First, a special thanks to our Vermont Climate Watch volunteers who braved the cold this winter to look for white-breasted nuthatches - we so value your time and dedication to community science and the conservation of birds. This was the inaugural year for Climate Watch in Vermont and we had great reprsentation from all over the state. Thank you!
Now onto the not-so-great news. Under normal circumstances Climate Watch volunteers from all over Vermont (and the country) would be outside birding for their target species. Unfortunately, the spring survey period (May 15-June 15) has been cancelled in order to keep community scientists safe from Covid-19. You may be wondering why other community science programs continue at Audubon Vermont or how this gap in observations will affect the dataset. To answer the former, Climate Watch is a community science program directed by the National Audubon Society rather than a state wide community science program - because of this, we must follow the guidelines put forth by the National Audubon Society rather than state offices. If you are anxious to go birding consider participating in Bird-A-Thon 2020, a 24 hour birding fundraiser taking place from May 16-25.
To address the later, conservation scientists have been working with dodgy datasets for a long time and know how to account for them. In a recent article put forth by the National Audubon Society, Brooke Bateman, senior climate scientist for Audubon, and Sarah Saunders, Audubon quantitative ecologist, share that they deal with holes in data even during a normal observational period and that temporal gaps are easier to navigate than other data mishaps. For example, once Climate Watch data is built over the next five or so years scientists can infer things about the survey period that was missed. If a white-breasted nuthatch was present in my climate square in winter 2020, winter and spring 2021, winter and spring 2022 and so on, then it is safe to infer that there were most likely white-breasted nuthatches present in spring 2020. So no need to fret!
If you had been considering joining Climate Watch as a community scientist now is a great time to start prepping for the winter survey! There is plenty of time to familiarize yourself with target species and data protocols as well as choosing a climate square and survey points. Our Climate Watch page has a detailed step-by-step guide and resources to help you get started. If you have questions or concerns your regional or local Climate Watch coordinator is a great resource. Each participating state has a Climate Watch coordinator who helps orient volunteers. In Vermont, I am the coordinator so please reach out to me if you are ready to get started! If you live out-of-state, check the Coordinator List to see who your local coordinator is.
As we near closer to our next survey period I will be holding a Climate Watch training to help folks understand the technology and data protocols before heading out to bird. So stay tuned for an update! In the meantime, stay safe and enjoy the sunshine.
Vermont Climate Watch Coordinator: Sarah Hooghuis, firstname.lastname@example.org