A growing area of interest in our country is that of ‘Citizen Science’. A citizen scientist may be defined as a person with an avid interest in some branch of science who does not work professionally in that branch. A few examples include astronomy (the stars and planets), ornithology (birds), and botany (plants). These people may pursue their passion as a hobby and/or join an organization with people of similar interests. Some notable examples of citizen scientists in history are Sir Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, and Charles Darwin.
The Internet allows global communication and hence the communication between scientists and non-professional enthusiasts has been growing. Usually working for free to gather information, these citizen scientists can enhance scientific research. Scientists do not often have the resources or the time to travel and collect data in some places on a regular basis. This data can prove to be invaluable over a long term in showing trends and possible causes of change.
The Friends of the Bill Williams River and Havasu National Wildlife Refuges often provide volunteers who regularly participate in Citizen Science projects. The Christmas Bird Count on the Bill Williams River and Havasu National Wildlife Refuges is just one example. These bird counts are part of an international effort to count birds in late December and early January of every year.
In another example, local volunteers have had the opportunity to help scientists from the United States Geological Survey as they gather data to produce a map of the Topock Marsh and collect samples of water and biota to track the health of the marsh. Volunteers are often needed for full or half days. To find out about volunteer opportunities, watch our website, Facebook Page, the Official Refuge websites, or call the Bill Williams River NWR or Havasu NWR Headquarters offices.
Here are some interesting links to Citizen Science Websites:
Science Arizona – access to science cafes, citizen science and science film in AZ: Link to Science Arizona Site
Cornell Lab of Ornithology - this site has many birding opportunities for citizen scientists: Link to Cornell Lab
Southwest Monarch study – information about monarch butterfly migration in AZ and the western US can be found here: Link to Southwest Monarch Site
NASA – information about citizen scientists and astronomy can be found here: Link to Science NASA Site
On February 10-14th, 2014, Dr. Jeanette Haegele from the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver, came to the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge in the Topock Marsh area. She is part of a long term project team monitoring the water quality, the plants, plankton , invertebrates and fish in the marsh.
Interns from the Bill Williams River Refuge and the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge assisted Dr. Haegele as did a volunteer from the Friends of the BWRHNWR . The weather was beautiful as you can see from the posted pictures!
If you would like to find out more information about the USF&WS National Friends program, you can visit their website by going HERE.
Marge Penton, our own Friends groups' Secretary, is an active citizen scientist. While quick to volunteer for various scientific activities, one of Marge's particular areas of interest is collecting and photographing samples of our own Refuges' microbiotic community.
If you are on a birdwalk with Marge, don't be surprised to see her kneeling in a ditch taking algae samples while everyone else in the group is searching the trees for our feathered friends. Says Marge, "Not only do these critters make oxygen for us to breathe, but they do provide food for various bugs who, in turn, are eaten by the fish."
You can view samples of Marge's photography by viewing the photographs below. Thanks for your efforts, Marge!