Citizen scientists in Utah asked to participate in Squirrel Fest
SALT LAKE CITY — Taking a cue from the American Audubon Society, The Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU) is hosting Squirrel Fest. It’s an event to help scientists track the distribution of squirrels in Utah.
Squirrel Fest lasts for a week. It’s an opportunity for Utahns to report their observations of squirrels to the NMHU. The information will help Utah biologists understand the spread of squirrel species and their impact on our environment.
One of the most important pieces of information this event will provide is the growth of non-native species.
“The fox squirrel provides an opportunity to study how a non-native species becomes established in a new environment,” said Ellen Eiriksson, NMHU’s Citizen Science program manager in a statement.
“In the past five years, fox squirrels have rapidly expanded their range along the Wasatch Front and are adapting to the urban environment.”
Like the Audobon bird count, Squirrel Fest is an example of outsourcing
The squirrel project is an example of crowdsourcing, as is the American Audobon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. For more than 100 years, Americans have contacted the Audobon Society about the birds they see around them. The information is then used to assess bird health and to guide conservation efforts, according to the Audubon Society’s web page.
According to a statement, citizen scientists in Utah offered more than 400 observations about Utah squirrels in 2020. And the information is invaluable, said Eric Rickart, NNMHU’s curator of vertebrates.
“Citizen science has been around for a very long time, but it has really taken off in recent years with the advent of new technologies that enable anyone to collect and share their own scientific observations,” Rickart said.
Citizen scientists in Utah will be able to use the iNaturalist app to record squirrel observations. They can also fill out a form on NHMU’s website. Scientists at the museum are particularly interested in information from Davis, Morgan, and Utah counties.
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