On this, National Squirrel Day, we feature Craig Newmark and squirrelly citizen science.

western-gray-squirrel-citizen-science-scistarter SciStarter asked Craig Newmark (of Craigslist fame) why he likes squirrels. He told us that it all started with a simple desire to feed birds. But the suet palaces he was using to dispense the raw, fat-based bird food were constantly getting hacked by squirrels. He tried everything; he even upgraded to “squirrel-resistant” models, to no avail.

It was then that Newmark really began to appreciate the rascally rodents. “Squirrels are smart, tough and athletic, real survivors, and that’s very impressive,” he says. “They’re a candidate to replace humanity if we don’t work things out.”

Newmark, who regularly tweets about squirrels and is a religious observer of National Squirrel Appreciation Day (Jan. 21), has his house wired with “squirrel cams” and was even able to capture — on video — a female entering his house to explore.

But most squirrel observation is low-tech, involving a pair of binoculars and a notebook. These observations eventually work their way into peer-reviewed science.

SciStarter.com, which I like to think of as the Craigslist of science, has a list of squirrel-related citizen science projects here. You can participate for free, and finding squirrels (especially the eastern grey) is about as easy as falling over. They dominate this area, and they’re not shy!

Our citizen science projects are not limited to the East Coast, or even the U.S. There’s the Black Squirrel Project in the UK and the Western Gray Squirrel Project out in the state of Washington.

If you think you’re sly enough to outsmart squirrels, we have a limited-time competition just for you! In partnership with instructables and Discover Magazine, SciStarter is looking for safe and effective ways to keep squirrels and other ravenous vegetarians and omnivores from eating sunflowers. Why? Because sunflowers play a crucial role in citizen science bee observation projects. No sunflowers, no bees. And that would… bee bad. But hurry! Not only is January 21 National Squirrel Day, it’s also the last day you can submit an entry to the Citizen Science Contest!

Some species of ground squirrels hibernate, but tree squirrels don’t. The eastern grey and other tree dwellers ride out the winter in tree hollows and holes, but you can still see them as fall turns to winter. So sign up for a squirrel project here at SciStarter, grab your coat and head out to the nearest deciduous forest, rooftop or really just about anywhere, and start observing!

Or just hang a birdfeeder outside your window.

This was originally published onĀ Huffington Post.

Categories: Animals, Citizen Science, Climate & Weather, Contest, Ecology & Environment, Guest Contributor, Nature & Outdoors

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About the Author

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier is a professor of practice at Arizona State University's School for the Future of Innovation in Society and a Senior Global Futures Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at ASU. Professor Cavalier is the founder of SciStarter (a popular citizen science portal and research platform connecting millions of people to real science they can do), founder of Science Cheerleaders (a non profit organization comprised of current and former NFL, NBA and college cheerleaders pursuing STEM careers), cofounder of ECAST: Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology and cofounder of ScienceNearMe.org. She is a founding board member of the Citizen Science Association, an advisor and Fellow at National Geographic, a member of the EPA's National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, appointed to the National Academy of Sciences "Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning" committee and named cochair of America 250's Innovation, Science, and Entrepreneurism Advisory Council. She is the co-editor of "The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science," author of "The Science of Cheerleading," and co-author of the Field Guide to Citizen Science (Timber Press). Recently, ASU President Michael Crow awarded Cavalier and her team the prestigious Medal for Social Embeddedness.