Growing up, I was always intrigued by science; I even went on to study biology in college. While I'm no scientist, I still enjoy any chance I get to use the scientific method or look through identification manuals to identify a tree or plant by varying characteristics. In fact, a lot of opportunities for citizen science exist that can help wildlife habitat. You can connect with many of these opportunities directly through your smart phone with an app; we all bring it with us in the field anyway! Here are just a few examples of apps that exist that can help provide valuable data to you and others for Michigan's wildlife and habitat.
The MI-MAST Wildlife Food Tracker app allows you to help the DNR find out how productive mast trees are on your land or the land you use. Biologists need your help in understanding the cycles of production of wild fruit produced by trees and shrubs, also called mast. Common mast-producing trees and shrubs in Michigan include oaks, beech, apple, beaked hazelnut, black walnut, cherry, elderberry, hawthorn, huckleberry, poke-weed, raspberry, blackberry and blueberry. Information on location and how much mast these trees or shrubs are producing in season can be reported from your backyard, cabin, schoolyard or local park, or public land you scout and hunt.
Welcome to iNaturalist, where you can record what you see in nature and learn about the natural world. This app helps you to identify and record just about every species there is! Anything from fungi and fish to plants and protozoans can be recorded from your observation. This is a great tool to help determine the biodiversity of an area; the variety of different living things in that area. I was able to use this app during an event with Huron Pine AmeriCorps this past summer. We teamed up with 100 local citizens to determined the biodiversity of a nature area near Treetops in Gaylord, MI.
The Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) is a regional effort to develop and provide an early detection and rapid response (EDRR) resource for invasive species. I used this app with volunteers at one of MUCC' on the ground wildlife habitat projects this year. Volunteers located patches of invasive european frogbit along the Lake Huron shoreline at Nayanquing Point State Wildlife area. Those locations were then able to be treated for proper removal of the invasive aquatic plant.
So, next time you're taking a walk on your property or going to scout out your next hunting spot, take a few minutes to record some of your observations. Chances are, you're looking for some of these mast-producing trees anyhow! Help the DNR out and let them know the status of those trees in your areas. This kind of information is important to relate to wildlife population trends, such as deer and small game that browse on mast. When you're out fishing or just cruising the lakes or rivers, report an invasive plant if you see it. Many of those plants are detrimental to the ecosystem and spread quickly if left untreated.
You can help benefit Michigan's wildlife with a more hand's-on approach by volunteering at one of MUCC' wildlife habitat projects. Next up is our Chainsaw Safety Training on January 16, 2016. Also keep your eye out for a project in the Grayling State Forest hinge-cutting for snowshoe hare in January 2016. See more details and RSVP here to volunteer for wildlife!