Citizen science programs like eBird, NestWatch, and SciStarter have seen dramatic increases in users since states began closing in March, providing conservationists with a wealth of data to help create data sets that could be used to protect birds. and insect species such as butterflies and dragonflies.
NestWatch Y eBird capitalize on the enthusiasm of local bird watchers to provide much information to scientists about populations in areas for which university ornithology departments do not have funds to plan expeditions, and these applications saw increases of 41% and 29% respectively in presentations this year compared to 2019.
COVID-19 has forced the postponement of many scientific expeditions, which is why naturalists rely heavily on citizen science programs to track insect and bird populations.
In Northern Virginia, a group called the Occoquan Bay Meadowoods Surveys that has delivered citizen science reports for 30 years played a major role in creating the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, less than an hour from the nation’s capital. .
“You don’t know what’s there until you know it’s there,” says Jim Waggener, 84, who founded the survey group three decades ago. “That’s what repetitive polls can do – remove layer after layer of nature so you can see a little more of what it’s all about.”
Waggener said National Geographic that due to the large number of older people present on their field expeditions, social distancing and other COVID-19 measures make it a bit more difficult to perform different types of field work, such as looking at flowers and insects up close, which which is especially relevant because the naturalist is seeing a significant increase in new faces joining him in the field.
Also speaking to National Geographic, a retired computer programmer named Judy Gallagher acknowledges that she spent 30 hours a month during the summer studying lesser-known butterflies in study areas of Northern Virginia.
“There are certain species, like monarchs, that are studied very carefully,” says Gallagher. “Most insects are not, and the more data we can provide, the more likely we can find ways to mitigate species loss.”
This research is being used by scientists at nearby Georgetown University to model the potential risk of current or future human impacts on feeding and reproductive habits and habitat vulnerability of butterflies.
Insect species are often neglected in favor of research on more charismatic species like birds and mammals, so citizen science can help offset biases in research fields within academia.
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