You are here: Home » Uncategorized » Calling All Citizen Scientists…

Calling All Citizen Scientists…

Citizen science volunteers Carol Sinclair and Jane Sloley prepare salamander boards.

We’re stepping up efforts to understand more about wildlife populations in our region, and we need your help. 

The Couchiching Conservancy has a goal to effectively monitor and care for the thousands of acres we protect in this region, and as we settle into the 21st century, that order has been supersized.

Partly we are victims of our own blessed success in acquiring new habitats, thanks to all of you.  But the odds are also ratcheting up against biodiversity in our region, due to daunting factors such as climate change and the development of unprotected lands.   While we don’t know what the future holds, we have hope that change is possible, and that small, winnable battles often result in surprisingly big results. 

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) published a report this September that examines wildlife loss in Canada between 1970 and 2014.  They analyzed the population trends of 903 vertebrate species (species with a backbone) that are monitored in our country and found 451 of them in decline.

Let’s step back for a moment and say, “hallelujah, the glass is half full!” because we lucky Canadians are in a much better position than most of the world when it comes to biodiversity.  In the, “there’s-work-to-be-done” half of the glass, however, species declined at an average rate of 83% over those 44 years.

“Beginning this fall the Couchiching Conservancy is stepping up our efforts to understand more about wildlife populations in our region, and we can’t do it without your help.”

Grassland birds who inhabit our region are part of the study, and WWF’s index reveals their populations have declined by 69% since 1970.  Now here’s an important note for Conservancy volunteers: if you have ever participated in a Bird Blitz, a Christmas Bird Count, or the Carden Challenge, your observations likely contributed to the WWF report.  Further, your data has helped us understand the trends in grassland bird populations in our region, and create what appear to be successful recovery strategies.

That’s a management success story we want to build on:  We protect a certain habitat, citizen scientists monitor it, the information we collect is analyzed, it helps us care for the species who live there, and the data is contributed to regional and national databases. 

Beginning this fall the Couchiching Conservancy is stepping up our efforts to understand more about wildlife populations in our region, and we can’t do it without your help.   We are now recruiting volunteers to monitor Reptiles and Amphibians on our properties, as they are particularly vulnerable to decline in Canada and the world.  Training will happen this winter, and field season will begin next spring.   To participate in these interesting citizen science opportunities, no experience is necessary and all training will be provided. 

There will be a frog call program, which Gayle Carlyle, John Challis, Meagan Coughlin and I tested out this spring.  After brushing up on our frog calls, we headed out ½ hour after sunset to a local wetland.  Wetlands are teeming with life and filled with mystery, and it was a trip we looked forward to every time. Three trips of fifteen minutes each spring, at different temperature thresholds, are all that’s required. 

Salamanders are one of the most elusive amphibians to study, but are important to the ecosystem because they prey on mosquitoes and ticks, helping to keep these insect populations in balance.  We’re putting out boards we hope salamanders will choose to live under, and asking volunteers to check in on them and record what they see.

We’re creating routes on our properties that volunteers will stealthily follow, hoping to sneak up on turtles, snakes, and the five-lined skink.  

There has never been a better time to volunteer for the Couchiching Conservancy.  Come work with us and join a community of people who are hopeful about the future of life on our planet, and have turned our hope into action. 

Thanks to the Youssef-Warren Foundation for funding our dream of a Citizen Science Reptile and Amphibian Program.

Dorthea Hangaard is Project Manager for the Couchiching Conservancy.  Contact her about becoming a citizen scientist   dorthea@couchconservancy.ca  (705) 326-1620

 

Click here to examine some citizen science opportunities and visit our volunteer page!