Participatory sciences: 5 programs to contribute to the study and protection of nature

Take a walk on the street, in the shade of a park or just in your garden – while contributing to science? This is possible thanks to the “Vigie Nature” programs from the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN). While some of these biodiversity monitoring programs target specific target groups (experienced natural scientists, students and teachers, farmers or nature management managers), other initiatives, on the other hand, are open to all. Overview!

Savages de ma rue: 10 years already

Among the participating science programs that are open to all, one is dedicated to plants: it is “Sauvages de ma rue”, supported by the museum and the Tela Botanica Association. Its purpose is to refer to the wild vegetation in the streets of France: dandelions, vegetables, earthworms, annual blue grass, white chickens …

The protocol. You do not have to be a botanist to participate! You choose a street, whether you are near your home or on vacation, for example, and you write down on a “field sheet” the date, address, and all the plant species you encounter on the sidewalk. To help you, you have ID cards that show the 240 most common plant species on our latitudes. Finally, when you are done with your walk, an online data entry tool allows you to send the data directly to the researchers.

Since its launch in 2012, ‘Sauvages de ma rue’ has gathered more and more participants. Unfortunately, successive incarcerations have put an end to the follow-ups“, confides Nathalie Machon, professor of ecology at MNHN and scientific director of the program, along with GEO.fr.”At that time, we examined the effects of the ban on pesticides in urban space since 2017, but also the impact of climate change (…) and the link between biodiversity and the quality of life of urban dwellers. “

So many crucial questions that researchers can once again focus on thanks to the involvement of citizens. “For us, this data is extremely important, and for the people who participate, it is an opportunity to get to know the nature around them better.“, emphasizes Nathalie Machon. The Tela Botanica Association organizes ongoing studies to find out how the participants feel about the project.

Note that to celebrate the program’s 10 year anniversary, several events are held during the Fête de la Nature, from 18 to 22 May 2022. So, Parisians or visitors passing through the capital, go to a meeting “Documentation of urban biodiversity “on Saturday 21 May at 16.00 in the auditorium of the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, before a workshop “Wild plants: recommendable guests!” arranged at the Jardin des Plantes at 5pm on Saturday the 21st and Sunday the 22nd of May.

Garden birds: anywhere, anytime

Do you regularly observe birds on your balcony, in your garden or in a park near your home? So help scientists study the effects of climate, urbanization and agriculture on these animals by participating in the “Garden Birds” program in collaboration with the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO). An ideal opportunity to learn to recognize species by their appearance and song!

The protocol. The protocol can be obtained at any time of the year, regularly or occasionally, and consists of 4 steps. First, select a viewing location. Then count the maximum number of birds of each species that you see land – be careful not to count the same individual multiple times. Finally, write down the date, start and end time of your observation, and fill in your data on the program’s website.

If all seasons are favorable, the last weekend in May is one of the two “highlights” of the year on the “Garden Birds” program. In the winter, another civic science program, BirdLab, allows you to observe bird behavior near feeders and report your sightings directly using an app.

Bumblebee Observatory: Zoom in on an unknown insect

Bumble bees, which are less well known than honey bees or wild bees, are also part of “pollinators” that ensure the sexual reproduction of plants by transporting pollen to the female part of flowers (called “stigma”). Despite their significant ecological role, these insects are in decline, mainly due to pesticides, climate change and urbanization. To help scientists study them, you can join the “Bumblebee Observatory” program launched by the museum and the Estuaire Association.

The protocol. In your garden or on your balcony, from March to October, count for 5 minutes the number of bumble bees seen for each type: bumble bees differ from each other by the width, arrangement and color of the stripes on their bodies. An identification sheet is there to help you. Finally, enter the maximum number of bumble bees you have seen in the week (without adding your observations on different days) on the program’s website.

Operation Butterflies: one of the pioneers

Pollinators, like bumble bees and bees, are fragile species of butterflies and vulnerable to the effects of human activity, especially agriculture, urbanization or even global warming. Launched in 2006 by the Noé Society and the National Museum of Natural History, the “Operation Butterflies” program was one of the first participating biodiversity science projects to see the light of day in France.

The protocol. From March to October, in a private or public garden or on your balcony, count the number of butterflies of each species you observe using the identification sheet. Write down how many days you did count in the week. Finally, report on the program’s website the maximum number of butterflies of each species you have seen.

Noah gives everyone the opportunity to learn to recognize common butterflies in our gardens and to learn about practices that are beneficial to these species in order to initiate behavioral changes in favor of biodiversity“, the association specifies on its website.”In addition, the mobilization of a large number of observers throughout the metropolitan area and over a longer period of time makes it possible to acquire scientific knowledge about butterflies, their habitats, the evolution of their populations and the impact of human activities on them.

Spipoll: paparazzi of small animals

You dreamed of becoming a paparazzi, but your favorite stars are none other than the little beasts that spin around your plants? Then the “Spipoll” program is made for you. Coordinated by the museum with the Office of Insects and Their Environment (Opie), this program aims to study the interaction between plants and pollinating insects – forming “pollination networks”, but also the insects’ between them.

The protocol. No need to have a telephoto lens: a simple digital camera – or a smartphone – is enough. First, choose a flowering plant. Then photograph any insects that land on the flowers. When you are back, sort and crop your photos according to the instructions. Finally, identify the insects you have immortalized (using a map) and post your pictures on the program’s website.

Once you become an expert, you can even help other participants identify the photographed species. You may be one of the profiles with the most observations in the community!

OPEN: more than 160 participating science programs identified

Do you live abroad, or do you want to contribute to the study of other types of animals (mammals, reptiles, amphibians, molluscs …) or other ecosystems (sea and coast, forest …)? The OPEN portal – for the “Participating Observatory for Species and Nature” shows more than 160 participating science programs. A search engine makes it possible to filter them by region, by theme, by species of interest, but also by level of expertise.

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