Their protection is, of course, highly consequential to both animals and people that depend on the saguaro’s provision of a home and food for birds, insects, reptiles, bats and other mammals. 

Sullivan’s encouragement of native plant growth aligns well with a new citizen science project throughout April that invites the ASU community and the entire state of Arizona to document flowering plants and pollinators on ASU’s campuses.

Citizen science is a collaborative process among scientists and the general public to speed up the collection of data by scaling up the number of informed data collectors and the tools and resources to which they have access, making libraries key facilitators.

This year’s project, rooted at the intersection of Earth Month and Citizen Science Month, was jointly developed by the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society with support from SciStarter, a popular online platform for citizen science projects founded by Darlene Cavalier, a professor of practice at the school. 

“The idea to focus on pollinators and flowering plants grew out of our interest in recording and understanding the biodiversity present on ASU’s campuses,” said Alice Letcher, a project manager for the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes. “The data collected by citizen scientists will help us document the distribution of pollinators and flowering plants on ASU’s Phoenix-area campuses. In addition, the experience of developing a project for citizen scientists will help us understand how we can effectively engage the public.”

Developed by Jared Clements, an undergraduate student majoring in biology, the project will assist the biodiversity research of Gwen Iacona, an assistant research professor in the School of Life Sciences, within The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

There are three questions that citizen scientists will help them to answer:

  1. How do pollinator species density (the number of individuals of a given species in an area) and species diversity (the number of different species present in an area) vary with location?
  2. How do pollinator species density and species diversity vary with the type of flowering plants present? (“Type” means whether a plant is native or non-native.)
  3. How do data collected for this project by citizen scientists compare to data collected for this project by professional scientists?

“We’re interested in what differences we can observe in how the two groups collect data,” said Letcher.

Several local public libraries around Phoenix and the East Valley are providing citizen science kits for those wanting to participate. The kits contain things like “field guides, magnifying lenses and other materials to make the data collection experience more robust,” Cavalier said. 

A limited number of citizen science kits for homeschoolers are available at Fletcher Library on ASU’s West campus. The outreach effort is being led by Carolyn Starr, the outreach coordinator for the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. 

Get information and register for the project, which is open to all ages and levels of experience.

“Citizen Science Month provides a wonderful opportunity to fill research data gaps around campus,” said Cavalier, “while engaging people in simple but important ways.”

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library