Hilltown Families


Monarch butterflies make perhaps the most epic of all migratory journeys! Here we feature an amazing video using Google Earth to track their journey and share ways families can protect them as citizen scientists…

Generally reserved for experiential projects centered around data collection or observation, citizen science offers to public a means of becoming part of the world of scientific discovery. Two unique projects offer citizen scientists a language-based means of engaging with the world of science: by transcribing field notes, journals, and specimen labels, volunteers can help make over a century’s worth of scientific information accessible to the world!

Help Count Birds for Science during Audubon’s Annual Christmas Bird Count For more than 100 years, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count, the longest-running wildlife census, has fueled science and conservation action. Each winter, citizen scientists gather in 15-mile-wide circles, organized by a count compiler, and count every bird they see or hear. Their hard work provides valuable insights into population trends for many species that would otherwise go unnoticed and undocumented. Wondering what… Read More

Call for citizen scientists! Adventurous, bug-loving families in Western MA can help to contribute to ongoing ant research and identification of species by participating in a project called School of Ants…

Can’t decide what to have for dinner? Flip a coin! It’s totally reliable, right? Well – maybe not. Families can participate in some mathematically fascinating citizen science by flipping state-themed quarters and recording what comes up each time. Scientists and statisticians have begun to wonder if perhaps newer quarters with varied designs are less reliable than older quarters – and by experimenting at home, you’ll help them get closer to an answer! — Remember to mark your calendars and get ready to support Hilltown Families on Valley Gives Day: December 10th!

Leaf studies aren’t just for the fall! Citizen scientists can participate in Project BudBurst’s fall data collection project by identifying and observing local plant species. Information submitted to the project helps scientists learn about the year-round changes that species undergo, and families will learn more about their surroundings by participating!

Monarch butterflies make perhaps the most epic of all migratory journeys! Here we feature an amazing video using Google Earth to track their journey and share ways families can protect them as citizen scientists…

It’s now well recorded that bees are under threat and that their shrinking numbers will have a negative impact on our environment. Innovative measures are being taken and communities are being mobilized to help curb the decline of this important pollinator. Within this process, there are inbuilt community-based learning opportunities that come with these programs. Families are invited to participate as citizen scientists, documenting, analyzing and photographing bee-movements and taking ownership of an important impact that will make a difference.

With camera in hand, families can be empowered as citizen scientists, capturing images of critters in their local environment and sharing them through WildObs. WildObs is an online wildlife sightings community that helps scientists with data and families in discovery of wildlife in various habitats, including their own!

The Great Backyard Bird Count takes place this year for four days beginning on Valentine’s Day! Spread your love to our fine feather friends this year during this annual citizen scientist event. Participating in citizen science projects is a great way for kids to engage with science in a meaningful way. Not only are they helping to support research and population studies, but they’re applying basic skills of their own (data collection, species identification, map skills, and possibly data interpretation) in order to do so…

Mass Audubon invites public to “Focus on Feeders.” This annual midwinter backyard bird survey is a fun way for families to participate as citizen scientists!

Here’s another citizen scientist project families can participate in this winter… The Snowtweet Project. The citizen scientist project is all about obtaining snow depth data from community scientists using social media to broadcast their findings. The simplicity of the collection process for Snowtweets’ data makes the project appropriate for use with kids of all ages, so find your boots and a ruler – and get excited about snow fall this winter!

IceWatch: Citizen Scientist Project Exams Ecosystems via Ice This winter, families can contribute to climate studies by participating in IceWatch, a citizen science initiative that works to collect information about the ice-in and ice-out times of various bodies of water across the continent. By regularly observing a lake, pond, river, or bay, families can help to inform scientists about the length of the cold season which, when compared to data from past… Read More

Have you hear of YardMap? It’s a fun citizen scientist project that families can participate in, mapping their yards using Google maps and collecting data for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Find out about this opportunity…

Hilltown Families Participates in Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch Citizen Scientists Program Every Autumn since 2010, Hilltown Families has participated in a yearly Citizen Scientist project with Biocitizen where families come together to conduct a Rapid Biotic Assessment of the Westfield River. This collection of data involves capturing and cataloging the bugs—benthic invertebrates —that live on the riverbed.  Certain bugs like stonefly-nymphs need lots of oxygen to survive, and when you find a bunch of… Read More

Citizen Scientists Wanted to Monitor Backyard Birds: Neighborhood Nestwatch Citizen Scientist Opportunity for Families in the Pioneer Valley Ever wonder if the robins nesting in your backyard are the same birds that nested there last year? If they were color banded then you would know. Amazingly, many birds nest in the same place year after year. By joining the Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch Citizen Science project, you can help scientists answer important questions… Read More

After 17 Years, Cicadas Scheduled to Emerge from the Earth Along the Eastern Seaboard. Will They Be Emerging Here in Western MA? This year, for the first time since 1996, a Magicicada brood will emerge from the ground all across the eastern United States.  This special species – unlike other cicadas – emerges every 17 years with the entire species growing and developing at the same time,  creating synchronized cycles of growth,… Read More

Volunteers Wanted to Help Stock Connecticut River Watershed Every year, the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife releases millions of fish fry into the Connecticut River watershed.  These tiny fish will live within the watershed for two years, growing and preparing for their journey to the Atlantic.  Eventually, they will make their way back to their river home, attempting to make the difficult journey upstream from the salty ocean waters to the… Read More

Project BudBurst Citizen Scientist Opportunity for Families & Students Students can learn so much by following the seasonal patterns of plants found here in New England. Each plant’s cycle is different, and varies depending on factors like location and weather patterns.  Tracking a plant through its seasonal changes can help us to better understand the subtle changes that take place in our environment, and says a lot about where we live. This… Read More

Focus on Feeders Mass Audubon Winter Bird Count February 2nd & 3rd, 2013 Does your family enjoy watching birds at your feeder during the winter?  Backyard feeders provide a consistent, easily accessible source of food for a wide variety of bird species during the winter, and feeder-watching is a great way for families to learn about the many different species who live in their neighborhood. This weekend, Mass Audubon is offering a… Read More

Hilltown Families Event Volunteer Opportunity: Citizen Scientist Wednesday, October 17th @ 3:30pm West Branch of the Westfield River For the third year in a row, Hilltown Families will be partnering with Biocitizen in collaboration with the MA DEP in our long-term commitment to their stream monitoring project.  Families with kids interested in science, including biology and ecology, are invited to join us on the banks of the Westfield River on Wednesday, October… Read More

Tracking Owls in Massachusetts Families Can Help Mass Audubon There are eleven different species of owls found in Massachusetts, and chances are good that there are a few in your neighborhood.  Families can become owl spotters and useful citizen scientists by taking part in Mass Audubon’s efforts in tracking owl populations – there are lots of ways to participate, and any and all information collected in useful! There are a variety of… Read More

SciSpy How many different types of creatures has your family seen crawling, flying, and climbing around a local park, the beach, or your own back yard lately?  Identifying critters is a fun way for kids to learn about their environment, and beginning to document them can help scientists with wildlife research initiatives! Using SciSpy, families can capture photos of all of the birds, insects, and four-legged fuzzies found in their neighborhood and… Read More

JellyWatch! Heading to the ocean this summer?  While you’re there, exploring the sand, rocks, and waves, spend some time being a Citizen Scientist!  Check the beach for jellyfish, squid, and other unusual marine life, and report your findings to JellyWatch! Found at jellywatch.org, the program uses data submitted by Citizen Scientists to create a dataset about beach conditions and populations.  Even if you don’t see any jellies or squid, it is important… Read More

Western MA Youth  Can Help Deerfield River Watershed Association Protect Vernal Pools as Citizen Scientists During springtime, our surroundings burst with new life!  One of the most interesting and least known about natural environments is the vernal pool- pools develop in the early spring while snow melts and the ground becomes softer, and pools of water gather becoming home to a laying ground for frogs and salamanders. BECOME A CITIZEN SCIENTIST Vernal… Read More

Great Backyard Bird Count Perfect for Families Get out your bird books- this year’s 2012 Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) takes place from February 17th-20th!   The GBBC helps researchers gather an accurate count of bird populations, as well as determine the location of bird species.  Sponsored by Audubon and Cornell University, the event requires citizen scientists to watch and count birds in their backyard for at least 15 minutes on at… Read More

Mystery Class: Tracking Sunlight to Solve a Mystery Begins January 30th, 2012 Seasonal changes take place around the globe alongside changes in the amount of sunlight that a location receives during the day.  Locally, we experience an influx of light as summer approaches, then experience dark in greater quantities as winter begins. Every place in the world has its own unique times for sunrise and sunset, and thus has its own unique… Read More

Bird Count at Canoe Meadows in Pittsfield There have been lots of opportunities lately to become a Citizen Scientist and assist with bird population counts!  Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count and Bald Eagle Count both took place recently, but there’s another bird count that you can do any time of year!  Mass Audubon offers a checklist of birds that visitors to Canoe Meadows (located in Pittsfield) can print and take along on their… Read More

Bald Eagle Count Along with Audubon’s December Christmas Bird Count comes a second opportunity to participate as a citizen scientist while observing bird populations in your area.  The Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) conducts an annual survey of Bald Eagle sightings during January- this year’s dates are the 4th through 18th. Citizen participation in the survey is important because Bald Eagle populations have been increasing, making it more difficult for… Read More

National Audubon’s 112th Annual Christmas Bird Count National Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) takes place from December 14th through January 5th.  Add some outdoor adventure and wildlife observations to your family’s holiday traditions this year by participating in your local CBC Circle by counting and collecting data about the birds in your neighborhood to gauge the wellness of the nation’s bird populations. The CBC offers families an annual opportunity to participate… Read More

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