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Culture Club: Citizen Science Changing Nature

By The Ridges Sanctuary land manager SAM HOFFMAN and naturalist and researcher TONY KISZONAS

Citizen science—the collection and analysis of data about the natural world by ordinary people—is alive and well at Rydges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbour. Volunteers taking part in this important fieldwork not only have the opportunity to share knowledge, learn new skills, meet like-minded people, but also have the opportunity to see amazing things along the way.

Two projects in particular were able to collect data to monitor changes over time and provide educational opportunities for community members to become better stewards of Door County.

orchid restoration

The Ridges Sanctuary’s relationship with terrestrial orchids runs deep, and orchid population recovery plays an important role as part of the reserve’s tenets of conservation and protection.

Citizen Science Volunteers, which began in 2013, are spearheading the steps necessary for this restoration. Lady’s slipper orchid hand-pollinated with a ram’s head (Cypripedium arietinum), collecting seed capsules, establishing research plots, and collecting annual data, citizen science volunteers play an integral role in developing remediation protocols.

This involvement in citizen science extends from the field to the laboratory. For example, an effort to germinate orchid seeds in a laboratory employs volunteers as bench scientists. We have institutionalized research to include all aspects of the restoration process, including finding the methods necessary to grow orchids from seed for restoration in the Hidden Brook area of ​​The Ridges.

In addition to developing and overseeing 25 research plots, our Ridge volunteers establish and maintain sheltered homes. These now provide habitat for her three species of orchids to be restored: the flamboyant lady’s slipper (Cypripedium reginae), yellow ladies slippers (Cypripedium parviflorum) and Glass Pink (nodular calopogon). These shady homes allow visitors to observe these spectacular plants while providing research opportunities for pollination, vernalization, and clonal recruitment.

Throughout the year, volunteers also work their way through thickets and wetlands to find and identify extant orchids at Rydges Sanctuary. Our ‘Trekkers’ group now has 29 confirmed species, including his one, which was first seen in Door County last year.

Through the commitment and efforts of citizen science volunteers, we work toward the goal of developing institutionalized processes and protocols to conserve and protect native plant species.

stream monitoring

Ridges Sanctuary actively participates in the Water Action Volunteers (WAV) citizen science stream monitoring program. The program is an ongoing partnership between the UW-Madison Extension Division, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wisconsin volunteers, and local groups.

The program aims to preserve, protect, and restore more than 86,000 miles of Wisconsin’s streams and rivers by collecting high-quality river data to inform decision-making and natural resource management and provide data, knowledge, and community support. A passion for stewardship with others.

Each year, more than 500 volunteers and an estimated 2,000 supervised students monitor more than 600 stream locations statewide. This number has increased every year since his WAV stream monitoring program was launched in 1996. Active volunteers include individuals, families, sports groups, schools and youth groups, community organizations, family farms and businesses.

The number of sites monitored by The Ridges Sanctuary affiliated volunteers is also increasing. More than 20 volunteers and staff currently work at his nine sites in northern Door County, including baseline monitoring stations at Hibbard Creek, Haines Creek, Pale Creek, Leebold Creek, Three Springs Creek, Wagon Trail Creek, and Hidden Brook. Monitoring rivers. Additionally, Logan Creek is a nutrition monitoring station where WAV volunteers measure phosphorus and nitrogen levels.

Volunteers monitor stream sites for a variety of water quality data, including dissolved oxygen, temperature, clarity, stream flow, aquatic macroinvertebrates, habitat assessment, aquatic invasive species, phosphorus, and chlorides. The data is entered into a publicly accessible statewide database maintained by the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Data collected through the WAV Stream Monitoring Program is used by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, local government agencies, conservation groups, and informs stream management statewide. This data is especially important in managing Door County’s water resources. Because of the presence of dolomitic limestone geology and thin topsoil on the peninsula, the risk of erosion and runoff is high.

Stream monitoring and orchid restoration programs are just two of the many ways the public can participate in citizen science. Through their participation in scientific activities, volunteers play an important role in enhancing the environmental knowledge of our special places.

To learn more about participating in citizen science, contact Sam Hoffman, Land Manager at The Ridges. 108, or [email protected].

Serving Culture Clubs throughout the summer season, the Peninsula Arts and Humanities Alliance is a coalition of non-profit organizations dedicated to enhancing, promoting, and advocating the arts, humanities, and natural sciences of Door County.