✨ Mina’s Testimonial
“Part of what makes EwA’s citizen science program so valuable is its emphasis on an ecosystem approach to biodiversity (…) Only with this knowledge can we develop conservation approaches that protect entire ecosystems, not just a small subset of species. “
My involvement with Earthwise Aware (EwA) began over two years ago as one of EwA’s 2020 summer interns. At the time, I was an undergraduate student looking to gain fieldwork experience and learn more about citizen science. Most of my learning up until this point had been in the classroom, and I sought a more hands-on approach to understanding urban ecology in the Greater Boston Area. I was not disappointed; over the course of a single summer, I went from understanding biodiversity largely in the abstract to being able to identify by name much of the wildlife around me.
Part of what makes EwA’s citizen science program so valuable is its emphasis on an ecosystem approach to biodiversity. Identification skills are not all it takes to be a great naturalist; the key lies in understanding how the many parts of an ecosystem – plants, animals, insects, fungi, and abiotic factors like soil and climate – relate to one another. Only with this knowledge can we develop conservation approaches that protect entire ecosystems, not just a small subset of species.
When my internship wrapped up in August 2020, I already knew that I wanted to stay involved at EwA. From that August through May of the following year, I attended and documented via blog posts EwA’s monthly Forest Explorations walks. These nature walks are open to the public and offer a year-round opportunity to learn about wildlife and seasonal patterns at the Middlesex Fells Reservation. EwA’s citizen science program excels in its prioritization of training and ongoing commitment in order to ensure scientifically sound, quality data. However, EwA also recognizes that not all individuals are able to volunteer in this capacity. Forest Explorations are just one of the ways that EwA encourages all community members to learn more about the natural world around them.
As of July 2021, my role at EwA has shifted to that of a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) consultant. I work with director Claire O’Neill to spatially represent and quantify the impact that factors such as pollution, recreational misuse, and invasive species have on the Middlesex Fells. In my new role, I’ve come to deeply appreciate the manner in which EwA employs technology to meet desired outcomes. This isn’t limited to exploring GIS capabilities; EwA’s citizen science program seamlessly integrates apps such as the National Phenology Network’s “Nature’s Notebook” and “Caterpillars Count,” an app created by the University of North Carolina to monitor insect diversity and abundance. This use of existing technology ensures that EwA’s protocols meet current standards, and that collected data supports and strengthens larger-scale research efforts. I’ve recognized this aspect of EwA’s work since my internship days, but my more recent work with GIS has further deepened my appreciation of EwA’s dedication to technological innovation, data transparency, and collaboration.
– Mina Burton | Sept 27th, 2022
Geographic Information Systems Consultant