Little river, big data: 10 Citizen science projects for the Truckee River region

In Citizen Science by KelseyFitzgerald2 Comments

Want to help out with a citizen science project?  Here are ten that you can add to from the Truckee River region. Some are small, locally-based projects that are doing big things.  Others are national or global-scale projects, but many of these larger projects haven’t had much participation from our part of the world.  Do you know of others?

1.  iNaturalist –
This huge undertaking by the California Academy of Sciences is asking people all over the world to observe every living thing.  Only living things though; no rocks (Truckee River Guide, on the other hand, appreciates rock sightings).  Download the app on your smartphone and start logging observations: data will be used by scientists, citizens, teachers, or else anyone who wants it.  They don’t have too many observations from the Truckee River, yet.

2. eBird
Since 2002, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has been collecting species lists from birders.  On the eBird website, you can log your own bird lists (by month, year and life) or explore the huge body of data that they’ve collected. They have lots of observations from along the Truckee River, and it’s a fantastic site for learning which species are here during different times of year.

3. Public Lab
Public Lab helps people all over the world to create Do-It-Yourself tools and techniques for environmental monitoring.  For example, their Balloon Mapping project organized residents along the Gulf Coast in creating DIY aerial photography after the Deep Water Horizon oil spill.  Does anyone want to Balloon Map the Truckee?

4. iSeeChange –
On Superbowl Sunday, my husband and I saw wildflowers blooming on Peavine Peak.  A sign of a changing climate, I wonder? The iSeeChange project is crowdsourcing climate change reporting by asking people to share what they see going on in their surroundings. iSeeChange will investigate, and discuss your observations on their podcast.

Feb 1, 2015: Nevada wildflowers on Peavine Peak.

Feb 1, 2015: Nevada wildflowers on Peavine Peak.  One an introduced Redstem stork’s bill (Erodium cicutarium), and you probably know the other kind.

5. The Lost Ladybug Project –
The Lost Ladybug Project is on the hunt for the rare nine-spotted ladybug (Coccinella novemnotata), and other native ladybug species.  Do we have nine-spotted ladybugs in the Truckee River region?  I’m not sure that anyone has looked.  If you’re interested joining the search, the LLP has a field guide and app on their website.

6. Monarch Larvae Monitoring Project –
The MLMP is collecting long-term data on Monarch butterflies and milkweed across the US, and they haven’t had much participation from people in Nevada.  That isn’t because we don’t have monarchs.  MLMP ran a great workshop last summer at River Fork Ranch, and I’ve heard rumors that they’ll be back.

7. Reno Hawk Project –
Have you seen hawks in your neighborhood? University of Nevada, Reno student Justin White is recruiting citizen scientists to help study the Red-tailed hawks and Cooper’s hawks that live in the Reno-Sparks urban area. Contact Justin via his website if you’re interested in helping with this project.

8. Truckee River Watershed Council’s Adopt-a-Stream Aquatic Monitoring Lab 
The Truckee River Watershed Council in Truckee, CA, hosts lab nights in which volunteers can help to assess water quality by collecting and identifying macroinvertebrates. TRWC volunteers monitor many of the streams that flow into the Truckee River, and also help out with a statewide water monitoring day called Snapshot Day.

9. Tahoe Institute for Natural Science’s Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey
The Tahoe Institute for Natural Sciences coordinates a survey for Bald Eagles in mid-January, with volunteers stationed at 26 points in the Lake Tahoe basin.  This year, volunteers spotted 25 eagles during a 3-hour survey. TINS also runs educational programs throughout the year.

Dock at Lake Tahoe. Jan 2015.

The perils of citizen science: During the 2015 TINS bald eagle survey, I watched for eagles from this dock. 

10. Truckee River Guide
Last but not least, there’s this new project called Truckee River Guide that could really use your help!  Send photos, wildlife observations, stories, drawings, a piece of news, an upcoming event, a suggestion.  Your input will make this project better.

Thanks for reading.


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  1. Thanks for recommending the Lost Ladybug Project, Kelsey!

    Anyone sending in photos of ladybugs found in the Truckee River region will make a big contribution of data to our research.

    The numbers so far:
    Total ladybug photos from North America: 30,000+
    From the State of Nevada: 77
    From Incline Village: 2

    To see what kinds of ladybugs have been found in Incline Village and Nevada:
    (use pull down menus to Filter by State, Select Nevada)

    To upload photos:

    Looking forward to seeing what you find,

    Leslie Allee

    1. Author

      Hi Dr. Allee,
      I haven’t seen any ladybugs yet this year, but am keeping an eye out and will encourage others to do the same. Thank you for reading, and for sending that information!

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