We've done a lot of Citizen Science projects over the years, and we plan to keep it up. Having moved to Indiana, there will be some transition in what we do. For example, Monarch Watch was a huge favorite of ours (you can click the monarch tag in the sidebar to see what we've done). We had a ton of milkweed on our three acres-- much of it in our garden, where it wasn't counted as a weed (monarchs particularly favor the youngest plants). Every time we weeded or harvested, we found caterpillars, and we'd bring them in, raise, tag and release them.
Now we're in an urban yard with no milkweed. I'm planning to plant a stand of it, and ultimately some of our backyard will be given over to a wildflower seed mix put out by the Xerces Society. Perhaps we'll even become a certified habitat. But this summer, we saw precious few Monarchs. Some people net adult butterflies in the wild and tag them, and perhaps we'll also make a shift in that direction, but in my experience it can be hard to do with smaller kids, and I worry about hurting the butterflies much more than when we're gently removing them from the roof of a bug viewer.
Oh! And look at this thing I just found! People are tracking the development of Monarch-friendly plants to see what, if any, effect global warming is having on their growth and development.
So, maybe we don't have as much of a gap in our Monarch projects as we thought. Even so, one thing I'm thinking about doing next summer is The Great Sunflower Project. This involves planting particularly bee-pleasing flowers, and then tracking bee activity. We need to make sure we won't invalidate the results by having a hive in the yard, as we're hoping to add one next spring, but most of the flowers on the list are ones we're planting anyway.
We're going to miss World Water Monitoring Day this year, but we are planning to participate in our own Wabash River Enhancement Corporation's Sampling Blitz at the end of the month. We'll also being doing various WREC recommended projects, including installing rain barrels, planting native plants and a rain garden, and creating wildlife habitats.
Also, look: Great Lakes Worm Watch. I haven't even thought about what we'd do with this yet, but as a Great Lakes state, we qualify for the study.
Other fun projects include:
There are loads of projects out there that either don't apply to us at the moment, or are regional in nature. The best place to look is scistarter.com , but check with your local extension office, too. In upstate NY they had a pheasant raise-and-release program, among other things.
I highly recommend this sort of project. Citizen Science is hands-on, messy, genuinely scientific, community-minded, empowering for your kids, and a lot of fun!
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