Become A Citizen Scientist & Get to Know Your Local Dragonfly!
Community-Based Education Right In Your Back Yard
While a season filled with winged insects may seem months away, now is the time to begin learning how to be on the lookout for seasonal indicator species! Certain creatures who migrate to warmer climes during Massachusetts’ winter can help to make the start of warmer weather with their presence. Just as returning robins dotting late-winter feeders mean that spring is near and the emergence of salamanders marks spring’s first good rain, the appearance of dragonflies can serve as an important seasonal indicator, too!
Families can join in on an important citizen science project called Dragonfly Pond Watch, a project that collects information from ponds internationally in order to track dragonfly migration patterns. Much like birds and butterflies, dragonflies migrate seasonally, and the appearance of the first dragonflies of the season in any particular location is significant not only because it means that spring has truly arrived, but it is also significant because of the context in which the dragonflies arrive. Just as we draw conclusions from the dragonflies’ appearance, researchers are able to draw conclusions about the creatures’ migratory habits based on when and where they appear.
Participation in Dragonfly Pond Watch is fairly simple, and follows a structure similar to those of other citizen science programs. Families who choose to participate are asked to keep an eye out for dragonflies who are members of five focal species – the Common Green Darner, Black Saddlebags, the Wandering Glider, the Spot-Winged Glider, and the Variegated Meadowhawk. Then, information about sightings can be collected in a special data sheet and uploaded to the project’s website. Participants are asked to submit not only their data, but information about the site that they observed. Then, the site should be observed at least once a month throughout the season, and, hopefully, regularly each season for years to come so as to provide thorough data!
Taking on such a large citizen science project is a great way to help children connect to a natural place. Frequent observations made at the pond site will not only alert children to changes in dragonfly population, but will allow them to observe the seasonal changes taking place in the landscape as well. Additionally, children will learn about the importance of conservation, and will get to practice effective data collection techniques in the process!
[Photo credit: (cc) Randen Pederson]