The following projects have been selected to receive up to $25,000 from the Citizen Science Competitive Funding Program (CitSci Fund). The CitSci Fund supports collaborative citizen science efforts where partners, volunteers, and the Forest Service work together in the pursuit of sound science and meaningful community and volunteer engagement.
With the funds available, Ecosystem Management Coordination (EMC) was able to fully fund thirteen projects totaling $188,695.
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2019 Total Submissions: 56
LEVEL 1 - Ideation (up to $10,000)
Air Quality Bio-Monitoring Using Lichens on the Tahoe National Forest
A child uses a hand lens to take a closer look at lichen (USFS photo).
Location: Tahoe National Forest, California
Partner Project Lead: Hanna Mesraty, Project Director, Biodiversity Research Collective
Forest Service Project Lead: Don Schweizer, Air Resource Specialist, Pacific Southwest Region
Funding Award: $10,000
Citizen scientists will gather data on lichens and other ecological components of the Tahoe National Forest, raising awareness of why air quality monitoring is important and how it could impact the health of the forest and people in surrounding areas. In addition to being a reliable air quality indicator, lichen play a vital role in a larger ecological story, and with increasing wildfires, urbanization, and habitat loss in California, this project could help scientists communicate and engage publics with that story while providing key data.
Analyzing lichen tissue helps make determinations about air quality that is part of mandated monitoring efforts for all wilderness areas across the state. Many of these areas are too remote to use mechanical monitoring equipment, so lichen biomonitoring helps fill these gaps and empower citizens to critically engage on issues of biodiveristy and forest ecology.
Volunteers will collect lichen tissue and record ecological data, document species observations on citizen science platforms, and create herbarium-quality specimens. Collecting lichen tissue is relatively easy once properly trained and is a unique and engaging way to monitor air quality using part of the forest ecosystem.
Building a Southeast River Cane Monitoring Initiative for Cultural & Ecosystem Services
Left: A stand of river cane, Arundinaria gigantea Right: traditional Cherokee river cane basket (Photos courtesy of Cherokee Nation River Cane Initiative).
Location: Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma
Partner Project Lead: Whitney Warrior, Environmental Services and Historic Preservation Director, United Keetoowah Band
Forest Service Project Lead: Michelle Baumflek,
Funding Award: $10,000
River cane (Arundinaria gigantea) is a bamboo species native to the Southeastern U.S. that is fundamental to traditional arts, technologies and cultural identity of over 45 federally-recognized tribes. River cane ecosystems (canebrakes) provide vital ecosystem services including erosion and runoff control, and endangered species habitat. However, river cane currently occupies two percent of its historical range due to changes in land use and overgrazing. Research on river cane is limited, and regional distribution of canebrakes is unknown. Documenting current spatial distribution of canebrakes is an essential step in understanding species ecology, restoration and management.
The goal of this ideation-phase project is to work with Cherokee Nation to develop citizen-science-based strategies for identifying and monitoring river cane ecosystems and creating a plan that can be implemented by tribes and other partners across the Southeastern United States. Citizen scientists will use their digital devices to document river cane locations. Data collected will contribute to analysis, restoration and modeling efforts, and monitoring of specific locations of interest.
Developing a river cane monitoring initiative promotes continuity of Cherokee Nation traditional knowledge and cultural traditions, including basketry and other traditional arts. Data collection is time-intensive and geographically widespread, and a citizen science approach will make monitoring more efficient and effective. Citizen science also has a twofold benefit of including local people who are knowledgeable about these habitats and skilled at locating rivercane, while also providing educational opportunities for those who want to learn about it.
Colorado Bat Watch: Monitoring Bats on Colorado's National Forests
Little brown bats are increasingly being found with white nose syndrome in North America (USF&W photo).
Partner Project Lead: Paige Singer, Conservation Biologist/GIS Specialist, Rocky Mountain Wild
Forest Service Project Lead: Melissa (Missy) Dressen, Wildlife Biologist,
Funding Award: $10,000
Colorado is home to 18 bat species, 3 of which are sensitive species in Region 2: the Fringed myotis, Hoary bat, and Townsend’s big-eared bat. Relatively little is currently known about the population status of most species of bats in Colorado to help inform evaluations of their status and population viability.
North American bats face unprecedented threats including white-nose syndrome—a rapidly spreading pathogen that has killed millions of bats in the eastern and Midwestern U.S. since 2006. The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome has not been detected in Colorado, but has spread into four adjacent states; most recently a 2018 detection in eastern Wyoming. There is a pressing need to expand bat monitoring in Colorado ahead of the pathogen’s arrival in the state. Citizen science is the optimal approach because data is needed across a large scale.
The North American Bat Monitoring (NABat) program provides a monitoring framework on the Pike and Routt National Forests in Colorado, with a long-term goal of developing a robust citizen science program to meet bat monitoring needs for multiple agencies state-wide. Citizen scientists will monitor roost sites to help understand how local populations are impacted by the pathogen. They will learn about the ecological and economic importance of bats and contribute to improving management by addressing threats to bat populations.