Luckily, when it comes to enjoying the great outdoors, it doesn’t take too much to convince Canadians to get out there and enjoy some fresh air. A 2011 IPSOS poll found that 87% of Canadians say that having a connection to nature makes them feel happy, and that 85% worry that the natural areas we enjoy today won’t be there for their grandchildren. Since there seems to be no shortage of willing participants, how do we get this potential workforce of citizen scientists involved? That’s where NatureWatch comes into play.
NatureWatch’s vision is simple: give science back to the people. The organization operates under the idea that, back in Charles Darwin’s time, scientists weren’t shielded from the public view, working on extremely specific and government-funded projects in a laboratory, which only other scientists heard about at professional conferences. They held a wide variety of interests, and let their curiosity drive their research. NatureWatch hopes to help us get back to a little of that, even in the midst of all of the red tape that surrounds the modern scientific community.
The first-generation NatureWatch website was launched in 2000 as a partnership between Environment Canada, the environmental NGO Nature Canada, and several other organizations. The NatureWatch site is actually a hub for four different portals: FrogWatch, IceWatch, PlantWatch, and WormWatch. Whatever your interests are, there’s an opportunity for you to get involved in citizen science with this initiative!
The programs allow everyday Canadians to make observations about the natural world they encounter in their day-to-day happenings: spending time outdoors won’t always take the form of canoeing across a secluded lake, or watching a bald eagle soar over an open field. NatureWatch encourages participants to gather data and make observations about a plant or insect they see at a soccer match or while playing as a family at a local park. Specifically, NatureWatch aims to study the effects of climate change on the Canadian landscape, but since the terrain is so expansive, they need involved participants to act as the legs on the ground and report their findings.
Submitting a finding is very simple, and as the new and improved NatureWatch 2.0 has launched, the site is now mobile-compatible, so you can submit an observation while you’re out and about–no need to try to remember to do it when you get back home to your computer (because, honestly, who’s going to remember to do it then?!).
Information that is submitted to NatureWatch programs is pooled with other participant submissions and actually utilized by researchers at several Canadian universities. In fact, data from NatureWatch’s PlantWatch module has formed the basis of several scientific publications in recent years. Getting involved in NatureWatch is a fantastic activity for families, classrooms, clubs, or just interested individuals!
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