I know I have claimed past citizen science projects as easy to do, but Project Squirrel must surely be the easiest. That is, if you live in an area with squirrels. There is a guide on the website that will help you identify the kind of squirrels that live in your area. In my yard, we only have grey squirrels.
All you need to do is fill out a quick form online stating your location, the number of squirrels you see, and a little bit about the habitat. It literally took me less than five minutes while I was sitting on my porch watching the squirrels forage around in the leaf litter. The hardest part will be remembering to do this four times a year, which is what the researchers at Project Squirrel hope you’ll do. I put some reminders on my calendar.
Why study squirrels? Well, for one thing, squirrels are easily identifiable, and most people are familiar with them. They are found in most American cities. Squirrels are also diurnal, and they don’t hibernate during the winter. This makes them easy for citizen scientists to study.
Scientists want your data on squirrels because they can tell a story about the ecosystem you live in. Many other animals depend on the same food that squirrels depend on. If there is a predator in the area preying on squirrels, that predator is probably preying on other animals too. The more people who contribute to this study will help researchers learn about local and regional ecosystems.
Like I said, it was very easy and took very little time. Just walk outside, count how many squirrels you see, and fill out a short form online. Done!
Have you participated in a citizen science project this year? Please tell me about it.
SHELLI BOND PABIS is home | school | life magazine’s senior editor. She writes about her family’s homeschooling journey at www.mamaofletters.com.