Palouse Conservation District launches citizen science programs – The Daily Evergreen


City Nature Challenge participants will use the iNaturalist app to record wildlife sightings and species identification through crowdsourcing


The Palouse Conservation District has many programs focused on local ecosystems. This month, the organization is organizing a City Nature Challenge and launching Confluence Crew.

The Palouse Conservation District is offering two programs this month for residents to learn about biodiversity and water quality by participating in citizen science.

The first program is part of a global competition called the City Nature Challenge. Citizens of Pullman, Moscow and surrounding areas are encouraged to submit photos and sightings of local wildlife to the iNaturalist app, said PCD education and outreach specialist Elizabeth Sebo. This is the first year that PCD has taken part in the City Nature Challenge.

The observation period is from April 29 to May 2. From May 3 to 8, iNaturalist users will work together to identify the different species that have been sighted, Sebo said. Once many users of the app have agreed on the identification of the species, it is considered “research-grade”, which means that the identification is scientifically based and can be used for various biodiversity projects.

“Many citizen scientists around the world and many scientists will use this crowdsourced data,” Sebo said. “In previous years, City Nature Challenge events have found species that they thought were extinct from this area or species that were never in this area to begin with.”

Data from the challenge may be indicative of global biodiversity patterns, Sebo said.

PCD also deploys a water quality monitoring program called Confluence Crew. The organization will provide two training sessions each year to teach volunteers how to observe local waterways and generate water quality data in Whitman County.

Volunteers are expected to provide monthly observations of suggested local waterways, Sebo said. PCD has a four-level observation system, and the organization will provide materials and instructions for each level.

  • Level 1: Visual observations of water flow such as color, odor, temperature and turbidity.
  • Level 2: Chemical indicators of water quality such as nitrate levels and pH.
  • Level 3: Biological monitoring once a year of vertebrates and other biological populations.
  • Level 4: Monitoring of riparian zone vegetation and aquatic plants.

The data will be uploaded to the PCD website in near real time, Sebo said.

“Our goal is to provide a resource for Palouse residents to understand what the water quality is in their backyards,” Sebo said. “Sometimes water quality data can be difficult for a person to approach without a scientific understanding of what these parameters mean.”

People interested in the City Nature Challenge or volunteers for Confluence Crew can find more information on the PCD website.


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