The internet has greatly enhanced the availability of data for scientists worldwide. Referred to as “crowd-sourcing” by tech gurus, mass-contributed information can be valuable in assessing the distribution of wildlife species.
When you take your next hike in Griffith Park, take along your camera or smart phone. It’s easy to participate in citizen science work. It’s fun, educational and it’s a great experience for young children. A citizen scientist is anyone who gathers and contributes information.
A favorite resource for becoming a citizen scientist is iNaturalist.org. Here’s how it works: if you see a lizard, toad or bobcat in the park or in your yard, just snap a photo. Then submit the photo to iNaturalist with a tentative identification, if you know it. Or select the ID button and try to identify it. A date, time and location are also required. If you use a smartphone, this information can be synced along with the photo. It’s so easy!
The learning experience does not end upon submission. In fact, where else do young learners get the privilege of interacting readily with scientists? The iNaturalist project managers or other iNaturalist members will confirm or help with the species identification. If you wish, you can see reports of the same species at other locations or see all the species submitted close to your location. iNaturalist also provides the citizen scientist an easy means for keeping a log of all personal animal discoveries.
Here are several favorite iNaturalist “projects” that should appeal to Griffith Park enthusiasts. You can submit the same findings to multiple projects, if you wish.
• RASCALS Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California The project curator is Dr. Greg Pauly from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, a respected herpetologist and cool guy. Submit only reptiles and amphibians to this project.
• Southern California Squirrel Survey Scientists are engaged with studies to understand how the beautiful Western Gray Squirrel is losing territory to the Eastern Fox Squirrel, a species accidentally introduced into California in the early 1900s. Submit your sightings of both tree squirrel species along with sightings of California ground squirrels. The project is led by mammalogists Miguel Ordeñana and Jim Dines for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
• Backyard Bobcat Study Led by USGS Research Ecologist, Dr. Erin Boydston, this project studies urban bobcats throughout Southern California. Your imput will fill in the gaps in carnivore data, whether it’s a bobcat you see in Griffith Park or in your neighborhood.
• Griffith Park Biodiversity Project Submit all animals, plants and even insects. This project is specifically tracking the biodiversity and distribution of wildlife in Griffith Park.
• L.A. Nature Map informs the LA community about the rich diversity of species located within Los Angeles. The LA Nature Map accepts all plant and wildlife observations throughout the area, including Griffith Park. You can submit your sightings from the Park and continue submitting to other projects when you get home.