Further information: Carol Trosset: Nature Observation and Citizen Science

Week 1: Natural History.  Participants will share their interests and their goals for the course. The instructor will review areas of biological inquiry that rely on the direct field observation of plants and animals, and will present what she has learned by analyzing observational data collected by her mother at the instructor’s childhood home.  Readings:  Wilcove and Eisner, 2000, The Impending Extinction of Natural History (Chronicle of Higher Education), Bartholomew, 1986, The Role of Natural History in Contemporary Biology (BioScience)

Week 2: Birds.  After discussing the readings, we will practice the visual observation of birds, and learn about projects that depend on data collected by amateur birders (eBird, Christmas Bird Count, Breeding Bird Survey).  Readings: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/19/science/bird-populations-america-canada.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2019/09/19/north-america-has-lost-billion-birds-years/  Dunn, 1999, Climate Change Has Affected the Breeding Date of Tree Swallows Throughout North America (Royal Society Proceedings: Biological Sciences) Rosenfield, 2011, Shift to Later Timing by Autumnal Migrating Sharp-shinned Hawks (Wilson Journal of Ornithology)

Week 3: Plants.  We will discuss phenology (the study of the timing of natural events like when flowers bloom), practice how to identify wildflowers and tree leaves, and discuss various modes of seed dispersal.  Readings:  National Phenology Network, “Observed Changes in Phenology across the US Midwest” Ziska, 2011, Recent Warming by Latitude Associated with Increased Length of Ragweed Pollen Season in  Central North America (PNAS); Routhier, 2002, Impact of Tree Leaf Phenology on Growth Rates and Reproduction in the Spring Flowering Species Trillium erectum (American Journal of Botany)

Week 4: Pollination.  We will discuss the process of pollination, its relationship to flower structure, and the reasons for the decline of many species of pollinators, and practice the identification of insect pollinators.  Readings:  Holm, 2014, excerpts from Pollinators of Native Plants; McKinney, 2012, Asynchronous Changes in Phenology of Migrating Broad-tailed Hummingbirds and their Early-season Nectar Resources (Ecology)

Week 5: Sounds in Nature.  We will practice the identification of sounds made by birds, insects, and frogs, and discuss citizen science projects relying on auditory data collected by amateur naturalists (FrogWatch).  Readings:  Kritsky, 2021, excerpt from Periodical Cicadas: The Brood X Edition; Ziolkowski, 2010, On the Road Again for a Bird Survey that Counts (Birding Magazine) Inkley, 2006, Assessment of the Utility of Frogwatch USA Data

Week 6: Observing Animal Behavior.  We will discuss various dimensions of animal behavior and what is involved in observing and documenting them. We will practice observation using video clips.  Readings:  Nice, 1943, excerpts from Studies in the Life History of the Song Sparrow; Guzzo, 2017, “Behavioral Responses to Annual Temperature Variation Alter the Dominant Energy Pathway, Growth, and Condition of a Cold-water Predator” (PNAS)

Week 7: Observing Habitats.  We will begin synthesizing the various types of observation by thinking about entire habitats, and the variety of things that need to be considered when studying them.  Readings:  Colburn, 2004, excerpt from Vernal Pools; Tomoff, 1974, Avian Species Diversity in Desert Scrub (Ecology)

Week 8: Synthesis.  After discussing the readings, we will consider their implications for how to observe our own local habitats. We will review some resources for learning more about nature, developing observational skills, and participating in citizen science projects.