Citizen Scientists Mapping our Backyards to Understand Urban Environments

This month we launched a team of volunteer "citizen scientists" in the Puget Sound region with the goal of mapping the little pockets of habitat that exist in city and county parks and backyards. We're trying to cover as much area as possible between now and June! 

With the data these volunteers collect, we'll be able to provide guidance to land-use planners and neighborhoods on small changes they can make to urban environments to create habitat for birds, butterflies, mammals and more.

Colunteer "citizen scientists" as part of the Habitat Network. Photo © TNC

Habitat Network is a citizen-science project designed to cultivate a richer understanding of wildlife habitat, for both professional scientists and people concerned with their local environments. They collect data by asking individuals across the country to draw maps of their backyards, parks, farms, favorite birding locations, schools and gardens.

About 20 volunteers joined this broad effort with trainings held in our Seattle office, both in person and virtual, and at events hosted by our generous partners at the Pierce Conservation District who are supporting this effort. The training gave volunteers a broad overview of our work, a deeper understanding of why we are increasing our presence in the urban environment through our Cities program and a thorough grasp of how and what this powerful software developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology can achieve. As the data in the Habitat Network tool grows, scientists hope to be able to answer the following questions:

  • What practices improve the wildlife value of residential landscapes?
  • Which of these practices have the greatest impact?
  • Over how large an area do we have to implement these practices to really make a difference?
  • What impact do urban and suburban wildlife corridors and stopover habitats have on birds
  • Which measures (bird counts? nesting success?) show the greatest impacts of our practices?

Want to join the team? It's not too late! We recorded the training and would love more volunteers to help with this effort. Email Camilo McConnell for more information.