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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Environmental Education

How to Become a Citizen Scientist

Citizen Science Projects

When I began researching and writing my eco mystery series, The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, I did not fully anticipate the number of dedicated environmentalist I would meet along the way. I did not anticipate that I would encounter inspired and determined conservationists from all walks of life finding ways to protect the rich biodiversity of our state. Nor did I realize that had taken the first step toward becoming a citizen scientist.

Book Cover Piping Plover Eco Mystery


Earth Day Migratory Bird Day

Helping Birds Along the Way

On a perfect spring day, citizens celebrated the first
International Migratory Bird Day at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ Earth Day festival. At the Media Mint Publishing Booth, visitors learned that birds fly thousands of miles from their wintering areas in South America and the Caribbean to their summer nesting sites in the United States and Canada. A Piping plover, for example, can travel over a 1,000 miles from the Caribbean to the breeding areas in northern United States and Canada.

Media Mint Publishing Earth Day

Solo Paddling River Trails

Laurie Chandler Kayaks the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

It is my pleasure and honor to introduce Laurie Chandler as my guest blogger. In the summer of 2015, Laurie Chandler became the first woman to solo paddle the entire 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail, at the age of 53.

Laurie Chandler Paddling

She holds degrees in Biology and Forest Productivity from Albright College and Duke University and worked for many years in the field of forest genetics. A lifelong learner, Laurie returned to Kutztown University in 2001 to study elementary education and is now pursuing a second career in special education at her local K-8 public school. After moving to Maine in 2003, she began exploring the lakes and rivers there in her first kayak and discovered a new passion, wilderness paddling. Embracing a simpler life, Laurie now lives in her parents' log home in Bremen, Maine, within four miles of five lovely lakes. She has two grown and freshly-independent children living in Virginia, a daughter who is a graphic designer and a son who is a firefighter. Life is good and every day is a gift. Read More...

Citizen Scientist Bioblitz with Audubon

First Annual Bioblitz at Limestone Park, Alabaster

"I shall collect plants and fossils. Yet this is not the main purpose of my journey. I shall endeavor to find out how nature's forces act upon one another, and in what manner the geographic environment exerts its influence on animals and plants. In short, I must find out about the harmony in nature." Alexander von Humboldt

Tupelo Swamp group
Group of Bioblitzers at Limestone Park (Boris Datnow)
Do you have an interest in learning more about plants and wildlife around you? Would you enjoy improving you skills as a naturalist? Would you like to contribute data that will help scientists protect and conserve nature? If you do, I highly recommend participating in a Bioblitz as a citizen scientist. The cool thing about a Bioblitz is that it brings together the expertise of scientists with the observations of citizens willing to take a snapshot of an area’s biodiversity in about 24 hours.
BioBlitz can take place in national parks or schoolyards, in urban or rural areas. The purpose of a Bioblitz is to study the population of particular species as well as an areas’ biodiversity.
Tupelo Gum Swap
Tupelo Gum Swap (Boris Datnow)
My first Bioblitz experience took place in Limestone Park, Alabaster, Alabama. The park has with a wide range of habitats, including wetlands, grasslands, and a Tupelo Gum swamp. In addition, thanks to the determined efforts of Dick Mills, and Ken Wills there is also a flourishing Prairie. To launch the bioblitz, Ken, Dick, and Professor Ken Marion arrived early to run a minnow/turtle  trap line in the tupelo swamps of Limestone Park.

Ken Marion with turtles captures at Limestone Park
Ken Wills, Dick Mills, and Ken Marion with turtles capture at Limestone Park. (photo Boris Datnow)
It was fascinating to see, firsthand, the species they’d caught. Before the animals were released, the experts shared their knowledge about the species with the group.
After that interesting introduction, the citizen volunteers, lead by a scientist, fanned out across the park to collect samples of the trees, fishes, reptiles, birds, wildflowers, amphibians, and invertebrates in the park.
slider laying eggs
Pond Slider Turtle, Limestone Park, Alabaster (Boris Datnow)
Ken Wills ably guided my group through the boggy peninsular marsh area to a tupelo swamp. Everyone kept their eyes peeled for anything of interest to document and photograph. We were fortunate to spot a slider laying eggs.

sensitive plantpg
Sensitive brier (Mimosa microphylla) on the Peninsular Trail (Boris Datnow)
Around noon, all groups reconvened to show and tell what they had found—and to enjoy a delicious repast courtesy of Birmingham Audubon Society. As we had hoped, the different habitats yielded a good variety of insect, plant, fish and amphibian species. Ansel Payne, Audubon Teaching Naturalist, carefully preserved all the insects and bugs that were found. All data collected during the Bioblitz will be entered in the iNaturalist data base for future reference.

Our group found at least 5 new native plants and 4 new exotics, including dog bane and a species of Loosestrife (Lysimachia)
additions to the plant list which is now up to 162 species. That gave us a nice sense of accomplishment.
Thanks to Andy Coleman, Audubon Program Director, for organizing the bioblitz, and to
Birmingham Audubon Society for sponsoring it. The data collected during the Bioblitz will help to conserve the species of this area in the future.
My environmental eco mystery series (grades 4-7),
The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, inspires young people to appreciate the amazing diversity of out natural environment and to become young citizen scientist.

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