Community science is a powerful way to incorporate the public into the scientific process. At BRIT we are developing a phenologically-informed conservation program for which community science will play a big part in helping our team analyze large historic, contemporary, and long-term datasets.
Phenological data, gathered from historic specimens in herbaria, iNaturalist observations collected by community members, and long-term ecological monitoring systems such as phenological cameras, are incredibly important because they provide conservationists with the power to predict and monitor which species may be most vulnerable to climate change.
Community science research approaches also provide unique public engagement opportunities that give community members a chance to become emotionally invested in scientific and conservation outcomes. Community science can also bolster the work of researchers by allowing them to crowdsource simple research tasks, allowing them to pursue larger datasets.
The study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life, like flowering, leafing, reproduction, and hibernation.
Community Conservation on Working Lands
Texas is ~97% private land, much of which is used for ranching and agricultural production, so to make substantial conservation impacts in this state, much of this work will need to take place on working lands in collaboration with landowners. Very little native prairie habitat remains in North Texas therefore working rangelands are incredibly important potential conservation spaces for the Fort Worth and Blackland Prairie ecosystems.
When managed through sustainable grazing practices, pastures can also be home to hundreds of native plant species that are critical habitat for pollinators and wildlife. Prescribed grazing prevents overgrazing of the plant communities that grow in pastures, and while not new, the practice is in need of real-time, data-informed tools to make it a more precise, adaptable, and feasible conservation practice for more ranchers.
To help ranchers obtain this information without adding extensive labor to their busy schedules, we aim to conduct a pilot study on several North Texas ranches in the spring-summer of 2022 to test novel remote imaging technology that measures the phenology of prairie species so ranchers can better time their prescribed grazing practices for the conservation of native species. The information from these images will be compiled into comprehensive, long-term datasets to elucidate patterns over time and inform real time decision making.
We plan to harness the remote nature of this technology and crowdsource our data processing to our community members! By crowdsourcing data processing, we can provide information to ranchers faster, while engaging the public in important conversations about climate change and conservation.