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By Ty Cryan, Davidson College Intern

When you think of scientists, what images come to mind? White lab coats holding a test tube, gaze locked in a pensive stare pondering the great questions of our universe? What if I told you the real picture of a scientist looked a lot like you?

Through the Citizen Science initiative, science is no longer exclusive to professionals or people with specializations. Millions of regular people across the country and the world are already participating in Citizen Science, and you can, too! Citizen Science makes exploring the important questions of our world accessible, attainable, and, most importantly, FUN for the whole family!

But first, what exactly is Citizen Science?

Citizen science incorporates the public into the scientific process, whether that be through designing of experiments, analyzing results, solving problems, or, most commonly, collecting data. The world is a big wide place, and it’s impossible to see it all. But through the collective effort of many people reporting what they see, scientists have a better shot at understanding how all these complex systems work. The data collected allows trained scientists to make more informed decisions on matters such as ecosystem management, climate change, and even pollution. In addition to assisting trained scientists, Citizen Science helps you learn, too! By viewing your environment with an inquisitive and analytical eye, you are bound to expand your knowledge of the wonders of our natural world.

At this point, I know you are wondering, “how can I use citizen science to help birds like those found at the Raptor Center?”

Well, there are a plethora of bird related citizen science projects out there. Many of the raptor-related projects, such as the NPS’s Hawk Watch, are focused on regions of the country outside of Mecklenburg County. However, the Cornell Ornithology Lab has an array of bird related projects to suit your fancy. eBird, one of the most popular projects offered by the Cornell Lab, allows citizen scientists to share bird sightings and explore the diversity of wildlife in the local area. Learn more about eBird here:

Another initiative, NestWatch, allows citizen scientists to locate and monitor trends in the development of baby birds. NestWatch is a great way to get out into nature and learn about the reproductive biology of birds! Learn more about NestWatch here:

Whether you become a lifelong citizen scientist or sporadic participant, Citizen Science offers a structured way for the whole family to explore nature. If you are inquisitive about the natural world like me, noticing that cardinal darting by or the well-camouflaged owl perched overhead, then Citizen Science may be just right for you! Why not put your observational skills to the test by helping professionals make decisions with major environmental implications, and at the same time reconnecting with the natural world? And, hey, you just might learn something, too!

* While the common term is "Citizen Science," community based science such as this is open and accessible to all people who reside in the United States.

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May 20, 2021 by Bob Oberg

Thursday is my volunteer day at the Raptor Center, a special place much beloved by Marianne (my wife) and now by me. After Marianne died they hung a special plaque in her memory at a little ceremony. I was invited to volunteer in rehab, and I accepted! The shift that was open was Thursday diurnal feeding, and that was perfect — the day Marianne had originally volunteered. Being at the Raptor Center is healing for me, both by being with the birds and with the wonderful people — staff, volunteers and interns. It is a community. This short poem came to me one day while feeding birds!


How beautiful is a bird on the wing

Such elegance and grace

It fills my heart with joy.

Inspire me, oh my feathered friend,

That my own dream may have wings

And fly!

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by Katelyn Emanuaelson, Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation

Quest Nature Center is the home of several different species of animals, all native to North Carolina. Many of these animals come out on a regular basis to meet visitors, take a walk in the preserve, or travel to school programs. One of our most requested residents is Sheldon, the Eastern Box Turtle!

Eastern Box turtles are found in the eastern half of the United States. They range from southeastern Maine to southeastern New York, west to central Illinois, and south to northern Florida. Box turtles have a limited home range where they spend their entire life, ranging from 0.5 to 10 acres (usually less than 2 acres).

Box turtles are easy to notice thanks to their unique orange and yellow markings. They are most often encountered after summer rainstorms and around bodies of water but not in them. Box turtles are terrestrial turtles and are the only terrestrial turtle found in North Carolina; in 1979 this special species was selected as North Carolina’s State Reptile.

Box turtles are omnivorous, so they eat fruits, veggies, and meat. You might see them eating mushrooms, berries, grapes, and other fruits, juicy worms, slugs, small snakes, or insects. Sheldon’s favorite food is strawberries, and his least favorite is broccoli. Box turtles have a low metabolic rate, which means they process their food slowly, allowing them to survive during times when food is hard to find. These animals are long-lived with most of box turtles living anywhere from 50 to100 years of age. The box turtle is named for its ability to completely box up inside its shell when it feels threatened.

How Can You Help the Turtles?

  • Leave turtles in the wild! They should never be kept as pets. Whether collected singly or for the pet trade, turtles that are removed from the wild are no longer able to be a reproducing member of a population. Every turtle removed reduces the ability of the population to maintain itself.

  • Never release a captive turtle into the wild. It probably would not survive, may not be native to the area, and could introduce diseases to wild populations.

  • Do not disturb turtles nesting in yards or gardens.

  • As you drive, watch out for turtles crossing the road. Turtles found crossing roads in June and July are often pregnant females and they should be helped on their way and not collected. Without creating a traffic hazard or compromising safety, drivers are encouraged to avoid running over turtles that are crossing roads. Also, keeping safety precautions in mind, you may elect to pick up turtles from the road and move them onto the side they are headed. Never relocate a turtle to another area that is far from where you found it.

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