ACES Community Field Lab engages community members in a variety of scientific observation and data collection projects. The utilization of citizen-generated observations complements traditional scientific techniques. As scientists are trying to better understand the impact of climate change on our ecosystems, this method provides new insights into our changing world. This approach efficiently collects large quantities of data and empowers citizens by bringing the climate story to their own backyard.
ACES is training citizen scientists in Project BudBurst, a program of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). Project BudBurst is a network of citizen observers across the United States who monitor plant phenology (the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events) as the seasons change and submit ecological data based on the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting of plants. In addition to contributing to this national network of data collection, observations made through ACES’ Community Field Lab will be integrated into our new Forest Health Index. This project is supported by the National Forest Foundation.
Avian Migration Monitoring
In addition, the Community Field Lab will be annually monitoring the timing of migratory bird arrivals and departures at Hallam Lake and noting their change over time. There is concern amongst the scientific community of a mismatch between the blooming of plants, the arrival of insects, and the arrival of migratory birds that rely on insects and insect-pollinated plants for food. The results of this monitoring will also inform the Forest Health Index.
Hallam Lake Bird Breeding Season Survey
ACES is also conducting an annual survey at Hallam Lake to determine what birds are breeding in the preserve. In May, groups of two to four birders (observers and one recorder) will disperse in the preserve, arrive at a spot, and record bird species seen and heard during the “dawn chorus”. ACES is working with wildlife biologist Jonathan Lowsky to help with the Hallam Lake Bird Breeding Season Survey. Over time, the survey results may provide some interesting data for scientific use.
The Pika Project
ACES is also engaging community members to take photos of pika while out hiking. Pikas are indicators of environmental change because they require temperatures cooler than 78˚ Fahrenheit to survive. Tracking pikas’ locations can help inform trends of changing climate and weather patterns in the Rocky Mountains. Changes to pika habitat are magnified because they are considered a keystone species. For example, many species depend on the pika as a food source, including weasel, hawk, eagle and fox. Learn more about the Pika Project on the menu on the left.
Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network
ACES also participates in the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS). CoCoRaHS is a community-based network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds working together to measure and map precipitation (rain, hail and snow). The aim is to provide the highest quality data for natural resource, education and research applications. Each morning the ACES on-site naturalist checks a rain/snow gauge and submits data to the network.
Hallam Lake Observation Kiosk
ACES is also working with the University of Maryland, who received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant allowing them to develop Citizen Science programming around the country. ACES' downtown Aspen site, Hallam Lake, is a pilot site for UM's project: the development a digital tabletop system for visitors to enter pictures and records of sightings at Hallam Lake.