Monitoring the health of our terrestrial and aquatic environments can be a vast undertaking. For years we have been engaging the community that live near these environments to help champion these efforts. Utilizing non-professionals in large-reaching scientific studies is called citizen science. Seneca Park Zoo has a number of programs that are citizen science-based, which are very hands-on and try to promote stewardship of our area.
Photographer and environmentalist David Liittschwager has been documenting the biodiversity of ecosystems around the globe for more than a decade. Using a one cubic foot frame set into nature, he records everything that moves in and out of the cube within the equivalent of a 24 hour period, and creates a stunningly beautiful portrait of the rich biodiversity of one tiny piece of the world, whether in the rain-forest in Costa Rica, in a treetop in Capetown, in the coral reef, in Central Park, and now, in the Genesee River. Liittschwaager is the author of A World in One Cubic Foot: Portraits of Biodiversity and numerous other books of photography of endangered plants and animals. His work has been featured by National Geographic.
The Seneca Park Zoo-led the replication of One Cubic Foot in the basin of the Genesee River – to assess and spotlight the health of the river – provides a portrait of the biodiversity in its ecosystem. Once declared one of the United States’ most polluted rivers, the Genesee River is being brought back to life through the efforts of many, allowing the reintroduction of North American river otters and lake sturgeon. By providing invaluable scientific information and baseline data regarding the plant and animal species now living the in the Genesee, One Cubic Foot heightens awareness of water quality and other environmental issues in the river.
FrogWatch USA™ is the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) citizen science program and provides individuals, groups, and families opportunities to learn about wetlands in their communities by reporting on the calls of frogs and toads. At Seneca Park Zoo, we host free FrogWatch USA™ training sessions where our chapter coordinator will teach you about local frogs and toads and when each can be heard calling. Participants also learn how to identify species by call, locate and register a wetland site, and collect observations to be submitted to the nationwide online database.
Since 2010, the Urban Wildlife Institute from Chicago, IL has conducted a groundbreaking study of Chicago’s urban ecosystem, using camera traps and acoustic monitors to track the behavior of wildlife. Now multiple cities have adopted this study, and Seneca Park Zoo leads the efforts here in Rochester. We are part of a nationwide network called the Urban Wildlife Information Network (UWIN).
The Urban Wildlife Information Network is a partnership of researchers across the country who use the wildlife-monitoring protocols to understand the ecology and behavior of their own urban wildlife species. By comparing our data from city to city, we can understand why animals in different cities behave differently, and what patterns hold true around the world. This knowledge is what we need to build smarter, greener cities that can be part of the solution to the biodiversity crisis.