Help wildlands this Earth Day! Tip #7: Become a citizen scientist

Caribou migrating through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo by Ken Whitten.

From now until Earth Day, we invite you to read our daily staff tips on how you can make a difference for wildlands.

One day in early May, a cow from the Porcupine Caribou Herd will begin her northward migration from Canada to the Arctic Ocean. She will be followed by tens of thousands like her, pregnant cows that will trek across hundreds of miles of snow-covered territory to get to their calving grounds in Alaska.

Previous Tips

Tip 1: Speak up for our nation's forests.

Tip 2: Leave no trace when visiting your favorite places

Tip 3: How to weigh in on conservation decisions

Tip 4: Connect kids with nature

Tip 5: Leave no canine trace

Tip 6: Volunteer on the land

They travel through harsh snow conditions, across frozen streams and raging rivers (including the Porcupine, from which they get their name). Their instincts are strong: the herd has been coming to the coastal plain of the Arctic Slope, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for thousands of years. It is the very best place in the world to have their young.

Few people witness the remarkable migration of the Porcupine Caribou — the occasional intrepid trekker, scientists, and the Gwich’in and Inupiat peoples who live along the herd’s migration path are those most familiar with this spectacle.

But this miracle of spring migration takes place in many different forms across the world, and each of us can witness it in different ways. Moreover, there are opportunities aplenty to help track migration that can contribute to scientific studies that monitor the health and activity of plants and animals.

  • Journey North is one of the easiest sites to use to catch a glimpse of migrating Grey Whales, Robins, hummingbirds and Monarch butterflies. Maps and information can bring some of these journeys right to your desktop. And, if you’re moved to get out and see some of these species in the wild, there are opportunities to record your observations.
  • Cornell University’s Citizen Science, a project of the Ornithology Lab at Cornell, gives you a chance to participate in several different projects, including Project Nest Watch and Project Feeder Watch.
  • The National Phenology Network (NPN) is a federal project that is gathering data from a variety of sources — farmers, educators, school kids, and state and federal agencies — to track the effects of climate change on plants and animals. As spring arrives earlier (or autumn later) to areas, ecosystems change, and with them species activity, including how species adapt to these changes. A great deal of data is necessary to study these changes, and the network is designed to gather data from a myriad of quarters. The NPN has a wealth of information about plant and animal species near you, and opportunities for you to help monitor.

Share some of your own observations with us, by using the comment form below. Happy watching!

Kathy Kilmer 

- Kathy Kilmer, Director of Electronic Communications, Denver


photos: Caribou migrating through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo by Ken Whitten.