Thursday, July 29, 2010

Stand Up and Count

It’s 2010 — the year of the Census. From coast to coast US census workers are going door-to-door to gather the last bits of data about who we are and where we live.

But did you know that right now, on every continent, someone is probably counting something, and it’s not just people? In these strange times species are disappearing from one place while others are appearing where they never were before. Scientists want to track these trends. This short slide presentation explains why such research is important.

No matter where in the world you live, chances are good that someone would like you to record data about some living thing residing somewhere near you. Citizen scientists are counting bats in my state of Connecticut, freshwater sponges in Wisconsin, and opossum in South Australia. In New York City volunteers are recruited for the Cricket Crawl. In California’s Central Valley the subject of interest is the long-billed curlew. They are searching all over the place for butterflies, fireflies, and ladybugs. The Great Backyard Bird Count, a joint project of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, takes place for four days each February.

There are opportunities to monitor water quality and invasive plant species. And for the generalist in the group, there is even a call out for people to record absolutely everything they observe in a location they visit regularly. These and many more opportunities can be found at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. 

There should be a project right for you  — no matter who you are or how much time you have on your hands. If by some chance you don't find one that is a perfect fit, you can use the tools at Citizen Science Central to organize your own.

Go outside and count something, even if it’s from your back porch while you are sipping something cool (or hot if you decide to count birds in February). Science needs you!

FYI In March I had decided to participate in the Lost Ladybug Project, but I have not seen another since that lucky day in early spring.


  1. it's a good thing air pollution articles are too small for us to be able to count by looking at them, if we could we'd be there our entire lives counting polluted air particles

  2. Another great article Elaine! I recommend eBird as a great tool that the Cornell lab helped to develop for birders. Its a free, online database for birders to record observations, for their own personal benefit, as well as for the benefit of other birders and the research community. See for more info.

  3. Anonymous—You're right. Ladybugs are about as small as I plan to go. And, Rod, I will be sure to check out eBird since I am seriously considering the February count. Thanks for the tip.