Canadians can now help track how environmental changes are affecting the natural world simply by reporting the flora and fauna they notice in their backyard or local park.
NatureWatch.ca has recently launched an enhanced, easy-to-use, mobile-friendly website to encourage people to reconnect with Nature in an active way. Canadians can participate in research and become “citizen-scientists” by reporting sightings of frogs and toads, flowering plants, receding lake ice, and even earthworms.
It’s so easy, a kid can do it – and that’s the goal of NatureWatch’s new platform.
How does it work?
The NatureWatch program includes FrogWatch, PlantWatch, IceWatch, and WormWatch and informs Canadians on how to use their smartphones and computers to pin nature observations on an interactive map.
Parents who are at the park with their children and spot a frog can pull up FrogWatch on their browser, and scroll through photos of frogs native to their province until they find a match. They can even hear a recording of the frog’s call.
Users can access a map of NatureWatch observations from across Canada, and read reports on how their data is being used in research.
How will it help further research?
Data collected with the help of citizen-scientists has proven to be very reliable for academic research, and past NatureWatch observations have been used in peer-reviewed scientific studies.
“Citizen-scientists are becoming essential to our academic research – given our ever-changing climate, they can provide us with observations from all over the country in real time, and cover areas that were previously limited to local independent studies,” stated Professor André Viau, Director of the Laboratory for Interactive Research on Environmental and Policy Changes (LIREPC) at the University of Ottawa’s Department of Geography. Professor Viau is a founding partner of the new and improved NatureWatch initiative, where he plays a leading role in research and database development.
NatureWatch is operated as a partnership between the geography departments of Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Ottawa, Nature Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Toronto Zoo, and the University of Ottawa’s Centre for e-Learning. All data collected through NatureWatch is publicly available for research, free of charge. NatureWatch does not collect any personal data about participants who contribute observations.