Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard
Griffin Burns; photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz
pages, ages 8 and up
summer I got involved in the Lost Ladybug Project. Whenever we could, we headed
out to wild and weedy areas in search of the elusive two-spotted ladybug. Along
the way we netted – and took photos of – the ladybugs we found, and sent them
to John Losey at Cornell. We were part of a “citizen science” project.
So I was
thrilled to see that Loree Griffin Burns has a new book out that is devoted to
citizen science – things kids and their families can do to help scientists
gather information. It’s divided into four sections, one for each season, and each
focusing on one kid-friendly project and each jam-packed with luscious photos. Each
chapter offers cool tips on collecting data, like how to chill a ladybug so you
can take a digital photo (hint: pop it in a freezer for 5 minutes). And she
includes interviews with the scientists.
out, Burns has been thinking about a book on citizen science for a long time. When
I caught up with her for a quick interview, she said that she first heard the
phrase ‘citizen scientists’ in relation to the International Coastal Cleanup
(ICC) that she wrote about in Tracking
Trash. She was intrigued by the concept of regular people, including
children, participating in true data collection.
started to look for it, citizen science seemed to be everywhere,” says Burns.
She decided to focus on four projects that had a national scope and provided lots
of online resources for students and teachers. And she also looked for some
temporal diversity. “
for example, takes place at night, encouraging participants to count frogs not
with their eyes, but with their ears,”
in all four projects as a citizen scientist… so she writes with the authority
of “been there, done that.” She’s tagged
Monarch butterflies, waded hip-deep in vernal pools to listen to frog calls,
clicked mug shots of ladybugs and tallied birds for the Great Backyard Bird
Her most interesting adventure happened while visiting Monarch butterfly
wintering sites in Mexico. “We reached them on horseback, riding up through a steep,
dry forest,” she said. It was so dusty she had to wear a bandana over her mouth
like a cowgirl. “At the top, we found millions
of monarch butterflies. They coated the trees like massive orange and black
capes, bending one pine to the ground. Then suddenly they took off. All of
them. Thousands and thousands of butterflies simply lifted up off the tree in a
river of color and sound that completely surrounded me.”
says Burns, was one of the most incredible things she’s ever seen. Still, sitting
in her backyard and recording bees that visit her sunflowers is every bit as
the most important lessons for Burns was how her definition of the word scientist expanded. “The early part of
my life was spent training and earning the credentials I thought I needed in
order to call myself a scientist,” she says. “Working on this book reshaped my
ideas on what it means to practice science. It doesn’t require a degree on a
wall, or a track record of peer-reviewed journal publications. Science is a way
of looking at the world, of asking questions, and of finding answers.” And the
neat thing, says Burns, is that anyone of any age can do it.
You can learn more about Loree Griffin Burns here. You'll find more cool science books and resources at STEM Friday. And be sure to check out Non-Fiction Monday, too. Review copy of book provided by the publisher.