Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn Community, Conservation & Citizen Science - Page 10

Where Science and Community Collaborate, Great Things Happen! By Paul Kwiatkowski, Wildlife Conservation & Sustainability Manager People often ask, what is citizen science anyway? Let’s begin with a definition. cit-i-zen sci-ence. n. The collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists. — Oxford Living Dictionaries All over the world, citizen-science projects have been mobilized to pursue scientific research through the support and energy of dedicated volunteers. This mode of research appears likely to increase in scale, as state funding for research is endangered by political considerations. As government- supported science is deprived of resources, well-structured programs with well- trained volunteers are more important than ever. Citizen-science projects have been implemented to protect fresh water, observe bird migration, map biodiversity, and preserve pollinators. In 2016, Mount Auburn introduced its first citizen- science program, a phenology study, created to collect data from the trees and shrubs that cover our forested landscape. 8 | Sweet Auburn Phenology is the study of recurring plant and animal life- cycle stages and the relationship of these life-cycle stages to weather and climate. To pursue this path of inquiry, ten species of deciduous trees and shrubs were chosen. Volunteers collect data on leaf emergence, unfolded leaves, open flowers, leaf color change, leaf drop, ripe fruit, and fruit and seed drop. Collecting this data over the long term will help us better understand the impacts of a warming climate on our urban wildlife refuge. Studies have shown that as temperatures rise, leaves and flowers are emerging earlier. The insects that feed on the new leaves and flowers are hatching earlier as well. Are migratory birds able to alter the timing of their spring migrations to coincide with the availability of food sources? Are birds shortening their fall migrations, or cancelling them all together, to remain closer to their breeding ground as the seasons are extended? Will some tree and shrub species vanish from their native ranges because they cannot adapt quickly enough to the warmer, dryer conditions that are predicted for New England over the coming century? These are a few of the questions that scientists