One of the things I’m most excited about at my new job is the abundance of easily accessible aquatic habitats at the ecostation where my office is located. It’s a mere 3 minute walk to the pond and maybe 4 or 5 minutes to the stream. I’ve never lived or worked that close to any significant body of water, anything more than an artificial pond, so I’m thrilled! And that means I can also participate in something I’ve been eagerly anticipating since I first heard about it: the Dragonfly Pond Watch.
The Dragonfly Pond Watch is part of the citizen science program under development by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP). If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that there’s a lot we don’t know about migratory dragonflies, including some basic things such as where fall migrating dragonflies end up at the completion of their migration and the conditions that lead to their movements in the first place. The MDP is a group of dragonfly experts who want to collectively answer some of these questions. There are several scientists involved in the partnership, but we can’t be everywhere at every time. That’s where citizen science comes in handy! By reaching out to everyone who has an interest in dragonflies, more areas can be sampled more often more easily. So, one of the goals of the MDP has been to get the public involved to help answer some of the big, basic questions about migratory dragonflies that remain unanswered.
The first MDP citizen science project is the Dragonfly Pond Watch, and it’s an easy project to participate in! You simply visit the project website and register a pond. Then you visit the pond several times, ideally once a month. Each time you visit, you collect data about only two species, the common green darner (Anax junius) and the black saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), including the abundance, sex (if you know how to tell the difference), stage (again, if you know the difference), and behaviors of the dragonflies. There’s a handy dandy datasheet available so you can easily record the pertinent data while you’re in the field. If you have a camera, you can take and submit voucher photos. Once you sign up for an account, you submit your data to the MDP via an online form. Easy!
I’ve taken the first step and have registered the pond where I work. I am down by the pond at least every other day, so I can likely collect data more than once a month. I am also going a step further and developing programs in which I will educate visitors about dragonflies in general and my own citizen science project as we collect data for the pond watch. Hopefully people will leave my programs with a better understanding of dragonflies and a warm fuzzy feeling from knowing that they have contributed to science by recording a few simple dragonfly observations. I can then send everyone home with the pond watch data sheet so they can start up their own dragonfly watch at other ponds. Every little bit of data collected by citizen scientists helps everyone, including the scientists participating in the MDP, understand dragonflies a bit better. Because I love dragonflies and want to know more about migration myself, I’d like to get as many people involved in the MDP projects as I can. I’m in the perfect position to make that happen here too!
But you all can participate also! If you have a pond in your area that you can easily visit once a month or more, I highly recommend that you register your pond for the Dragonfly Pond Watch. Dragonflies are beautiful and exciting animals to watch and getting outside to enjoy nature every now and again is, I think, good for the soul. Why not help some needy scientists while you’re out there enjoying the view? You could spend as little as 5 minutes at you pond each visit and still collect valuable data for the Dragonfly Pond Watch. So get out there and get started! I think you’ll be glad you did.