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Citizen Science— Lending a Hand in Environmental Studies

Citizen science volunteers are often essential participants in monitoring and collecting scientific data. They are observers of many of the different habitats and species that Maryland scientists are studying. No previous background skills are required, only an
interest in the natural world. Participation in scientific studies allows volunteers to become involved in the data collecting process. Plus volunteers have the opportunity to learn more about ongoing scientific studies and the long term impacts revealed in the studies being done.

Would you like to participate?

Liana Vitali, is the Stewardship and Citizen Science Coordinator at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, which currently has nine different active programs that study turtles, butterflies, birds, forests, and vernal pools. Vitali says that all that is necessary to become a Citizen Scientist “is the desire to further human understanding of the world around us.” For the Bluebird study the Citizen Scientists visit nesting boxes on a regular basis to count eggs, then hatchlings and then until the birds are fledglings. This has been an ongoing study lasting over many years.

The turtle monitoring program, now in its 32 year, is one of the oldest in the United States. Volunteers track turtle movement via tiny radio transmitters attached to the turtles, on a weekly basis April through hibernation season around November. Citizen scientists help provide the data needed to monitor changes to animal and bug populations across the Jug Bay environment. In the case of the turtles that includes home range size, nest and hibernacular spaces, longevity, and more.There are also times when volunteers help save some of the more vulnerable critters.

If monitoring the progress of turtles, checking on Bluebird nests or counting waterfowl sound fun, or interesting to you, becoming a Citizen scientist could be in
your future.

Citizen Science Opportunities

Students interested in careers in science should consider volunteering as a citizen scientist. The experience is invaluable. Some training is usually required, but more than anything, these organizations need to depend on you to show up and do the work you have been assigned. Read the requirements carefully before volunteering for any position.

Other groups looking for volunteers include:

  • Severn River Association (SRA) and their “floating classroom.” Students get a chance to learn about conditions in the water as they use water quality monitoring equipment to check on oxygen levels, pH, temperature, salinity and clarity. severnriver.org/sra-floating-classroom
  • Hawk Watch– (part of the Maryland BioDiversity Project) hawkcount.org
  • Jug Bay Citizen Science Opportunitiesjugbay.org/volunteer
  • Maryland BioDiversity Project– an organization focused on cataloging the living things of Maryland. Promoting conservation, science, and education by helping to build a vibrant nature study community. The incredible MBP community has cataloged over 20,000 species, including more than 12,500 species with photographs, and feature the work of more than 15,000 naturalists and photographers. marylandbiodiversity.com
  • Owl Moon Raptor Center– volunteers are needed to transport rescued birds to Owl Moon or other licensed rehabilitation facilities. Ages 18 and older. owlmoon.org/home/get-involved/volunteer
  • Smithsonian Environmental Research Center Citizen Scienceserc.si.edu/citizen-science/projects
  • Spa Creek Conservancy– Storm Water Monitoring SpaCreek.net
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