Tuesday, January 15, 2013

DNR requests reporting of sick or dead birds and cleaning of feeders after salmonella confirmed in southern Wisconsin

State wildlife officials are asking back yard birders to clean feeders and be on the lookout for sick or dead birds, after salmonella has been confirmed in a small number of pine siskins from Dane County. Sick goldfinches and sparrows have also been reported in Dodge and Crawford Counties.

 “We appreciate citizens reporting sick or dead birds around their feeders to the DNR so we can monitor the disease,” said Nancy Businga, wildlife health lab manager with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “Salmonella is a bacterial disease that has the potential to spread to other areas so we also ask that people follow recommendations to help protect healthy birds that visit the feeder or bird bath.”

 Contact(s): Nancy Businga, DNR wildlife health lab manager, (608) 221-5375

Wisconsin Dept of Natural Resources - dnr.wi.gov 
10 Jan 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

'Citizen scientists' explain mysterious die-offs, trace oil spills back to surprising culprits

Sol Katzman and Stew Perlman are spending a sunny Saturday morning on Scott Creek Beach leaning over a rotting sea lion carcass.

The body has lost its moisture and begun to flatten into the sand. The two men manage not to grimace as they measure the pungent heap from nose to tail and tie green twine around the rear flipper to show it's been counted.

Katzman, 60, and Perlman, 64, are "citizen scientists," part of a volunteer project that collects information about beach-cast marine mammals, birds and turtles along 40 miles of Monterey Bay coastline, from Davenport to Carmel.

The BeachCOMBERS project, which turned 15 this year, has explained mysterious die-offs, exposed harmful fishing practices and traced oil spills back to surprising culprits. The project's goal is to determine how much animal mortality is normal on various beaches, enabling year-to-year comparisons.

Project Manager Hannah Nevins, a seabird biologist with Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, said marine mammals and birds reflect the health of the whole environment they live in. Their population numbers mirror those of the species they eat, including forage fish such as anchovies and sardines, which are hard to count or monitor directly.

MercuryNews.com - www.mercurynews.com
03 Jan 2013
K Servick

Friday, January 11, 2013

Citizen science can produce reliable data

Citizen science occurs when data for scientific research is collected by members of the public in a voluntary capacity. Public participation in environmental projects, in particular, has been described as a global phenomenon.

But there is a stigma associated with these types of projects. The data collected are often labelled untrustworthy and biased. Research in this area continues to show however, that data collected by what is essentially a non-professional workforce, are comparable to those collected by professional scientists.

Provided steps are in place to deal with data integrity, we have much to gain by putting more trust in citizen scientists.

Across the globe thousands of people collect data on everything from counts of stars in distant galaxies to the timing of flowering events. Volunteers have long been collecting data on the health of coral reefs, and ornithologists encourage volunteers to collect data on bird migration.

Citizen science has benefits for scientists – including an inexpensive and potentially large labour force – and citizens, who get knowledge and fulfilment. These schemes expose people to the environment and develop the stewardship ethic.

But what motivates my interest in this area is the potential to create a more scientifically literate society; building the capacity for people to take information they receive in their everyday lives and then being able to make informed choices based on the what they have learned. Those choices could be anything from the products they buy as consumers or the political parties they support.

The Conversation -  theconversation.edu.au
07 Jan 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Can Citizen Scientists Be Our First Line Of Defense In Environmental Disasters?

It can be months before the true experts finally get into an area affected by disasters like oil spills, but there are thousands of concerned citizens interested in documenting what’s happened. The problem is: We never use their data.

How do you assess the impact of a large oil spill? Not easily, says Sabrina McCormick. If it’s like the Gulf disaster, the oil will have spread far and wide, and the effects will be lingering and insidious. It’ll take scientists years to take readings, and even then, their conclusions are likely to miss a lot.

McCormick, an associate professor at George Washington University, has studied the scientific response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. She says most reports tend to downplay the effects on the environment and human health because of a lack of good data for many areas.

Instead of traditional data-gathering, McCormick thinks disaster responders should turn to citizen-scientists, who can provide more timely, granular information. "The data collected through crowd-sourcing is generally more time-sensitive. It’s able to fill a gap in the data-collection process that otherwise wouldn’t get filled," she says.

Co.Exist - www.fastxoexist.com