Citizen Scientists

Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard
Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard. 80p. bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. websites. CIP. Holt. 2012. RTE $19.99. ISBN 978-0-8050-9062-8; pap. $12.99. ISBN 978-0-8050-9517-3. LC 2011021673.
RedReviewStarGr 4–6—An engaging book of seasonal projects for nature lovers (and their parents and teachers as well). Burns explains in her informally sociable text, "Citizen science is the study of our world by the people who live in it." Beginning with fall, she delves into migratory monarchs, instructing youngsters how to catch, tag, and release these long-distance flitters, and goes on to provide a history and a geography of monarch migration patterns. She introduces two young "Monarch Watchers" (ages seven and six), presents a list of necessary equipment, and offers a quick quiz (answers at the back of the book). She repeats this format for winter (joining in the Christmas Bird Count); spring "frogging" at night (identifying mating calls); and summer ("ladybugging"). Resource sections containing a list of books, field guides, and websites are included for each critter, along with pointers for finding more. Burns is careful to emphasize "gentleness" in catching, tagging, photographing, and releasing specimens. Crisp color photos flow through the pages, many showing kids of various ages hot on the trail of frog sounds or birdcalls. Interested readers will enjoy many of the suggested titles, and a side trip into such elegant offerings as Pamela Turner's The Frog Scientist (2009) or Sy Montgomery's The Tarantula Scientist (2004, both Houghton Harcourt) might show them how far these early explorations might lead. Handsome and challenging.—Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY
Burns brings much-deserved attention to four remarkable scientific projects that enlist regular people in data collection: the Monarch Watch butterfly tagging project, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, a project documenting ladybug species, and a frog study. Detailed accounts of the procedures along with the handsome color photography make the idea of participation highly appealing. Bib., glos., ind.
Loree Griffin Burns’s enthusiasm for her subject matter is clearly conveyed in this accessible, thorough, and engaging book. Introductory chapter-specific citizen-scientist experiences (with butterflies, birds, frogs, and ladybugs, respectively) are relayed in a chatty second-person narrative: “Butterfly eyes can detect movement, so when you sneak up on your monarch, net raised high over your head, be sure to move slowly.” Provides a fascinating look at a number of monitoring projects, and how data contributed by citizen scientists has proven invaluable to professional scientists’ work. Burns emphasizes that nature can—and needs to be—observed in all sorts of settings, whether a yard, park, or high-rise apartment window-box (and not finding ladybugs during a ladybug hunt, for example, is just as important as finding them). She also takes care to stress that wild animals should not be kept as pets but should be treated carefully and observed, then released: “Remember that now is a difficult time in the natural history of the frog. If you catch one in the wild, be gentle. Learn what you can and then release your frog exactly where you found it.” Striking photographs extend the text, while ample back matter and various “fieldwork” tips and checklists make this title a useful resource. Sure to appeal to nature and science buffs, and may well inspire others to a newfound interest in wildlife observation.
Burns brings much-deserved attention to four remarkable scientific projects that enlist regular people in data collection. This participation is not superfluous; the observations of such animals as birds, frogs, and insects, and the careful records made of those observations, are the actual data that scientists use to better understand ecological and life science issues. The projects include stalwarts such as the Monarch Watch butterfly tagging project, started in 1952, and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, running strong since 1900, but also a recently developed project documenting ladybug species through the uploading of digital photographs and a frog study initiated in part by the discoveries made by some middle-schoolers on a field trip. For each project, Burns gives detailed accounts of the procedures employed by citizen scientists, such as the proper handling of a butterfly or tips on species identification, background information on the animals under study, and profiles featuring experienced citizen scientists. The bright color layouts, encouraging and friendly tone, and handsome color photography of children, adults, and animals in the field make the idea of participation highly appealing. Readers eager to get involved will find information (books, field guides, websites) for these and other projects thoroughly documented at the back of the book; also appended are a bibliography, a glossary, and an index. danielle j. ford

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