Peter Cowan - POST
By Peter Cowan, PhD,
Director of Conservation Science

Last month, my family and I participated in a BioBlitz, an organized citizen science event, at the POST-protected Wavecrest Preserve near Half Moon Bay. We joined a number of other families to count, photograph and map the living creatures in the area. It was inspiring to see citizen science in action.

As we started our loop through the fields and cypress trees, a red-tailed hawk circled overhead and wildflowers crowded into the trail. Between observations with binoculars and owl pellet dissections, we paused to train our phone cameras at plants, insects and even distant birds.

Each photo was then shared through the iNaturalist app, an online social network connecting citizen scientists, researchers and anyone interested in exploring biodiversity around the world.

My personal favorite observation was of spittlebugs, also known as froghoppers. These insects feed on plant sap which they use to create a foam resembling spit, hiding them from predators and protecting them from changes in temperature and humidity. Photo: Jack Wolf, 2008 (CC)

As we added our photo observations, elsewhere expert naturalists and academic researchers on iNaturalist confirmed our tentative identifications and offered suggestions for those observations we didn’t yet recognize.

By the time we’d finished our loop three hours later, nearly a thousand observations had been made collectively of over two hundred species.

Citizen science is an opportunity for you to document the biodiversity of our open spaces, contributing to our greater understanding of this place and helping us as land managers to prioritize our conservation efforts.

How do you become a citizen scientist?

The best way to jump-start your career as a citizen scientist is to participate in a BioBlitz. At these community events, you’ll have the chance to learn from others how to make meaningful contributions to the iNaturalist app. They’re also just a ton of fun!

Find an upcoming Bioblitz event through the California Academy of Sciences or on the iNaturalist website.

 

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About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects and cares for open space, farms and parkland in and around Silicon Valley. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 75,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties.

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