Written by Jennifer Klein, Land Management Coordinator
Have you ever wanted to know more about the natural community around you? Maybe you are looking for a way to volunteer while maintaining distance from others and breathing in some fresh air. If so, citizen science monitoring may be just what you need. There are many citizen science opportunities in our area and the best thing of all is that you don’t need any experience or a fancy degree. There are people eagerly waiting to teach you everything you need to know.
Citizen science monitoring is a great way for anyone to be involved in collecting valuable data which is used to make important habitat and wildlife management decisions at all levels within the state. Woodland Dunes partners with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and others on a variety of citizen science monitoring projects. One example of this is Water Action Volunteers, or WAV. WAV is a program where volunteers are trained to test rivers or creeks for qualities such as water temperature, dissolved oxygen and turbidity (how clear or dark the water is). These measurements, and others, help biologists determine the health of a river system and track changes over time. They can even help detect a pollution event right after it happens so clean up efforts can start in a timely manner. There is a similar program to this for lakes called the Citizen Lake Monitoring Network.
Another citizen science program is through the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Woodland Dunes has been partnering with them to monitor the migration of suckers from Lake Michigan into Forget Me Not Creek in the spring. Other tributaries up and down the Lake Michigan shoreline are also being monitored by volunteers. Shedd Aquarium also monitors the local air and water temperatures, and volunteers track the weather conditions and water levels and clarity at their sites, as well as noting any obstacles which may prevent suckers from reaching suitable spawning habitat. This data is very valuable and is part of important research. Other spring opportunities include bird migration surveys, frog and toad surveys, salamander surveys, and even bald eagle nest monitoring.
At Woodland Dunes, we participate in all of that and more, including monitoring chimney swifts which roost and raise young in our chimney in the nature center. We coordinate the Manitowoc County area for the International Crane Foundation’s Annual Crane Count. We also monitor bee populations in our prairies as part of the Wisconsin Bumble Bee Brigade. There are so many interesting species to monitor depending on your interests. I would encourage you to reach out to Woodland Dunes and find your passion. Connecting with nature is a great way to stay grounded and balanced. Nature is vital to our mental and physical well being and we could all benefit from a little more time connecting with the natural world.
Photo of suckers in creek by Jennifer Klein