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September 14, 2023
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Citizen science

A pair of binoculars sits on a park table next to a field guide for birdwatching. These tools are effective for hobbyist birdwatchers as well as researchers. 

One of the best ways to get involved is through Citizen Science– research projects that rely on the efforts of local citizens to collect data.  New ways of approaching old methods in data collection are a good thing!

eBird 

I shrugged off eBird for years despite many friends and colleagues raving about it.  I opened accounts for both of our kids around 2016 as we began traveling more and more in Latin America.  Then I finally joined up late 2019.  It provides several ways for you to examine your own personal data (e.g., How many countries have I seen Zone-tailed hawks in?  How many bird species did I see in Peru during the 2015 trip?  How many species have I seen at McGovern Lake over the years total?), but more importantly all of your data goes into a global database used to track geographic ranges, and is used by scientists to examine spatial and temporal questions about birds.

iNaturalist

The same objectives as eBird but all taxa instead of only birds, and with a different interface.  You must provide photographic evidence for each entry; many contributors accomplish this with camera-traps when submitting reports for mammals.

Cats-indoors campaign

Over 2 billion bird deaths are caused annually by our friendly felines!  Learn more about this unfortunate trend and what you can do to help.

Lights-out Texas

Hundreds of millions of birds die every year during migration, as the lights left on (primarily in the upper floors of tall metro office buildings) disorient the birds and often ends in death.  Learn more about this sad phenomenon and the “Lights-Out!” movement that is trying to get everyone on board to reverse this trend.

Texas Invasive Bird Project 

Already mentioned above, this project relies on report forms completed and submitted by Citizen scientists to achieve research on six targeted species of invasive/introduced birds here in the Lone Star State.

Houston City Nature Challenge

Driven by the aforementioned iNaturalist, this annual event is a ‘friendly competition’ among cities around the globe to see which metropolis can tally the most species of fauna and flora over the course of a few days during spring. Houston actually won the event in April 2017 with 2419 species!

Houston CBC

There are a couple of different Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) here in the Bayou City.  CBCs make an effort to tally specific numbers of avian species once a year (December/January) by stationing large groups of people at strategic locations in the field.  Compiled data are submitted at the end of each survey.

Authored By Dan Brooks

As the HMNS Curator of Vertebrate Zoology, Dr. Dan is known as ‘the guy with the most backbone’ in the museum! He curates four permanent exhibits at the museum, where he was worked as a full-time staff member since 1999. He has described 10 new species to date, and is very active in local (hmns.org/houstonwildlife) and international (Southeast Asia and Latin America) wildlife research, especially with gamebirds. Afflicted with the inability to ‘shake the nature bug’, when he’s not at work in the museum, one of his favorite things to do is scouting and exploring the great outdoors with his family.



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