Squirrels: spot, jot, share your sightings

A fox squirrel. Photo: Project Squirrel

Love ’em or not, squirrels play an important role in local ecology. Mapping changes in their population can help researchers better understand–and predict–a range of corollary environmental changes.

As described on the Project Squirrel website, “Squirrels can be important indicators of local ecology because they are resident in small territories and active year round, they require a range of resources that are also important to many other urban animals, and their populations rise and fall with the same predators and environmental conditions that affect our neighborhood wildlife.”

Want to participate in a squirrel citizen science project? If so, you’re in luck! I found three unique squirrel projects in the Sci4Cits Project Finder:

White Squirrel Mapping Ever see a white squirrel? Don’t be surprised if you do, soon. Most squirrels are gray or red so they can blend in their environment. Natural selection should have forced the once-rare white squirrel into extinction. However, these little anomalies are increasing in population in some parts of the nation. If you see one, add your observation to the map scientists have created to help track their growing population.

Project Squirrel Now this is my kind of project. Super simple. This project’s organizers want to know where gray and fox squirrels are, and where they aren’t. Take a look around you, and whether you see squirrels or not, submit your observations. Anyone can participate. As the project organizers say, “Make it an office game or a classroom project, compare notes with friends in other states, get your family involved—everyone can observe nature.”

Western Gray Squirrel Project This project is specific to Washington State where the western gray squirrel is listed as threatened. If you live in the Methow Valley region, your observations are especially needed. By conducting distribution surveys on the population of the western gray squirrel, you will be helping the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in its effort to track and “further scientific knowledge about gray squirrel distributions throughout the Methow Valley.”

If you know of other squirrel citizen science projects, please add them to our Project Finder.

Categories: Animals, Biology, Citizen Science, Ecology & Environment

About the Author

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier is a Professor at Arizona State University's Center for Engagement and Training, part of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Cavalier is the founder of SciStarter. She is also the founder of Science Cheerleader, an organization of more than 300 current and former professional cheerleaders pursuing STEM careers, and a cofounder of ECAST: Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology, a network of universities, science centers, and think tanks that produces public deliberations to enhance science policymaking. She is a founding board member of the Citizen Science Association, a senior advisor at Discover Magazine, a member of the EPA's National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, and was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences "Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning" committee. She is the author of The Science of Cheerleading and co-editor of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science, published by Arizona State University. Darlene holds degrees from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania and was a high school, college and NBA cheerleader. Darlene lives in Philadelphia with her husband and four children.