Citizen Science Squirrel Project

What was your driving question?

How might we engage in citizen science in order to gain a better understanding of the habitat selection of various species?

Grades Involved

9-12; College

How did this project connect to your local or regional community?

This project had students exploring local ecosystems looking for Red Squirrel middens and collecting habitat selection data.

What PBE principles were highlighted in this project?

Project Description

During this project, students worked with a Ph.D. Candidate from the University of Idaho to collect data on habitat selection criteria of Red Squirrel Middens. Students explored local habitats looking for midden sites, then they followed the outlined procedures provided by the Ph.D. candidate. Students measured data such as distance to closest refuge tree, DBH of that tree, and took note of habitat characteristics (canopy cover, forest floor cover, presence of Red Squirrels). Then students created a final product that communicated what they learned throughout the process.

How did this positively impact the community? How was it shared?

This project did not have a large community impact component. The focus was student engagement. This project was shared on my teacher website, and on student portfolio websites.

Reflection: What was the biggest challenge? What was the most rewarding aspect of this project?

“Overall I feel like this project was a success. Students were engaged in the process of accurate scientific data collection in the field. While in the field with Rachel, the lead investigator for this project, students were able to engage in meaningful conversation about the project, and ask great questions about middens, LiDAR, and data collection in general. I feel like a few of the improvements that could be made to this project are 1) More time in the field collecting data, which would allow students to better understand the data collection process and become more independent in organizing the process. 2) Having students define what their final product is toward the beginning of the project, so they can be planning and thinking about what it will look like in the last week. 3) Spend a little more time on the data collection process, which would have helped with consistency in recording data and collecting the correct data.” ~ Kaytlyn Gilliam

Any advice for a teacher or student that is implementing a PBE project for the first time?

“I wish I could’ve collected more data.”
“I wish I had actually gone to every class period.”
“I wish we had spent more time discussing the purpose of the squirrel and their midden.”
“I wish I could have worked more with the LIDAR than just setting it up and letting it do its scan. I would like to get on a computer and work with the data points and learn more about how that works.”