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Become a Citizen Scientist

Great Backyard Bird Count

Sandhill Cranes at the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden.The Botanic Garden is a hotspot for bird watching - numerous bird species utilize its more than 36 acres of cultivated gardens, natural habitats, perennial ponds and diverse food sources.

Grab your binoculars and head to the Botanic Garden for the nationwide Great Backyard Bird Count, which takes place annually in February.

The event takes an annual snapshot of migratory birds, and all information collected will be given to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to be compiled with data from around the country. Scientists use this information along with observations from other citizen-science projects to get the "big picture" about what is happening to bird populations.

Learn more here.

New Mexico Butterfly Monitoring Network

Callophrys mcfarlandi butterflyStarted by the New Mexico BioPark Society in 2020, The New Mexico Butterfly Monitoring Network is a community science butterfly monitoring scheme under the umbrella of the North American Butterfly Monitoring Network.

The standardized, long-term abundance and diversity data collected by volunteers is available to anyone who asks for it and can utilized by researchers, land managers and conservationists to evaluate trends in butterfly populations across the state.

Volunteers conduct “Pollard Transects,” which entail walking a set route and recording the butterfly species seen in different habitat types along the way. Each survey takes about an hour. Each volunteer conducts 10-12 surveys at their convenience throughout the butterfly season. 

Training Dates: A two-hour training session on butterfly identification and the protocol is offered every year in February.

Time of Year field work is needed: April 1-September 31

Learn more here.

Western Firefly Project

Glow Worm By Mike QuinnIn 2021, the ABQ BioPark teamed up with the Western Firefly Project, a community science initiative pioneered by the Natural History Museum of Utah and Brigham Young University. This initiative was started in 2014 to track populations of flashing firefly species in the state of Utah, and to determine how our western flashing fireflies are related to their counterparts in the Eastern U.S.

By expanding the project to New Mexico, we aim to map occurrences of rare flashing fireflies in the state and figure out what species we have here. Community scientist volunteers drive this effort by reporting sightings of flashing fireflies, that researchers then verify and study. 

Participation is opportunistic with no commitment necessary for volunteers. No training necessary: community scientists simply submit sightings of flashing fireflies to the Western Firefly Project website

Time of Year field work is needed: Firefly season in New Mexico is mid-May through July.

Learn more here.

Nature’s Notebook

Pink Flowers in Bloom at the Botanic GardenNature’s Notebook is a project of USA National Phenology Network, Rio Grande Phenology Trail, that tracks seasonal and long-term changes to plants and animals.

Nature’s Notebook data is used by the USA National Phenology Network to predict the timing of seasonal events to ensure the well-being of humans, ecosystems and natural resources. Data is openly available to the public at usanpn.org. Nature’s Notebook volunteers track seasonal events on certain plants at the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden. They look for presence and percent cover of flowers, leaves and fruit. Learn more about Nature's Notebook.

Time commitment for volunteering: One morning per month

Training dates: On-the-job training is held as needed

Time of year fieldwork is needed: Year round

iNaturalist

Photo by Deborah Cook, ABQ BioParkiNaturalist helps you identify the plants and animals around you. You will help create research-quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. iNaturalist is a joint initiative by the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society.

The database is available to all from the novice naturalists interested in what flora is in their neighborhood to scientists at organizations such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility who can use it as a global repository of flora and faunal observations. 

Observations of living things are recorded using a phone app or website. These can be photographs or audio recordings. iNaturalist will attempt to classify the observation, or observers can post an ID. Users also verify identifications by other observers. Observations with verified identification are available for use in research.

Time commitment for volunteering: Year round, anytime

Training dates: No formal training required. Recordings of previous online recordings are available. Visit the iNaturalist website for more information.

Time of year fieldwork is needed: Year round

Caterpillars Count!

Imperial Moth Caterpillar, Green Phase. Dreamstime stock photo.Caterpillars Count! is a citizen science project that measures the seasonal variation and abundance of arthropods like caterpillars, beetles and spiders on the foliage of trees and shrubs. Arthropods are an important food source for birds and other wildlife. They also have positive economic and environmental impacts on our forests and crops. Caterpillars are one of the most important sources of food for many migratory birds.

Data can be accessed by the public at on the Caterpillars Count! website and will also be used by the research team at Pheno Mismatch. Scientists will compare the timing of bird migrations to the availability of caterpillars each year.

Volunteers will monitor arthropod populations on trees and shrubs at dedicated survey sites. They’ll count and identify caterpillars and other creatures living on sample branches.

Time commitment for volunteering: Two to four hours per month

Training dates: On-the-job training is held as needed.

Time of year fieldwork is needed: Spring, summer and fall

ABQ Tree Hunt – tree growth monitoring

Tree Band on a TreeTrees around Albuquerque have been fitted with a measuring band. Can you find the study trees and share a measurement? Each find on this treasure hunt helps local scientists track the growth rate of different species of trees in the Albuquerque area over time. This project is in the development phase and will be open to everyone when it launches.

Data will be used to examine growth rates over time, as well as variation between species and location. Volunteers will locate target trees – they can access a list of tree locations or find trees in a public area. Instructions on a tree tag will guide them in uploading the tree’s diameter and a photo of the measuring band to the database using EpiCollect 5 on smartphones. A website with more information will be available when project development is complete.

Time commitment for volunteering: Volunteering is ad hoc and as desired.

Training dates: No training needed

Time of year fieldwork is needed: Year round