During the current social distancing measures, it may seem like many things in our lives are on pause; however, nature is undergoing an abundance of fresh beginnings. You have probably noticed that here in the Maritimes, the snow is melting away and animal activity is changing. Signs of spring time can be seen everywhere outdoors, and what better time to take notice of the changes happening in your own backyard than now during Earth Week!
This weekend, iNaturalist’s City Nature Challenge will be holding the Maritimes Backyard BioBlitz, a virtual event in which people across the maritimes will be recording observations of springtime on the iNaturalist app. From April 24 to April 27 thousands of people across the province will be recording plants and animals from their own homes, and it is easy to participate!
INaturalist is an online citizen science reporting network with over a million users. By downloading the app and uploading a photo of a plant or animal in your backyard, your observation is entered into the network to be verified by other users and certified as research grade data. All you need to do is capture the image, identify the organism, and share! No worries if you are not certain about the species ID, because someone on iNaturalist will confirm the identification before long. These observations inform researchers about biodiversity around the world, and you get to see what other people in your neighborhood have observed as well!
The upcoming Maritime Backyard Bioblitz is a great opportunity to practice using iNaturalist by making observations of plants and animals around and within your home. A quick photo of a tree in your front yard, a robin out your window, or even a spider hiding in your basement would all make great observations! You can check out the City Nature Challenge- the Maritimes Facebook page for even more ideas on what to observe from home.
Watch for Wildlife also utilizes iNaturalist to report sightings of animals after wildlife vehicle collisions, by linking observations of animals after road collisions to the WildPaths Maritimes Project within iNaturalist. You can learn more about reporting wildlife vehicle collisions at watchforwildlife.ca under the “Citizen Science Reporting section.” This is a great way to contribute to the limited data collection of wildlife vehicle collisions, but since we are mostly staying at home and spending less time on the road right now, just practicing making observations at home is a great start to getting experience with iNaturalist.
Allison Dean is the Coordinator of the Watch for Wildlife program and has a B.S. in environmental science and policy from St. Edward’s University.