One of most wonderful things about the Internet has been the emergence of research projects that involve the general public. Universities like Cornell, Kansas University, and the University of Minnesota, to name a few, have established web sites and on-line databases that encourage both students and amateur biologists to participate in biological field studies. Not only do these projects extend the potential for good science by collecting more data, they give visibility to the research process and allow the public to take ownership and contribute to the store of scientific knowledge.
When I was a child, everyone had a butterfly collection and monarchs were everywhere. Now, monarch populations are declining and their habitat is rapidly being lost. If we want monarchs fluttering by in more than our memories, they will need our help.
At Monarch Watch, students and amateur biologists can learn and participate in studies of monarch migration. Resources are also available for setting up waystations and helping in monarch conservation. Some of the research projects that you can be involved in include tagging monarchs, monitoring larval, and measuring size and mass. Monarch watch also has a database on tag recovery that you can search in order to find out how many tags have been recovered when and where.
Worm watch involves students in collecting, counting, and identifying worms. According to the web site, non-native species of worms, such as earthworms cause damage to forest ecosystems. Scientists at the University of Minnesota are enlisting the help of classrooms in doing surveys to count the number of earthworms at different locations. This information helps the scientists to understand the extent of earthworm spread and determine how badly the ecosystem has been damaged.
eBird is a joint project, powered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University and the Audubon Society. Through eBird, anyone can enter and store bird observations, and learn about birds that others have seen. eBird has advice for identifying birds, instructions for observing birds and maps that show you where birds have been sighted.