As many readers know, one of the most important reasons for My New Jersey Big Year is to raise awareness of and funding for New Jersey Audubon’s Citizen Science Program. Citizen Science programs are not new and some examples of ongoing projects, like the Christmas Bird Count, trace their origins back to 1900.
So what makes New Jersey Audubon’s Citizen Science program important to you? I think the program’s stated goal are a good place to start that discussion. New Jersey Audubon’s Citizen Science program aims to:
foster environmental awareness among New Jersey’s citizens through active participation
protect New Jersey’s birds and other animals, especially endangered and threatened species through collection of data on bird distributions and abundance, population trends, migration patterns
promote habitat preservation by improving our knowledge of the ecology of New Jersey through the contributions of Citizen Scientists.
There is no question that I have become much more aware of environmental issues through my participation in this program. I’ve gone from a passive “let someone else write letters about that” position to actively engaging elected officials on topics which are important to the protection on New Jersey’s natural habitats. I write letters, send e-mails, make phone calls – basically, do what it takes to make certain the “decision-makers” are aware that citizens like me are concerned and need their support.
Gathering data on bird distribution is another important part of citizen science. There simply aren’t enough trained scientist to do all the field work, gather the data, analyze it, write the reports, and publish results. Properly trained citizen scientists are the eyes and ears, the feet on the ground, for New Jersey Audubon scientists charged with researching the distribution and abundance of our bird life and taking appropriate actions to protect them and preserve their habitats. Without us, these scientist would have an extraordinarily difficult time gathering enough data to support arguments for these protective steps.
I have no doubt the information I gather through my citizen science activities helps promote habitat preservation. But even through my “regular” birding, I’ve been responsible for alerting organizations like the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Species Program of the locations of endangered bird species. Here’s the interesting part – numerous other birders are also aware of these locations but don’t take the time to fill out the forms. In one instance, a nesting site was nearly damaged or destroyed by construction activities because NJDEP didn’t know the endangered birds were there. No one had taken the time to alert them, even though “everyone” knew about the birds.
So why is this important to you? Through NJA’s citizen science program, birds and the habitats they depend upon are being protected. Birders like you and me are becoming more aware of the environmental challenges we face and are willing to do something about it. If we’re successful, not only will we have natural areas and an abundance of birds to watch and enjoy, but so will our children and grand-children.
That’s why citizen science is important to me. I hope you agree!
Until next time, Good Birding!