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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

The Earth Needs Volunteers

Monday, February 27, 2006

On a warm, breezy day two summers ago, my two boys and I were out saving the planet. Don't tell them that! To them, we were just out playing in a stream, noticing the weather, watching fingerling carp wiggle against the current where the slough entered the lake, and catching toads in the tall grasses nearby.

It was a lot of fun to see how fast a tennis ball could float the length of our piece of rope, and even more fun to check under rocks for hidden critters. The following winter, we were at it again, caring for the Earth by roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over an indoor fire while counting the birds outside the windows at the county park bird feeders. The kids had lots of help from expert birders with decades of experience, and they easily learned to identify bright red cardinals, delicate chickadees and olive-tinted goldfinches.

Both of these outings made for lasting memories, but they are also perfect examples of the growing opportunities for Citizen Science. All over the world, across the nation, and here in Iowa, ordinary folks volunteer in a variety of ways to monitor our natural world. Their observations are collected and studied by scientists and policy makers at universities and in state and federal conservation agencies.

Scientists certainly know a lot about our streams and wildlife, so why do they need our help? The natural world is constantly changing, and there are not enough professional biologists, geologists, and naturalists to keep track of all the changes.

On Thursday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m, the public is invited to the Cherokee County Conservation Board Headquarters to learn more about the many opportunities that exist for wildlife watchers, stream monitors, frog listeners, butterfly enthusiasts, paddlers and more.

The program, called Citizen Science: Extraordinary People (Like You) Saving the Earth, will last about an hour and a half. Light refreshments will be available. Ginger Vietor, CCCB Naturalist, and Jason O'Brien, Coordinator of the Iowa NatureMapping Program, will lead the discussion and will provide information to take home.

Anyone who likes to be outside can be a great Citizen Scientist! Teachers can use Citizen Science with their students, youth groups can call it "community service," and families may find it a meaningful way to be together. Primarily, it is fun, and it is needed in Cherokee County, so don't miss this chance to find out more! For more information, call the Naturalist at 225-6709.

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