So, you want to be a scientist? What if I said you can, and that it’s easy?! I’m talking about participating in community science, regardless of age, background, or experience. Anyone, including you, can be a community scientist.
Also called citizen science or participatory science, community science involves anyone interested in contributing to scientific research. April is Global Community Science Month, and the perfect time to start (or continue) being involved in the science community. The community collects data, and uploads it to a platform where scientists use the data for research. The data you, as community scientists collect, helps to advance scientific research.
The N.C. Coastal Reserve & National Estuarine Research Reserve is a network of 10 protected sites established for long-term research, education and stewardship. This program protects more than 44,000 acres of estuarine land and water, which provides essential habitat for wildlife; offers educational opportunities for students, teachers and the public, and training professionals; and serves as living laboratories for scientists. Including community scientists, just like you.
There are thousands of community science projects all around the world. Keep reading to learn about a few you can get involved with along the North Carolina coast!
Chronolog is one of the simplest community science projects to get involved with at the N.C. Coastal Reserve. All you need to do is choose which site to visit and snap a photo!
Four of our ten reserve sites have a chronolog station: Buxton Woods, Currituck Banks, Kitty Hawk, and Bird Island Reserves. When visitors get to the station, they will find a bracket to align their smartphone, then snap a photo of the scene and send it to the email posted on the sign. This simple action leads to an amazing result. With more and more visitors taking photos, a crowd-sourced time lapse will be created that monitors the environment. This is important so site managers and researchers with the reserve can analyze environmental change. The Reserve was established to preserve these fragile natural areas that make up the third largest estuarine system in the country. While our staff visits the reserves often, they cannot be out there all the time. Having the community and reserve visitors help us monitor the environment is a huge benefit.
Find your closest reserve site with a chronolog station and contribute to environmental monitoring today!
The Terrapin Tally is a project created in partnership with the Reserve and the N.C. WildlifeResourceCommission (WRC) to help address questions about the overall population status and condition of the diamondback terrapin within the state. The diamondback terrapin is listed as a species of special concern within the state and Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the N.C. Wildlife Action Plan. Because of these designations, the Reserve and WRC staff set out to fill these information and data gaps, which resulted in the pilot Terrapin Tally in 2014 at Masonboro Island Reserve.
The Terrapin Tally is structured as a community science activity which aims to take a snapshot of the diamondback terrapin population in a given area by conducting kayak surveys. By doing this, population statistics and trends will be understood over time.
If this sounds like a community science project you’re interested in, you’re in luck! We are back for our 10th year and mandatory training sessions are coming up THIS week! We can send a recorded training session if you can’t make the other sessions. Check out the website for more information.
We are looking forward to another year of terrapin sighting data collection and appreciate your willingness to help contribute to this initiative in protecting our favorite little marsh turtle!
NOAA Marine Debris Program
Have you seen trash in the water or on the coastline? This is called marine debris. Anyone around the world can survey and record the amount and types of marine debris on shorelines.
By supplying this information, community scientists allow researchers to start understanding some of these important questions: How big is the marine debris problem, and how is it changing over time? What types of debris are most common in your region? Not only does the data you collect help answer those questions, but can help guide marine debris policy development, provide education and outreach, and address important research questions.
One way to help is to use the Marine Debris Tracker app. Download this app to track marine debris during vacation or daily activities. Going for a short beach walk? Bring your phone and track what trash you collect. Plans for a short paddle around Rachel Carson Reserve after work? Don’t forget your phone with the Marine Debris Tracker app and select the "NOAA Marine Debris" list!
NOAA provides simple instructions: To get started, simply download the app to your smartphone or mobile device, connect it to your GPS location service, and start tracking! If you feel safe doing so, you can collect and properly dispose of the debris along the way.
Super cool ways to be involved with helping keep your community clean!
Take a photo of plants and animals you find and upload to iNaturalist. In iNaturalist you can crowdsource species identifications and learn more about the organisms you observe. This information is added to a database that helps scientists and resources managers understand what, when and where organisms occur.
The Reserve uses information collected by visitors on the iNaturalist app to supplement existing natural history records. This information provides a biodiversity baseline, allowing staff to track changes in species and communities over time, identify new species not previously documented, determine native, non-native and invasive species, or monitor species presence and distribution.
Whether you’re new to science or a science professional, community science is for you! Get outside and collect data, then upload the information to your chosen project. We can’t wait to see how you decide to participate during Citizen Science Month! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter and comment or tag us to let us know how you celebrate Citizen Science Month!
The N.C. Coastal Reserve & National Estuarine Research Reserve is a program of the N.C. Division of Coastal Management, a division of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. The N.C. National Estuarine Research Reserve is managed through a federal-state partnership between NOAA and the N.C. Division of Coastal Management. The Reserve is a network of 10 protected sites established for long-term research, education and stewardship. This program protects more than 44,000 acres of estuarine land and water, which provides essential habitat for wildlife; offers educational opportunities for students, teachers and the public, and training professionals; and serves as living laboratories for scientists.