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Citizen scientists, join a ‘BioBlitz’ documenting nature in Metro Detroit

New ‘Detroiters Do Science’ project on iNaturalist collects local observations

This common grackle was spotted in a Grosse Pointe Woods backyard on May 29, 2020 as part of an iNaturalist "bioblitz" organized by Detroiters Do Science. Join the project at https://www.inaturalist.org
This common grackle was spotted in a Grosse Pointe Woods backyard on May 29, 2020 as part of an iNaturalist "bioblitz" organized by Detroiters Do Science. Join the project at https://www.inaturalist.org (WDIV-TV)

DETROIT – Are you a Detroiter who likes science? Are you curious about what’s growing in your backyard, what’s in your water, and how climate change is impacting your neighborhood? Need something to do with the kids during the quarantine?

Then you’re in luck! Detroiters Do Science, a partnership between Planet Detroit and Graham Media Group, has a summer full of activities coming your way. You’re invited to embark on a summer-long citizen science campaign! We’ll be offering ways to help get you thinking about the outdoors and indoors — and how your local environment and health are connected — while also keeping you safe and socially distant.

FIRST UP: Nature in your Neighborhood – A Metro Detroit BioBlitz for the month of June!

OUR GOAL: To find out who are the plants, animals, fungi, and other miscellaneous critters in your neighborhood.

How to participate:

  • Sign up for inaturalist.org and download the app for your iPhone or Android device.
  • THIS STEP IS IMPORTANT: Navigate to the project called “Detroiters Do Science: Nature in Your Neighborhood.” If you skip this step, your observations won’t count!
  • Head to your favorite local nature spot–your neighborhood park, the empty lot up the street, even your backyard–and start recording observations by taking photos with your phone.
  • What should you record? Any living thing! A plant, an animal, a fungus–as long as it’s alive, it’s fair game!
  • Repeat. The top 10 users with the most observations will win a DETROITERS DO SCIENCE T-SHIRT.

Here’s a video on how to make an observation. More help here.

What is iNaturalist?

For our first citizen science campaign, we’re using the iNaturalist platform to capture local observations. iNaturalist managed by California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. It’s recorded tens of millions of observations around the world since it was created by students at the University of California-Berkley in 2008. Scientists use the observations -- much of it verified by the online community -- for research.

Setting up a free account with iNaturalist takes about 10 minutes. You can either download an app for Apple or Android -- you’ll want this to record your observations -- or go to www.inaturalist.org. You’ll need to enter basic registration info (email, name) and then you’re ready to make observations.

Here’s a guide for teachers that also provides useful information for parents working with children. A few tips:

  • Put down the phone and have kids sketch their findings
  • If you report observations, get high-quality pictures the community can use to identify the bird or bug
  • Get out and explore! Try to make 20 or 30 observations and see how it changes the way you look at your backyard or neighborhood

Using the “explore” tab in iNaturalist we found 38,151 observations from 2,894 observers in the Detroit metropolitan area. Among dozens of local contributions, this month include a white-jawed jumping spider (Henzia mitrata) in St. Clair Shores on May 28, and an Eastern Carpenter Bee in Independence Charter Township on May 29.

If you’re not sure you can identify a specific spider, bird or plant, not to worry. Expert community members will jump in to assist, helping your photos get tagged “Research Grade." Contribute enough quality observations and you gain deeper access to the community while possibly helping with actual research.

This is the first in a series of citizen science efforts Detroiters Do Science plan to support this summer. Future project will focus on pollinators and testing area homes for lead. If you’d like to get involved, visit: https://www.detroitersdoscience.com