Thinking about your New Year’s resolutions for 2018? Why not consider a resolution that offers an opportunity to improve your health and wellbeing, while positively influencing the people and environment in which we live?
With this lofty objective in mind, Colorado Parks and Wildlife invites you to resolve to become part of the State Parks NatureFinder project and to support conservation as a citizen scientist. Conveniently, this resolution should fit nicely into the usual bundle of resolutions – like starting a new workout, losing weight, enjoying life to the fullest, and spending more time with family and friends. And with a little outdoor multitasking as a citizen scientist, you can provide the valuable service of viewing and tracking changes in biodiversity!
The State Parks NatureFinder Project focuses on recording and displaying the biodiversity in Colorado’s state parks. With more eyes and more observations, CPW hopes to create a living record of the state parks, which can then be used by scientists, land managers, and anyone interested in learning more about nature. Putting it simply, the project relies on citizen scientists to help play an important role in keeping tabs on plants and wildlife by reporting observations. An observation is the what, where, and when of a finding in nature. Currently, more than 350 people have collaborated through the project. Participants have recorded more than 6,000 observations, including reports of more than 1,500 different species. The State Parks NatureFinder Project is part of the iNaturalist community, an online social network of people sharing biodiversity information to help each other learn about nature. As iNaturalist states, “it’s also a crowdsourced species identification system and an organism occurrence recording tool. You can use it to record your own observations, get help with identifications, collaborate with others to collect this kind of information for a common purpose, or access the observational data collected by iNaturalist users.” The objective of iNaturalist is to connect people to nature.
You do not need to be an expert to contribute to this project. All observations are reviewed and verified by the iNaturalist community. An added benefit and a big part of the fun is learning more about what you’re seeing out in nature. To help get you started, several park guides have been developed to assist with identifying plants and animals. While guides have not been completed for every park, and the park guides are not comprehensive of all species that may occur in our State Parks, they do contain nearly all of the common plant and animal species and many of the less common species. Species included in the guides include the “Research Grade” iNaturalist observations, as well as species that have been documented over the last 20 years by our Resource Stewardship Program.
Recording observations is easy by web or mobile device. And the iNaturalist app is available for both Android and iPhones. Watch a quick video demonstrating how easy it is to make an observation with the iNaturalist mobile app!
Observe Nature with iNaturalist. Video by iNaturalist
Always remember to add all of your state park observations to the “State Parks NatureFinder project.” For additional tips and tricks, visit iNaturalist’s video tutorials page.
In order to jumpstart your commitment to conservation, why don’t you plan to join a First Day Hike? On January 1, 2018, several Colorado state parks are hosting organized hikes. The First Day Hikes vary in level of difficulty and include everything from family-friendly hikes to more challenging snowshoe and cross-country skiing adventures. With cold weather expected, be sure to pack snacks and water, dress in layers and wear your warmest boots. As an added incentive, many of the parks will be offering refreshments and free giveaways. To find a nearby First Day Hike, please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.
During First Day Hikes, you can expect increased levels of traffic on park trails, so logging observations will require budding citizen scientists to focus their attention on the land, water and the skies. Recent State Parks NatureFinder reports reveal a wide variety of species ranging from ducks and geese to winter camouflaged weasels.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife encourages all citizen scientists to follow the following wildlife viewing guidelines:
- Wildlife should be viewed/photographed from a safe and respectful distance.
- Use binoculars, spotting scopes, zoom lenses, and viewing blinds to avoid disturbing species.
- Avoid getting close to nests or dens – your presence can disturb breeding and alert predators to nest/den locations.
- Stay on trails and roads, tread lightly, and leave plants and animals where you find them.
- Do not use recorded animal calls while viewing or photographing wildlife.
- If an animal shows any sign of stress, move away.
- Keep pets on leash at all times.
- Do not feed wildlife.
By following these guidelines you are helping promote conservation of wildlife and their habitats, as well as the safety of yourself and others.
Let 2018 be the year when you embrace a resolution that inspires both better health and a commitment to conservation! Sign up to become a citizen scientist today.