Citizen Science at AMC

April 26, 2018

Do you take photos with your phone when out on the trails?

You can turn your mobile device into a reporting tool with iNaturalist and join other citizen scientists by documenting the flowering plants you observe on your next hike. 

Using iNaturalist, your mobile device will automatically geotag the image, assigning its location, and if you’re not sure of the name of the species of plant you have observed, the community on iNaturalist, including AMC’s own scientists, will help confirm or identify the plant. By participating in iNaturalist, you can contribute to AMC’s Mountain Watch study to understand seasonal plant development in the context of climate change and improve your own knowledge about plants and the biodiversity of the region. Learn more about how to use iNaturalist (pdf) to support AMC’s citizen science.

Why is AMC involved in citizen science?

It aligns squarely with our mission as we seek to protect, promote, and understand the Appalachian region. Citizen science is a tool to gain both scientific information and engage and educate interested outdoor citizens. In fact, AMC has been engaging hikers in tracking the timing of alpine plant flowering since 2004 when we first began Mountain Watch, and we have since clocked many successes including engaging thousands of hikers.  Not surprisingly, we have also learned from the challenges we encountered. While Mountain Watch had scaled down the number of volunteers involved, our commitment to this study continues, and we are thankful to all returning volunteers who are working with us in filling important data gaps. AMC Outdoors interviewed Jim Greaney, a Mountain Watch volunteer in 2016, which you can read here.

How will AMC use your iNaturalist observations in Mountain Watch 2.0?

AMC’s scientists will use photos of our target plants that you upload, confirming the plant identity and coding their flowering and fruiting status.  We will focus on key study regions like the White Mountains, Maine Woods, and along the Appalachian Trail to understand seasonal development in the context of climate change.  The more photos that are posted, the more we can capture the large variability that is inherent in mountain environments.  That is why engaging a cadre of citizen scientists is important, as our staff can’t do it alone! This data will be merged with our ongoing plant phenology studies that include more detailed observations. All of this work requires many years of observations to provide the necessary study length that allows for trend analysis. AMC’s history and commitment to understanding and addressing man-made impacts on our environment make us the right organization to collect and study long-term trends in mountain ecosystems—and you can help.

Join our Webinar Tuesday, May 15th at 1 pm, or Wednesday, May 16th at 7 pm, to learn how to use iNaturalist, get tips on taking quality photos, learn about our target species, and more. Advanced registration is required.

Can’t make it? Register anyway and we’ll send you the recording.

Learn more about Mountain Watch and plant phenology science:

Flowering plants are the focus of AMC’s Citizen Science efforts through Mountain Watch

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Georgia Murray

Conservation and Nature Notes blogger Georgia Murray has been AMC's Air Quality Staff Scientist since 2000. She has an M.S. degree in Earth Sciences from the University of New Hampshire and currently oversees the AMC's air quality and climate monitoring programs.