in the Fells. The vibrant red berries in fall follow sweet-smelling white flowers in early spring.


Many people’s least-favorite plant, Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), is also in fruit right now. The small white berries, like the leaves, carry urushiol oil that causes an itchy, blistering rash if you touch it. At least they provide food for deer and birds! 


Sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) is past bloom now and showing its odd-looking clusters of fruits.


Other Special Gems & Findings

We also encountered a number of insects, amphibians, and reptiles.


We encountered quite a few species of insects and spiders, among those was a very chilled Fork-tailed bush katydid (Scudderia furcata), that we spotted on our way in our exploration and was still in its spot on our way back an hour or so later…


I counted at least three American toads, three garter snakes, and two wood frogs. All of them were near a woodland pool or small pond along the trail. 

The American toads (Anaxyrus americanus) were pretty cool:


But the most interesting was definitely this: a Garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) eating a wood frog (Lithobates sylvaticus)!

I’ve never seen anything like it. Even with an unhinged jaw, I’m not sure how that frog is going to fit in the snake’s mouth!


What a great morning walk. Thank you to everyone who joined us! Check all our other sightings that day at the Fells here. See you next month ( 📅 Join our next walk )!


Sept, 25th 2019 | by Laura Costello 

The photos in this article are visual observation that Laura and Claire have recorded during the Sept 21st, 2019 Forest Explorations event. They  are licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC).

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🍂 4 Seasons Celebration » Fall https://www.earthwiseaware.org/4-seasons-celebration-fall/ Mon, 16 Sep 2019 08:00:52 +0000 https://www.earthwiseaware.org/?p=11653 […]]]>

Summary ꙳ Objectives

Can you feel this little chill in the air? Do you hear the difference in the sound that the wind makes when it runs through the leaves? The sound is crispier now, while it was more 'feathery' throughout the summer.

Where we live the trees are dressing up in red, purple, orange, dark green, gold yellow, and a myriad of hue variations far and between. It's a feast for the eye!

Fall is a wonderful time to be outside as much we can! Take an evening, be out on weekends... Take a Nature break whenever you can and breath in the beauty of the season. We always have our outdoor day bag ready to go. What's in our bag? Local fauna and flora field guides, a magnifying glass, our binoculars of course. Since we 'snap' for recording nature data, then we also have our camera. And because there's always a minute or 2 to spare and sketch quickly a bud, a colored leaf, a tree, a landscape, then we also carry around our nature journal or a few sheets of paper, and pencils...

Autumn is here, and we're ready to enjoy it with you to the fullest. Happy Fall to all!  

 

ⓘ Intro to EwA Nature Circles

Type » Lesson

Level » Eco-Artsy + Naturalist

When? » Fall

Where? » Indoors & Outdoors

Time » 2hrs+

Themes & Skills

Celebration ⋆ Focus ⋆ Phenology ⋆ Natural processes/cycles ⋆ Systems thinking ⋆ Nature benefits ⋆ Temperate Regions

 

Material

Internet for accessing documentaries and wildlife webcams ⋆ Paper, pencils, crayons, or watercolors ⋆ Nature quest list(s) ⋆ Craft supplies that you anticipate needing for the Fall decoration activity...  

Activity Set

"When everything looks like a magical oil painting, you know you are in Autumn!" —Mehmet Murat Ildan

This Nature lesson is an 'ode' to Autumn. Its purpose is to connect us to the natural beauty of this time in the year. It reminds us of the importance of the season, both ecologically and culturally. 

This lesson's activities are a mix of discussions, nature quests, walks, and arts & craft. Enjoy!

Discuss » Fall Ecology & Celebrations Throughout Human History

Ecology

After the quietness of the end of the Summer, life is speeding up again. The air is chilling down a bit, the humidity is fading. The season starts with subtle changes, and then here in the Northeast of the United States, there is our favorite time of the year with the sudden explosion of vibrant reds, oranges, purples, and yellows. A common autumn phenomenon in the central and eastern United States and in Europe is the Indian summer, a period of unseasonably warm weather that sometimes occurs in late October or November.

It's a time of transition for many species. Animals gather food in autumn in preparation for the coming winter, and those with fur often grow thicker coats. Many birds migrate toward the Equator to escape the falling temperatures. 

The Bears of Katmai (Explore Live Webcam)

Discuss animal and plant activities in the Fall. For instance:

  • Research how your local fauna from birds to mammals prepare for the winter.
  • Follow through live webcams the bears of Katmai who gorge themselves with salmon, fattening rapidly to make it through the winter.
  • Think about how the differences between deciduous trees and evergreens express themselves during the season.
  • Choose a deciduous tree in your neighborhood that you can visit and observe every day. Record in your journal the changes throughout the season: at what pace do its leaves change colors and fall. If it's an oak, check its acorns. Are there a bunch of branch tips napped at the bottom of the tree? Check the cut on these branches, and if they are clean cuts snapped at an angle, it's probably a squirrel. Spy on them and tell us what you think they're doing when they snap those branches. Look closer and observe the buds that have appeared in your tree to get ready to burst next Spring. Observe the birds and mammals who live in this tree or nearby.

Learn about the changes in your region phenology. Phenology is the seasonal timing of life cycle events in plants and animals such as color change, seed dropping, migration, and hibernation. Change in phenology has been linked to shifts in the timing of allergy seasons, public visitation to National Parks, and cultural festivals. Change in phenology is also recognized as a bio-indicator of climate change impacts and has been linked to increased wildfire activity and pest outbreak, shifts in species distributions, the spread of invasive species, and changes in carbon cycling in forests. Phenological information can and is already being used to identify species vulnerable to climate change, to generate computer models of carbon sequestration, to manage invasive species, to forecast seasonal allergens, and to track disease vectors, such as mosquitoes and ticks, in human population centers. In the Northeast of the United States, we are already observing earlier blooming and bird migrations in Spring, and delayed migrations in the Fall...

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Observed Changes in Phenology Across Northeast of the United States

Celebrations

Seasons follow the cycle of astronomical events marked by solstices and equinoxes. In the Northern hemisphere, the September solstice is our Fall solstice (a.k.a. autumnal solstice). Solstice comes from the Latin words sol, meaning Sun and sistere, meaning to come to a stop or stand still.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the autumnal equinox falls around September 22 or 23, as the Sun crosses the celestial equator going south. In the Southern Hemisphere, the equinox occurs on March 20 or 21, when the Sun moves north across the celestial equator. 

The concept of autumn in European languages is connected with the harvesting of crops; in many cultures, autumn, like the other seasons, has been marked by rites and festivals revolving around the season’s importance in food production.

For instance, in the Celtic tradition, the Fall equinox was seen as a sacred transition from one state to another. On the day of the equinox, the 'Mother' goddess was the center of festivities where she was thanked for the gift of the harvests that she offered throughout the summer. 

The equinox also announces the start of a period of preparation for the coming obscurity of the Winter. It is a period favorable to reflection and introspection, and where we look at the past summer and recall its bounty and warmth. It's also time to leave behind what restrains us, what keeps us tied to a past that is no more, the perfect opportunity to cut clean the old branches.

Discuss with the group about what Fall represents, and how each celebrates it. Share your best memories...

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Fall Equinox (History)

Paint » Fall Colors

This is a creative journal activity: Get outside with your journal, colored pencils and/or watercolors.

Find a quiet area and paint a wheel of the colors that you see or associate with the season. Paint the sky, the Fall bloomers, and anything that is in your vicinity. Look down (at your feet on the forest floor) and capture the colors of the mushrooms that pierce through the litter. Paint the many different colors of the leaves of different trees. Capture the reflection of the sun on a pond through the canopy of a forest. What are the warmest and coolest hues of your palette? 

 Walk & Search » Nature Quest

Animals are busy preparing for the Winter, like the chipmunk storing the most nuts possible and fighting the thief that found its food-filled lair. Plants are slowing down. Because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor. Look at the trees, and find their fattening buds. The buds are energy-packed to bloom gloriously next Spring. is truly a wonderful time to get outside. Have a Nature walk and observe all that activity.

Make a list of 6 or more Fall items for your group or yourself to find out there in your city, parks or local forests.

The list is more fun when its items cover all the sensory realm (sound, taste, shape, color...). Print it, grab your journal and pencils, even your camera, and get outside. Forage for those items in pairs or alone.

Each time that you find one of the items, rather than collecting it (that should be avoided), take the time to sketch it. Take a snap if it's too hard and practice sketching from your pictures.

Show your sketches and pics to one another. Share which is your favorite and how you found the item (the bird, the nut, the leaf...)

❊ ❊ ❊

Here are a few items that we like to include in our Fall list (in no specific order):

  • 3 different bud shapes
  • a flock of birds flying South 
  • a small wildflower in bloom
  • a Y-shaped twig
  • a leaf with 3 colors on it
  • a late pollinator visiting a flower
  • a molting bird
  • a young pinecone
  • a squirrel carrying a nut to its den
  • the nest of a bird or the burrow of a chipmunk
  • 3 different shapes of leaves 
  • an evergreen
  • a grass with a hollow stem
  • a winged seed
  • the sun glowing through leaves

The internet is full of 'Fall nature quests or scavenger hunts' ideas. Explore what's out there and create your own list –The exploration activity alone is fun!

Create » Fall Craft

Circling back to the first activity and celebrate the season. Gather together (alone is fine too), and create a basket of fall paper flowers and leafy branches, an acorn and cone mobile,  or enjoy fern pressing or a nature mandala. Enjoy exploring what the season has to offer, and expand your creativity.

Think about gifting your craft to  someone in your circle, or offer it as a present to someone outside this circle. There is never a better time 'to give' than "now"–when we are enjoying the moment.

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Nature Craft Ideas on Pinterest

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Volunteering in Kenya – Choosing the Right Programme https://www.earthwiseaware.org/volunteering-in-kenya-choosing-the-right-programme/ https://www.earthwiseaware.org/volunteering-in-kenya-choosing-the-right-programme/#respond Fri, 06 Sep 2019 10:08:39 +0000 https://www.earthwiseaware.org/?p=15222 […]]]>

Volunteering in Kenya — Choosing the Right Programme

Sharan Bahra, Earthwise Aware‘s Vice-President, was recently in Kenya, where she helped a conservation organization focused on protecting both giraffes and lions. Here is her first post of a series, where she shares about the difficulties of finding ethical conservation venues, and how she led her research to find the right experience.

Sharan’s next article will focus on the reality in the field, and the responsibilities that the volunteers or citizen scientists ought to understand beforehand and enact onsite. Pass along!

‘The ethics of conservation volunteering and travel need a lot more thoughts…’ –Sharan Bahra

Sharan has been part of Earthwise Aware from its very inception in 2016, and became formally its vice-president in 2017. At EwA, Sharan currently focuses on raising knowledge and ethics of conservation volunteering and traveling.

"Conservation efforts for me include finding out about good ventures, learning lessons from bad ones, widening my knowledge from fellow travelers, working with and understanding local communities and what they do to preserve their ecosystems and wildlife, and of course sharing my enthusiasm..."

 Read more about Sharan

So, it’s taken a little while to start organising my notes and photos from my volunteering back in June this year but I’m there. Before I go into the details of the work actually undertaken, I’ll start with the process of choosing the venue. 

More than any previous time, I found it difficult to find the right ethical venture that engages in a meaningful way with the conservation effort. The dearth of companies that offer volunteering but actually provide volunteer tourism seems to have increased over the past years. This, unfortunately, also includes a few conservation volunteering ‘placement’ organizations.

It was certainly frustrating to wade through companies that offer hands-on interaction with animals or research-only projects where the research in actuality is shallow. It took months of desktop deep dives and conversations with candidate organizations to find the right one for me.


Bushwhacking Through the Good and the Bad Volunteerism Offerings

What I was looking for was an expedition with a mixture of activities including assisting research as well as manual work supporting land management. So, I went back to basics and reminded myself of the best practices and questions that we recommend at EwA (see The Complete Guide to Choosing Wildlife & Nature Venues and the Nature Traveler & Volunteer Essentials).

What I wasn’t looking for was a holiday where people are lured in by ‘volunteering’ where it exclusively brings in money for the company and makes the visitor feel good about the supposed work that goes on. In truth, these are ones that make me feel angry as they exploit wildlife, and in some cases in a horrendous and unethical way. An example of such experience is, for instance, the venues promoting big cat cub petting or walking with lions, which largely feed the canned lion industry. Or think about the misnamed ‘rehab’ centres where the human interaction ultimately means there can’t be any hope for the animals to be released or to survive back in the wild as the result of habituation. 

Once I narrowed down the options, I explicitly interacted with the organizations and asked questions. What is the nature of the research? Are there researcher/experts on-site? Is there a conservation education programme for volunteers and the local community? What do the volunteer fee and donations support? Does the work undertaken by volunteers displace locals, or is it rather supporting the local communities? and, how so explicitly? How many volunteers can be accommodated at any one time? And is there enough work to do if at full capacity? etc.


Asking For Choosing Ethically

The programme that I chose is the Giraffe & Lion Conservation in Kenya. The organization focuses on supporting the work of local conservationists to protect wildlife in the Soysambu Conservancy, by assisting in the research of endangered giraffes. A few tasks for the volunteer, there as outlined on their website, include:

□ Research the Rothschild giraffe and other endangered animals in the savannah
□ Set up camera traps and study animal behaviour
□ Conduct community outreaches
□ Remove invasive species
□ Maintain waterholes to ensure vital water access to wildlife

My choice was partly driven by the fact that it is in Kenya – a country that I love. But predominantly it was because of the focus of the project on the Rothschild Giraffe. This is a species which I learned about while I was on a safari holiday a few years ago, and I decided that it would be great to continue my education on the progress in protecting these species.

Here are a few key pointers to choosing the right programme:
□ Where do you want to go and what do you want to be doing?
□ What information is being provided about the conservation benefits of the volunteering?
□ Does all the reading and questions back up what is on their website and the initial information shared with the volunteer?
□ What is the long term strategy of the programme/company?
□ Is there enough actual substantial work? (this one is more determined and evaluated once on site)

Of course, one great way to go about your search, to find what suits you while being ethical, and to learn what to expect so that you’re best prepared for your adventure is to follow check EwA’s Guides on the topic

My next post, I’ll talk about the reality of a nature volunteer experience (in the field), and share about the responsibility of the company and the volunteers so as to maximize conservation impact.


Further Reading

Volunteer Tourism: What’s Wrong With It and How It Can Be Changed by Andrea Freidus Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of North Carolina – Charlotte. In The Conversation U.S. (2017)

The Travelling Giraffe –Protecting a Species by Sharan Bahra (EwA 2016)

Green Volunteer database > One source to find projects. A few good ones can be found there but beware that ethics of a company may change over time, as well as that new good opportunities haven’t been yet added in this repository.

EwA Guides and Etiquettes



Sept, 6th 2019 | by  Sharan Bahra 

The photos in this article are the property of the author. The banner comprises of a background that is the author’s property, and of 2 surimposed free clip art of giraffe shadows .

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◊ First published Sept 6th, 2019 | Our tips are regularly revised and improved.

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Help our Insects ▹ Join the Somerville Pollinator Project! https://www.earthwiseaware.org/help-our-insects-%e2%96%b9-join-the-somerville-pollinator-project/ https://www.earthwiseaware.org/help-our-insects-%e2%96%b9-join-the-somerville-pollinator-project/#comments Mon, 22 Jul 2019 22:12:23 +0000 https://www.earthwiseaware.org/?p=15092 […]]]>

Helping our Urban Insects

» Join the Somerville Pollinator Project!

Insects are in trouble, but we can do something about it right where we live! Join us and help our community pollinators, the scientists who study them and all of us who depend upon them.

Amy Mertl (entomologist / Lesley University), Earthwise Aware, and Green & Open Somerville are joining forces to study and protect our pollinators (& insects) in Somerville. We need you to help us!

We’re conducting different kinds of surveys to gather data about insects, and specifically in Urban settings. Photographic surveys throughout the city along transects, hosting a ‘pollinator’ pot at home or joining a study group at The Somerville Community Growing Center for observing, recording and counting arthropod species. Really there’s something for everyone! ツ 

Check the project’s highlights, and you can fill out our form 📝 to let us know how you might be interested in participating. No prior knowledge is necessary: we’ll share knowledge and expertise – all that you need to know and more!


For Those Interested in Surveying with EwA at the Growing Center

In Brief…Survey ActivitiesNext StepsWho Can Help?


In Brief

 

You have an interest in surveying the pollinators (& insects) at the Growing Center with us.

For a start, here’s a little about us. Earthwise Aware focuses on protecting biodiversity, bringing communities together through ecological ethics and citizen science. As for our citizen science program, we have several projects in the region that fill knowledge gaps and help biodiversity science locally and globally. 

About insects specifically: this year, we’ve started surveying at Fresh Pond (Cambridge), Mass Audubon Habitat (Belmont) and at the Middlesex Fells Reservation (Medford, Winchester, etc.). It will be good to include surveying a very Urban area such as Somerville, and the Growing Center specifically.

Part of our goals besides helping scientists is also to promote science methodology, insects and native plants & insects knowledge in our communities including helping our representatives to understand biodiversity science. We also want to provide a means for people to learn about protocols & data, and develop tools for evidence-based advocacy.

One more thing: No prior knowledge is necessary to help us: we’ll share knowledge and expertise – all that you need to know and more!


Survey Activities

We’ll run a few activities throughout the year (and next). 

1) Plant Community Assessment. First, we need to record the plants of the center (plant baseline).

2) Arthropod Occurrence Survey. Photo document the insect population regularly. At first, it’ll be to establish a baseline and understand which order/family/genus and species visit the Growing center.

3) Arthropod Abundance Survey. We’ll also survey at regular intervals specific trees (and inspect tagged branches in those trees) and count and record any insect that land or feed on it.

▹ A quick note about protocol: There is a protocol in place to record our observations. We’ll train you about how to upload reliable records and have fun while doing it! But, in short, the data is recorded in 2 very cool open science platforms -one linked to a project with the University of North Carolina, both platforms have international outreach. 

4) During the winter, we’ll invite you to refine records identification together. For those interested to participate, we’ll also develop an annual report exhibiting and comparing data from all our sites. This report is to report our studies findings to ourselves, to our communities, to the partner organizations, and to governmental institutions. 


Next Step

We just started this year at the Growing Center, and yet we’ve done a lot already! We have a dedicated EwA page now (this page), we added this location into our 📕 Plant Visitor Survey protocol, we maintain an iNaturalist project (EwA at the Growing Center), and the Survey site log 📊 is up-and-running and public! 

Claire leads regular surveys at the center, and if you’re new to it, you’ll have a great opportunity to learn and practice until you want to do it on your own – unsupervised – or not: it’s fine to keep wanting to do it in a group setting ツ The goal, besides community and science building, is also to have you monitoring when we can’t, and supply additional data. The more regular and continuous our surveys are, the better it is for our pollinators, our scientists and ourselves as human Earth-citizen!

Each visit starts with the field task du jour, and with a short intro with important info for newcomers to give a chance to anybody to start at any point during the year. If you’re new and you missed the project intro part, and day field duty explanations, then no worry, there’s always the next event!

Our question to you: When is your general day/time availability? (Give us options if possible). And if you are interested to join or dab to see if it’s for you we invite you to subscribe to our forum, so that you get updated about results, coming short-notice visits, etc.


Who Can Help/Attend?

Anybody really. We train our citizen scientists anyway!

📅 Check our EwA Calendar [ view calendar | subscribe to calendar ] to see when we plan our visits. For the Growing Center, we are spontaneous (more so than for our other sites surveys), and have them planned about a day to a week prior to a visit.

💬 Join our EwA forum to get notified about our field findings, as well as to learn about cool science and important news. our our calendar. This is also a good way to ask questions and share what is important to you.

Some of you have asked how many kids we accommodate. We’ve never run a survey with many children, so we don’t have the answer to that question.

We usually have young adults, adults, and seniors. We have had a few young stellar citizen scientists attending on a few occasions. Those were certainly more mature than many adults we know ツ So, children are welcome. Just note that we ask anyone to follow the same rules than any of our citizen scientists: be quiet (wildlife ethics), spot without disturbing (field ethics), communicate quietly, and participate as much as possible.

There’s a lot of observing, moving slowly, flipping leaves cautiously, recording on camera and using data recording apps. Note that we don’t “capture” unless strictly necessary, yet we move out of harm’s way when needed. So, besides learning about biodiversity science, data, and protocol, our surveys are the perfect activity to learn about ethics and self-control 🙂

We hope you have all your questions answered. If not, please do not hesitate to ask. We look forward to hearing from you.


We also run insect surveys at Fresh Pond (Cambridge), Habitat (Belmont) and the Middlesex Fells Reservation as part of our Biodiversity programs. Check our EwA Citizen Science Program »


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🦋 Biobliss » Documenting Species Like a Pro https://www.earthwiseaware.org/biobliss-documenting-species-like-a-pro/ Mon, 15 Jul 2019 13:46:48 +0000 https://www.earthwiseaware.org/?p=10835 […]]]>

American Toad | EwA iNat Research Grade Sighting

Summary ꙳ Objectives

▹ Biodiversity refers to the variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to species, and ecosystems. It encompasses the evolutionary, ecological, and cultural processes that sustain life - It is the fabric of Life on Earth. It is everywhere starting right where we live: in our house, on our city streets, in our city parks, we just have to learn to look for it.    

Here is a circle that invites us to get out to discover and document the species who live among us, right here around our houses, our trees, parks, woods.

Get a Naturalist mindset. Explore Citizen Science and how to contribute to helping scientists all over the world with the recording of our observations. Learn what kind of information to record, and how to submit it using the iNaturalist app & platform. Enjoy! ツ

ⓘ Intro to EwA Nature Circles

Type » Lesson

Level » Explorer + Naturalist

When? » Anytime

Where? » Outdoors

Time » 2 hr+ & record anytime you're out there. 

Themes & Skills

Biodiversity ⋆ Species ⋆ Ecosystems ⋆ Focus ⋆ Observing ⋆ Recording ⋆ Scientific Methods ⋆ Systems Thinking ⋆ Natural Processes/Cycles ⋆ Citizen Science

 

Material

  • Internet access for watching biodiversity videos and research the topic
  • Hand lens to check critters  + your field journal
  • Nature guides about the local fauna and flora
  • iNaturalist App on your phone or tablet to record sightings but also to help identify species

Activity Set

"Biodiversity is essential to our well-being on planet Earth, providing core ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control, and buffering of extreme events. With many continuing pressures on land, biodiversity is constantly threatened so there is a need to better monitor this valuable resource globally. But there are many big data gaps in biodiversity, often in those places where the need is greatest. Citizen scientists can help to fill some of these gaps, both geographically and taxonomically" —Mark Chandler (Earthwatch Institute)

Citizen Science is also an incredible way to discover Biodiversity at an intimate level and therefore to connect deeply with Nature. Let's get out together and do some Science then!

Discuss » What is Biodiversity & Why Should We Care?

"We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity." — E. O. Wilson

Biodiversity is simply the variability among all living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems, as well as the ecological complexes of which they are part of; this includes diversity within species (genetic), between species, and of ecosystems.

 

See the full TED lesson (with quiz and discussion)

Yes, biodiversity is under many threats, but the good news is that these threats are 'identifiable' and that we can educate ourselves, collaborate, correct harmful ways and learn how to do better. Protecting biodiversity in all its richness, for what it is and for ourselves, is key for the health of the planet and humanity. Doing better is not conceptually hard, it is about how to control ourselves as a whole that is the problem. But once again: Together we can, and here is where citizen science helps...

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iNaturalism –The Magic of Biodiversity (EwA Nature Activity)

Discover » The Need for Citizen Scientists & How To Be One

Citizen science is good self-care. It makes you part of the community. It gives you a purpose. It connects you with the planet and it helps science.

Citizen science (CS) is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part by non-professional scientists. Citizen science may be performed by individuals, teams, or networks of volunteers. Citizen scientists often partner with professional scientists to achieve common goals. Large volunteer networks often allow scientists to accomplish tasks that would be too expensive or time-consuming to accomplish through other means.

Why join a citizen science project? Because it's fun, it fuels curiosity and outdoors experiences, it's community-driven, it helps the scientific community so that in return we can do better at preserving the fabric of Life that Biodiversity is.

 

Explore & Document » Documenting Species in a Nutshell

"Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect."— Samuel Johnson

Taking part in documenting species is easy!

There is a good social tool for documenting species, that provides key elements to communicate about biodiversity and build communities of nature enthusiasts: iNaturalist.

iNaturalist is primarily an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature. Their objective is multiple: getting people (and youth outside), raise awareness about biodiversity and citizen science. This being said iNaturalist is not A science project, and it's important to clarify this. But what they do is to facilitate the use of the data for science and conservation. Explicitly, this means that iNaturalist shares our findings with scientific data repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility to help scientists find and use our data. All we have to do is observe, record and share.

To participate in the effort to document species where ever we live or visit:

1) Download the iNaturalist app from the AppStore or Google Play (or use iNat online) & join our EwA iNat Biodiversity Projects.

2) Get familiar with the app. Check the iNat short Getting Started guide and video tutorialsIt's very well done, and it sets you quickly on your discovery path!

3) Get outside & find wildlife: It can be any plant, animal, fungi, slime mold, or any other evidence of life (scat, fur, tracks, shells, carcasses!)

4) Take a picture or a series of them from various angles when possible (to document the details of your sighting), and make sure to note the location of the critter you are documenting.

5) Then share your observation through iNaturalist or a citizen science platform of your choice. Make sure to follow good observation and recording guidelines.

6) Get feedback from actual scientists, experts, and other naturalists: the community will then kick in and help you refine your identification.

It is that engaging and it is that easy!

Become an EwA iNaturalist and start adding your own observations, join our EwA Biodiversity Projects on iNat 

And if you're local to where we run our live citizen science circles, come & join us! We call those circles 'Biobliss events' and they gather a vibrant group including scientists and nature enthusiasts. Together, we explore the diverse habitats that make our ecological region. At the minimum, we run regular 'bioblisses' in nearby parks and reservations, and list them a couple of weeks in advance in our Events calendar . We also organize spontaneous surveys in the areas that we visit.

Smooth Sumac Rhus glabra | EwA iNat Research Grade Sighting

What you’ll learn with us by joining our live Biobliss events

Besides having fun, you’ll also learn about:

꙳ Biodiversity
History; Biodiversity status & threats; Why it is important to protect it

꙳ The importance of everyone's participation through Citizen Science
What it is and its impact; Origins of biodiversity challenges; How you can join the effort and make your records by following good scientific protocols

꙳ How to ethically observe and record nature & wildlife sightings
Safety and ethical practices; Major species families; Captive (or cultivated) vs. wild observations; How to take pictures and of what; What information to record along with a sighting

꙳ How to use recording apps such as iNaturalist like pros

And so much more!

Naturalist Notes
We never miss an opportunity to get outside as often as we can throughout the seasons. Life is busy for all, but we make sure we set an hour aside every week to explore our local biodiversity with our Nature journal and with the iNat Project App.

Every time we go out doing chores and such, we check for movements of birds and mammals, record trees and bugs, pop out our journal for a quick sketch. Once home, we check our identifications looking through our guides and browsing websites that list local species. Doing so we solidify our learning and knowledge, we get more familiar with our surroundings each time, and we grow our appreciation of what we have right here at home.

» EwA Circle Members Tips & Tools

References

» Biodiversity & Citizen Science

iNaturalism » The Magic of Biodiversity (EwA Nature Circle Lesson) —A set of activities to remind us of Biodiversity's wonders and how important it is to protect it.

Biodiversity World Conservation Status —IUCN RedList 2010 News article about the Biodiversity Crisis.

Involving Citizen Scientists in Biodiversity Observation by Mark Chandler, & al. (2016) in The GEO Handbook on Biodiversity Observation Networks pp 211-237. 

Contribution of citizen science towards international biodiversity monitoring by Mark Chandler, & al. (2016) DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.09.004

CitizenScience.Org —The Citizen Science Association unites expertise from educators, scientists, data managers, and others to power citizen science.

» iNaturalist

Become an EwA iNaturalist

iNaturalist: What is it?

iNaturalist > Getting started

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Plant Blindness & the Extinction Crisis https://www.earthwiseaware.org/plant-blindness-the-extinction-crisis/ https://www.earthwiseaware.org/plant-blindness-the-extinction-crisis/#respond Wed, 26 Jun 2019 13:36:47 +0000 https://www.earthwiseaware.org/?p=14939 […]]]>

‘Plant blindness’ is obscuring the extinction crisis

for non-animal species

Up to a million species may go extinct due to human activity according to a recent report, some within decades. We all know the mammals in trouble – polar bears, giant pandas and snow leopards – but how many of us could name an endangered plant? A 2019 report assessed 28,000 plant species and concluded that about half of them were threatened with extinction.

This failure to notice and appreciate plants has been termed “plant blindness”, and it’s particularly worrying because there are significantly more plant species at risk than mammals, despite the latter hogging most of our attention.

Authors: Sarah McKim, Principal Investigator of Plant Developmental Biology, and Claire Halpin, Professor of Plant Biology and Biotechnology | University of Dundee.

ℹ Originally published on June 5th, 2019, in The Conversation that encourages the republication of this article for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons license, and following their guidelines | 📸 Photo Art Lucas / Shutterstock

Luckily, we developed a one minute cure for plant blindness that’s free and easy to do. Simply stop what you’re doing and look around. Are you in a room with wood or fibreboard floorboards or furniture? Do you see wallpaper, books or tissues? These are all made from plants. Your clothes may be made from plant fibres, such as cotton and linen. Perhaps you have food, fruit juice or a glass of wine nearby. Even if you’re in an office with plastic furniture, carpet tiles and wearing a polyester suit, these were made from oil generated over millions of years from plant and animal remains. Our lives are utterly dependent on plants, so why don’t we see them?

Besides the potted plant, there are at least three other materials sourced from plants in this photograph. Undrey/Shutterstock

Lost connections

Our lack of appreciation for plants is a fairly recent thing. Our history tells a very different story. The dawn of farming around 12,000 years ago was when people became obsessed with growing plants for food, changing the way we live and our planet forever. Starting with domesticating cereals such as barley, rice and wheat, humanity’s increasing population and sedentary communities depended on their ability to farm, leading to entire civilisations focused on agriculture.

Industrialisation and the more recent “green revolution” in agriculture led to incredible increases in cereal production and farming efficiency, allowing more people to live in cities rather than work on farms. Our agricultural success is a major reason why, for the first time in our history, most humans no longer farm, leaving people free to ignore our complete dependence on plants.

Tragically, our talent for farming has come at a huge cost to biodiversity. Right now, half of the habitable land on earth is used for agriculture, a major reason behind our current extinction crisis.

Should we care about losing the diversity of plant species, as long as we are producing enough food? Absolutely. Plants are the major food producers in most ecosystems, providing nourishment and shelter to microbes, fungi, insects and animal species which themselves play key roles in ecosystems.

While some creatures eat one type of plant – such as the bamboo-dependent giant panda – micro-organisms which live in the soil and make land fertile by recycling plant nutrients, perform better the more different plant species there are growing. Plant diversity also improves how much carbon is pulled from the atmosphere and stored in the soil – vital for mitigating climate change.


Read more: Biodiversity collapse: the wild relatives of livestock and crops are disappearing


The crops that feed us may increasingly depend on the survival of other plant species. Crops are vulnerable to disease and climate change, but wild and ancient species are often resistant to diseases and can grow on poor soils and in difficult environments. These plants will have genes that could make crops disease-resistant and allow them to grow in harsher conditions with less fertiliser and pesticide. We need this invaluable genetic heritage so that more people can continue to eat well in the future.

Our health is also intimately connected with plant diversity. Just under half of all prescription medicines come directly from plants or by remaking plant chemicals. We’ve screened only a fraction of species for potential medicines – we don’t know how many useful plant chemicals and genes remain to be discovered. Even the most overlooked plants can be enormously important.

Arabidopsis thaliana (or rockcress) is one of the most well-studied plants in the world – but would most people recognise it? Stefan Lefnaer/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

You might be surprised to learn that the species most studied to understand how plants work is a genus of tiny weeds called Arabidopsis. Most people have never heard of them and couldn’t identify them, even though they regularly pull them from their garden. By studying Arabidopsis, scientists learned how plants know when to flower, which is being used to improve our understanding of flowering in vegetable crops – key to improving their yield. They also learned how Arabidopsis defends itself from pathogens, which could be used to make crops resistant to disease.

We can cultivate an appreciation of plants and their importance by improving access to parks, botanic gardens and forests, as well as including plant biology throughout the science curriculum in schools. But we also need to ensure there is a future for the thousands of species threatened with extinction. We need to produce more food on less land, so that natural habitats can thrive.


Read more: We’re conservation scientists – here’s why we haven’t lost hope for the future


Plants could contribute even more to society’s needs in the future. Technologies already exist for making fuels and plastic from the agricultural waste of straw, grain husks and potato peel. These alternatives sadly won’t compete with cheap oil until we pay the full cost of our current lifestyles with a carbon tax. To avoid mass extinctions, we need transformative change in our politics, economics and technology to preserve and sustainably use the incredible natural resources that Earth provides.

A painless first step towards making this change is something you could do every day: our one minute cure for plant blindness. If we stop, think and appreciate how plants enrich our lives, we will learn to respect our agricultural heritage and natural habitats and better manage the trade-offs between them.


By Sarah McKim, Principal Investigator of Plant Developmental Biology, University of Dundee and Claire Halpin, Professor of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, University of Dundee | This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

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🌺 4 Seasons Celebration » Summer https://www.earthwiseaware.org/4-seasons-celebration-summer/ Thu, 06 Jun 2019 08:00:05 +0000 https://www.earthwiseaware.org/?p=11075 […]]]>

Summary ꙳ Objectives

As the leaves of trees are reaching their mature size, and the canopy gets fuller, it is now harder to spot birds in those trees. Many of these trees have flowered already and are busy producing sugars and the next generation of buds. The squirrels have moved to their summer residence (leaf-and-twigs nests). The peepers are peeping, the toads are trilling, the turtles are basking. There's no doubt anymore that summer is here! 

Summer is a wonderful time to be outside as much as we can! Be out in the evening, be out on weekends, be out at night. We always have our outdoor day bag ready to go. What's in our bag? Local fauna and flora field guides, a magnifying glass, and our binoculars of course. Since we 'snap' for recording nature data, we also have our camera with us. And because there's always a minute or 2 to spare to quickly sketch a bug, a flower, a tree, a landscape, we also carry around our nature journal or a few sheets of paper, and pencils...

 

ⓘ Intro to EwA Nature Circles

Type » Lesson

Level » Eco-Artsy + Naturalist

When? » Summer

Where? » Indoors & Outdoors

Time » 2hrs+

Themes & Skills

Celebration ⋆ Focus ⋆ Phenology⋆ Natural processes/cycles ⋆ Systems thinking ⋆ Nature benefits ⋆ Temperate Regions

 

Material

Internet for accessing documentaries and wildlife webcams ⋆ Paper, pencils, crayons, or watercolors ⋆ Nature quest list(s) ⋆ Craft supplies that you anticipate needing for the Summer decoration activity...  

Activity Set

"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough" —Rabindranath Tagore

This Nature lesson is an 'ode' to Summer. Its purpose is to connect us to the natural beauty of this time in the year. It reminds us of the importance of the season, both ecologically and culturally. 

This lesson's activities are a mix of discussions, nature quests, walks and arts & craft. Happy Summer to all!  

Discuss » Summer Ecology & Celebrations Throughout Human History

Ecology

After Spring's Nature frenzy, life is quieting down a little. The bouts of Spring cold are now ancient history. Many animal and insect species are raising their young... 

Discuss animals and plants activities in the summer. For instance:

  • research how your local fauna from birds to mammals raise their progeny (and how important it is to not interfere). Notice that throughout the summer you hear less of the birds singing because they are now busy with their chicks, and keeping danger at bay (singing would attract attention on the clutch).
  • follow through live webcams the bears of Katmai who gorge themselves with salmon, fattening rapidly to make it through the winter.
  • note that towards the end of the Summer, the usual bird dawn chorus seems to disappear (this time due to a late summer molting of many bird species).
  • explore the abundance of plant & insect activity and relationships. investigate the peony-ant, the ant-aphid, the squirrel-oaks relationships.
  • it's also a great time to go 'ponding' (i.e., the activity of exploring ponds) and check our local watersheds. Go scoop on the edge and in the mud, and see what comes out, therefore exploring pond life.
  • think about how the differences between deciduous trees and evergreens express themselves during the season.

Learn about the changes in your region phenology. Phenology is the seasonal timing of life cycle events in plants and animals such as flowering, hibernation, and migration. Change in phenology has been linked to shifts in the timing of allergy seasons, public visitation to National Parks, and cultural festivals. Change in phenology is also recognized as a bio-indicator of climate change impacts and has been linked to increased wildfire activity and pest outbreak, shifts in species distributions, the spread of invasive species, and changes in carbon cycling in forests. Phenological information can and is already being used to identify species vulnerable to climate change, to generate computer models of carbon sequestration, to manage invasive species, to forecast seasonal allergens, and to track disease vectors, such as mosquitoes and ticks, in human population centers. In the Northeast of the United States, we are already observing earlier blooming and bird migrations...

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Observed Changes in Phenology Across Northeast of the United States

Celebrations

Seasons follow the cycle of astronomical events marked by solstices and equinoxes. In the Northern hemisphere, the June solstice is our Summer solstice (a.k.a. estival solstice). Solstice comes from the Latin words sol, meaning Sun and sistere, meaning to come to a stop or stand still. On the day of the June solstice, the Sun reaches its northernmost position, as seen from the Earth. At that moment, its zenith does not move north or south as during most other days of the year, but it stands still at the Tropic of Cancer. It then reverses its direction and starts moving south again. The opposite happens during the December solstice. Then, the Sun reaches its southernmost position in the sky - Tropic of Capricorn - stands still, and then reverses its direction towards the north.

Often in the North, we mark the beginning of summer with the celebration of the summer solstice. But actually, the solstice is more like the middle of it. Indeed, this solstice is also known as midsummer. This makes sense as from now on, daylight is going to shorten.

In many ancient cultures of the North, this solstice marks a time of abundance celebrated with feasts, bonfires, and festivals.

For instance, in ancient Gaul, which covered modern-day France and some parts of its neighboring countries, the Midsummer celebration was called the Feast of Epona. The celebration was named after a mare goddess who personified fertility and protected horses. In ancient Germanic, Slav and Celtic tribes, pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires. After Christianity spread in Europe and other parts of the world, many pagan customs were incorporated into the Christian religion. In parts of Scandinavia, the Midsummer celebration continued but was observed around the time of St John’s Day (June 24th) to honor St John the Baptist instead of the pagan gods. In old China, the solstice celebrated the Earth, femininity, and the “yin” forces. It was the complement to the Winter solstice that celebrated masculinity and the “yang” forces. In North America, native tribes held ritual dances to honor the Sun. The Sun Dance was known as Wiwanke Wachipi, and was the most important ceremony practiced by the Lakota (Sioux) and nearly all Plains Indians. It was a time of renewal for the tribes, their people and Earth.

Discuss with the group about what Summer represents, and how each celebrates it. Share your best memories...

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Why We Celebrate The Summer Solstice

Paint » Summer Colors

This is a creative journal activity: Get outside with your journal, colored pencils and/or watercolors.

Find a quiet area and paint a wheel of the colors that you see or associate with the season. Paint the sky and the tree right next to you. Paint Sunflowers and the bees that visit them, Pipsissewa, or the first leaves that you see changing into early fall colors. Capture the reflection of the sun on a pond, through the canopy of a forest. What are the warmest and coolest hues of your palette?

 Walk & Search » Nature Quest

Animals are busy preparing for the Fall, and are raising their young. They are busy feeding, storing, fattening, molting. Plants are still catching as much sunlight as possible and produce sugars to grow, strengthen and store for the rougher times to come. This is truly a wonderful time to get outside. Have a Nature walk and observe all that activity.

Make a list of 6 or more Summer items for your group or yourself to find out there in your city, parks or local forests.

The list is more fun when its items cover all the sensory realm (sound, taste, shape, color...). Print it, grab your journal and pencils, even your camera, and get outside. Forage for those items in pairs or alone.

Each time that you find one of the items, rather than collecting it (that should be avoided), take the time to sketch it. Take a snap if it's too hard and practice sketching from your pictures.

Show your sketches and pics to one another. Share which is your favorite and how you found the item (the bird, the flower...)

❊ ❊ ❊

Here are a few items that we like to include in our Summer list (in no specific order):

  • a mourning dove
  • 3 different seeds
  • a small wildflower
  • a Y-shaped twig
  • a summer flowering tree, or a tree with fresh buds
  • a pollinator visiting a flower
  • a molting bird
  • a young pinecone
  • a squirrel
  • the nest of a bird or the burrow of a chipmunk
  • 3 different types of leaves in the same tree 
  • samaras or winged seeds away from their tree
  • a grassy smell
  • a rabbit
  • the sun glowing through leaves

The internet is full of 'Summer nature quests or scavenger hunts' ideas. Explore what's out there and create your own list –The exploration activity alone is fun!

Create » Summer Craft

Circling back to the first activity and celebrate the season. Gather together (alone is fine too), and create a basket of Summer paper flowers, a nature mobile,  or enjoy flower pressing or a nature mandala. Enjoy exploring what the season has to offer, and expand your creativity.

Think about gifting your craft to  someone in your circle, or offer it as a present to someone outside this circle. There is never a better time 'to give' than "now"–when we are enjoying the moment.

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Nature Craft Ideas on Pinterest

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How Birders Helped Pinpoint Hotspots for Migratory Bird Conservation https://www.earthwiseaware.org/how-birders-helped-pinpoint-hotspots-for-migratory-bird-conservation/ https://www.earthwiseaware.org/how-birders-helped-pinpoint-hotspots-for-migratory-bird-conservation/#respond Fri, 24 May 2019 13:02:14 +0000 https://www.earthwiseaware.org/?p=14853 […]]]>

How birders helped pinpoint hotspots

for migratory bird conservation

Many bird populations are crashing, largely because they migrate such long distances and are at risk from human influence at every link in their migratory chain.

One favourite, the tiny Canada warbler, is among those that find themselves in trouble. Although this bird weighs only as much as a AAA battery, each spring it flies more than 5,500 kilometres from its winter home in South America to breed in Canada, stopping in Mexico, Texas and Michigan along the way. The Canada warbler makes this incredible journey as many as eight times over the course of its life (…)

Authors: Richard Schuster, Carleton University; Amanda D. Rodewald, Cornell University; Joseph Bennett, Carleton University; Peter Arcese, University of British Columbia, and Scott Wilson, Carleton University

ℹ Originally published on April 15th, 2019, in The Conversation that encourages the republication of this article for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons license, and following their guidelines | 📸 Bank swallows, like this juvenile, may become endangered unless habitat loss and other threats are reduced. Shutterstock


Unfortunately, like many North American songbirds, the Canada warbler is at risk of extinction. Deforestation and human development projects are of the utmost concern to Canada warblers and other birds. More than one-third of North America’s 1,154 bird species are suffering population declines.

The Canada warbler flies more than 5,000 kilometres from their wintering grounds in South American to their breeding grounds in Canada and the United States | Shutterstock

Historically, the protection of migratory birds has been difficult. Not only do they require habitat to eat, nest and sleep across two or more continents, but scientists have had limited knowledge about their distribution throughout the year. Today, only one-tenth of migratory birds have enough habitat protected across their yearly ranges to sustain their populations.

Our latest research, published in the journal Nature Communications, provides governments and conservation groups with a blueprint for conserving enough habitat to protect the populations of almost one-third of the warblers, orioles, tanagers and other birds that migrate among the Americas.

Millions of bird sightings

We used eBird, a global citizen scientist database housed at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, to map migratory songbirds. The database allows birders to enter information about the birds they observe from anywhere in the world. eBird is very popular: more than half a billion sightings have been logged around the world in 15 years.

From that, we took 14 million bird sightings collected by hundreds of thousands of citizen scientists to determine the places the Canada warbler and 116 other bird species use for their transcontinental migration. That provided us with guidance on where, when and what type of habitat should be conserved to sustain the populations of these birds.

Species diversity of 117 migratory songbird species is shown for every week of the year. Species maps provided by eBird, animation by Richard Schuster, March 2019.

For example, large areas of evergreen forests were highlighted in western Canada. In the eastern Andes and western Amazon basin, we found broadleaf forests were important to survival. Identifying these areas is a vital step for the protection of migratory birds. It will help us to make the best use of limited resources for conservation.

This map shows the most important locations for conserving 30 per cent of the population of each species examined. The darker the blue, the more consistently important was the location. Graphic by Richard Schuster.

Conservation dollars

Governments and NGOs should spend about US$1 billion annually on bird conservation to meet global biodiversity targets, but it’s been very hard to know where on the migratory chain to make that investment. Our results can help them do a much better job.

We found that conservation strategies were most efficient when they incorporated working lands, such as agriculture or forestry, rather than exclusively focusing on areas with limited human impacts such as intact or undisturbed landscapes. This could be because human settlements are generally located in productive areas, which also tend to be high biodiversity areas.

The Baltimore oriole overwintering in Costa Rica | Shutterstock

The importance of shared-use or working landscapes to migratory birds underscores how strategic conservation can accommodate both human livelihoods and biodiversity. Striking the right balance has previously been a challenge because migratory birds are often on the move. But our research showed that when a year’s worth of bird location data is considered, conservation can be more efficient and require 56 per cent less land.

In the past, efforts to protect migratory species have focused only on breeding areas, as the bulk of research and management has focused on these areas. Our results show that it’s more effective to include areas used by multiple species, across the entire year.

This study also reveals how a global citizen science effort can enable strategic planning to maximize the return on conservation investments. No other data source could have achieved anything close to this level of detail and efficiency over such a vast area.

eBird and more than 300,000 eBirders around the world make it possible for researchers like us to consider the full annual journey of migratory birds — formation that can translate to better conservation. We’re hopeful that governments and conservation groups will be able to make informed and cost-effective decisions to protect the Canada warbler and other feathered globetrotters.


by Richard Schuster, Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellow, Carleton University; Amanda D. Rodewald, Garvin Professor and Senior Director of Conservation Science, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University; Joseph Bennett, Assistant Professor, Carleton University; Peter Arcese, Professor, University of British Columbia, and Scott Wilson, Research scientist, Carleton University | This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation 

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The Need for a Global Deal for Nature https://www.earthwiseaware.org/the-need-for-a-global-deal-for-nature/ https://www.earthwiseaware.org/the-need-for-a-global-deal-for-nature/#respond Sun, 05 May 2019 15:39:08 +0000 https://www.earthwiseaware.org/?p=14726 […]]]>

To solve climate change and biodiversity loss, we need a Global Deal for Nature

We chart a course for immediately protecting at least 30% of Earth’s surface to put the brakes on rapid biodiversity loss, and then add another 20% comprising ecosystems that can suck disproportionately large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. In our view, biodiversity loss and climate change must be addressed as one interconnected problem with linked solutions.

Author: Greg Asner Director, Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science and Professor, Arizona State University

ℹ Originally published on April 19th, 2019, in The Conversation that encourages the republication of this article for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons license, and following their guidelines | 📸 An aerial photo of Borneo shows deforestation and patches of remaining forest. Greg Asner, CC BY-ND


Earth’s cornucopia of life has evolved over 550 million years. Along the way, five mass extinction events have caused serious setbacks to life on our planet. The fifth, which was caused by a gargantuan meteorite impact along Mexico’s Yucatan coast, changed Earth’s climate, took out the dinosaurs and altered the course of biological evolution.

Today nature is suffering accelerating losses so great that many scientists say a sixth mass extinction is underway. Unlike past mass extinctions, this event is driven by human actions that are dismantling and disrupting natural ecosystems and changing Earth’s climate.

My research focuses on ecosystems and climate change from regional to global scales. In a new study titled “A Global Deal for Nature,” led by conservation biologist and strategist Eric Dinerstein, 17 colleagues and I lay out a road map for simultaneously averting a sixth mass extinction and reducing climate change.

We chart a course for immediately protecting at least 30% of Earth’s surface to put the brakes on rapid biodiversity loss, and then add another 20% comprising ecosystems that can suck disproportionately large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. In our view, biodiversity loss and climate change must be addressed as one interconnected problem with linked solutions.

International Union for the Conservation of Nature status ratings for assessed species (EW – extinct in the wild; CR – critically endangered; EN – endangered; VU – vulnerable; NT – near threatened; DD – data deficient; LC – least concern). Many species have not yet been assessed. IUCN, CC BY-ND

Let’s make a deal

Our Global Deal for Nature is based on a map of about a thousand “ecoregions” on land and sea, which we delineated based on an internationally growing body of research. Each of them contains a unique ensemble of species and ecosystems, and they play complementary roles in curbing climate change.

Natural ecosystems are like mutual funds in an otherwise volatile stock market. They contain self-regulating webs of organisms that interact. For example, tropical forests contain a kaleidoscope of tree species that are packed together, maximizing carbon storage in wood and soils.

Forests can weather natural disasters and catastrophic disease outbreaks because they are diverse portfolios of biological responses, self-managed by and among co-existing species. It’s hard to crash them if they are left alone to do their thing.

Man-made ecosystems are poor substitutes for their natural counterparts. For example, tree plantations are not forest ecosystems – they are crops of trees that store far less carbon than natural forests, and require much more upkeep. Plantations are also ghost towns compared to the complex biodiversity found in natural forests.

Another important feature of natural ecosystems is that they are connected and influence one another. Consider coral reefs, which are central to the Global Deal for Nature because they store carbon and are hotspots for biodiversity. But that’s not their only value: They also protect coasts from storm surge, supporting inland mangroves and coastal grasslands that are mega-storage vaults for carbon and homes for large numbers of species. If one ecosystem is lost, risk to the others rises dramatically. Connectivity matters.

Reef-scale coral bleaching in the Hawaiian Islands, 2016. Warming oceans are causing repeated coral bleaching events, threatening reefs worldwide. Greg Asner, CC BY-ND

The idea of conserving large swaths of the planet to preserve biodiversity is not new. Many distinguished experts have endorsed the idea of setting aside half the surface of the Earth to protect biodiversity. The Global Deal for Nature greatly advances this idea by specifying the amounts, places and types of protections needed to get this effort moving in the right direction.

Building on the Paris Agreement

We designed our study to serve as guidance that governments can use in a planning process, similar to the climate change negotiations that led to the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Paris accord, which 197 nations have signed, sets global targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, provides a model for financial assistance to low-income countries and supports local and grassroots efforts worldwide.

But the Paris Agreement does not safeguard the diversity of life on Earth. Without a companion plan, we will lose the wealth of species that have taken millions of years to evolve and accumulate.

In fact, my colleagues and I believe the Paris Agreement cannot be met without simultaneously saving biodiversity. Here’s why: The most logical and cost-effective way to curb greenhouse gas emissions and remove gases from the atmosphere is by storing carbon in natural ecosystems.

Forests, grasslands, peatlands, mangroves and a few other types of ecosystems pull the most carbon from the air per acre of land. Protecting and expanding their range is far more scalable and far less expensive than engineering the climate to slow the pace of warming. And there is no time to lose.

Worth the cost

What would it take to put a Global Deal for Nature into action? Land and marine protection costs money: Our plan would require a budget of some US$100 billion per year. This may sound like a lot, but for comparison, Silicon Valley companies earned nearly $60 billion in 2017 just from selling apps. And the distributed cost is well within international reach. Today, however, our global society is spending less than a tenth of that amount to save Earth’s biodiversity.

Nations will also need new technology to assess and monitor progress and put biodiversity-saving actions to the test. Some ingredients needed for a global biodiversity monitoring system are now deployed, such as basic satellites that describe the general locations of forests and reefs. Others are only up and running at regional scales, such as on-the-ground tracking systems to detect animals and the people who poach them, and airborne biodiversity and carbon mapping technologies.

 

AsnerLab’s airborne observatory is mapping and monitoring species and carbon storage to bring the problems of biodiversity loss and climate change into focus.

But key components are still missing at the global scale, including technology that can analyze target ecosystems and species from Earth orbit, on high-flying aircraft and in the field to generate real-time knowledge about the changing state of life on our planet. The good news is that this type of technology exists, and could be rapidly scaled up to create the first-ever global nature monitoring program.

Technology is the easier part of the challenge. Organizing human cooperation toward such a broad goal is much harder. But we believe the value of Earth’s biodiversity is far higher than the cost and effort needed to save it.


by Greg Asner, Director, Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science and Professor, Arizona State University | This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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2019 City Nature Challenge https://www.earthwiseaware.org/2019-city-nature-challenge/ https://www.earthwiseaware.org/2019-city-nature-challenge/#comments Fri, 26 Apr 2019 08:00:34 +0000 https://www.earthwiseaware.org/?p=12631

Ready for the 2019 City Nature Challenge? We Certainly Are!

Between April 26th and 29th, about 170 cities in 29 countries will be competing worldwide to see who can make the most observations of nature, find the most species, and engage the most people in the worldwide 2019 City Nature Challenge (CNC). Such events are known as Bioblitz events.

EwA is participating in this year’s challenge again! Every single day of the 4-days long challenge, we’ll run bioblitz events in reservations, parks and streets of the Boston area. Our locations include:

Join any of these events to observe & record what we see together! It’s a lot of fun, and a great way to help science while getting to learn about our communities and their biodiversity! 

Fresh Pond Reservoir 🦋
April 27th (1-3pm)

» Registration

Join us at the Fresh Pond Reservoir. We’ll focus our observations on a meadown in the reservoir, recording wildlfowers, trees and all the like, and establishing a baseline for a Pollinator survey that we’re starting this year.

We could even see eagles 🦅 if we’re lucky: We spotted 2 in flights this past October! 


Middlesex Fells Reservation 🐸
April 28th (1-3pm)

» Registration

Join us in the Middlesex Fells Reservation. We’ll focus our observations on a wetland area, recording the fauna and fauna around a pond that we’ll survey as part of a Vernal Pool Awareness & Protection program starting this year in the Fells. Who knows, we might be lucky and spot some salamanders. It’s the right time of the year for that!


Urban Somerville 🍃
April 27th & 29th (10am-12pm)

» Registration

Join us at the Armory and the Draw Seven Park of Somerville. We’ll focus our observations on the trees, wildflowers & birds of this busy urban community. You’ d be surprise to see how rich still a city environment can be. Right where we live, there are nuthatches, flickers, black squirrels and a myriad of wildlfowers. Come discover them with us!   

We are needed all over the World to take observations (with our phones and cameras) of as many species as possible. The more the better! This information will help to get a more accurate picture of the biodiversity in the Boston area, focusing within the I-495 corridor and out to Stellwagen Bank.

Any observation of plants, animals, fungi, even microbes, made in the greater Boston area during these days, will count for the challenge.

This is a national event encouraged by iNaturalist, open to anyone in the World and here in the Boston area.

Taking part is easy and free! To participate with us:

1) Download the iNaturalist app from the AppStore or Google Play (or use iNat online) & join the iNaturalist EwA City Nature Challenge Event.

2) Once you registered on iNaturalist, please send us your profile name at citizenscience@earthwiseaware.org, so that we get your observations counted explicitly in our EwA challenge project! We’ll generate a report after the challenge to show our particiapants contributions.
3) Get familiar with the app. Check the iNat short Getting Started guide and video tutorials. You can also join any of our citizen science crash courses prior to the challenge and listed in our calendar [» EwA’s Events Calendar]
4) Get outside & find wildlife.
5) Take a picture and then share your observations. Make sure to follow good observation and recording guidelines.

You can also join the many organized events in your area (find if your city participates in the event). We will specifically host events once a day between April 26th and April 29th . Each of our events will be about 2 hours long, and you’ll learn and share a ton with us!

Come & Join us! It’s a lot of fun, and for the great purpose of helping science to better protect the Nature that we love!

EwA Event Calendar & Registration »

What you’ll learn with us by joining any of our events

Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa) | EwA iNat Research Grade Sighting

Besides having fun, you’ll also learn about:

꙳ Biodiversity
History; Biodiversity status & threats; Why it is important to protect it

꙳ The importance of everyone’s participation through Citizen Science
What it is and its impact; Origins of biodiversity challenges; How you can join the effort

꙳ How to ethically observe and record nature & wildlife sightings
Safety and ethical practices; Major species families; Captive (or cultivated) vs. wild observations; How to take pictures and of what; What information to record along with a sighting

꙳ How to use recording apps such as iNaturalist like pros

Events List

Introducton to Citizen Science Seminar (March & April)

Climate science & Biodiversity science need you and the information that you can collect. And the good news is that you can really make a difference! This is a crash course about participative science (a.k.a. citizen science), that is the active public involvement in scientific research. In this class, we introduce you to what citizen science is, why it is needed, where it is needed, how you can help (individually or joining some of our local projects in local parks and reservations), and some of the popular tools used in citizen science projects.

Join us. It’s fun & exciting. Let’s make a difference together!

No PhD Needed: Saving the Planet with Citizen Science Seminar Schedule:

Species Recording Events (April 26-29)

Together let’s observe & record what we see!

We invite you to join our community and any of our iNaturalist projects. And you are most welcome to attend any of our local citizen science events!
꙳ EwA Biodiversity projects 🔬» https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/ewa-biodiversity-projects
꙳ EwA Events Calendar 📆 » http://earthwiseaware.eventbrite.com/

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Banner Pic: EwA iNat recording of a Black-capped Chickadee (Middlesex Fells Reservation, Medford MA) | Dragonfly (Calico Pennant) Photo credit: © Laura Costello.

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