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Citizens become Scientists at MacArthur Beach State Park

Jun 18, 2013 - Jul 18, 2013

This Summer John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is launching its’ Citizen Science Program.  Citizen Science is a term describing the process of participatory scientific research which involves the public, professional scientists, the collection of meaningful data and education.  Citizen Science connects people to hands-on, memorable experiences in nature, engages people interested in making a productive contribution, increases understanding of scientific process, expands the capacity of scientists to address many research questions and data needs and strengthens attitudes towards the natural environment. 

Citizen Science projects are taking place all over the United States and the majority of them feed data into national clearing houses on topics covering a huge range of research including mammals, birds, invertebrates, plants, invasive species, water quality, air quality, weather, and astronomy.  These enormous data sets help scientists understand shifts in the distribution of birds, interpret patterns in ecological systems, discover thousands of objects in the night sky including nebulas and much, much more.

MacArthur Beach State Park’s inaugural Citizen Science project is Leatherback Turtle Nest Excavation.  A group of 20 citizen scientists along with MacArthur Beach State Park staff will excavate a leatherback turtle’s nest five days after a hatch-out to analyze and record their findings.  Following the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) strict regulations and protocols on egg excavation, the citizen scientists will hand dig into the nests until they reach the clutch.  Once they reach the clutch they will sort the eggs into various groups determining nest productivity and hatchling success.

“Turtle nest excavation is a research project the Park has been interested in participating in for years, and with the help of our citizen scientists we are able to allocate the resources necessary to make it a successful analysis,” says Park Ranger, Scott Duncan.  The Park will excavate 10 nests over the next several months with a goal of increasing the number of excavations annually.  All data that is collected will be sent to FWC who will act as the clearing house for 53 beaches across Florida participating in this study.

After completing the Park’s inaugural Citizen Science project, MacArthur Beach State Park will be looking for more scientists for additional projects throughout the year including, building a species inventory of the park’s plants and animals and a bird BioBlitz.   

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, Palm Beach County’s only state park, is situated on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Lake Worth Lagoon.  The Park is made up of 438 acres of pristine coastal land and contains four different communities or habitats including seven species of plants and twenty-two species of animals on the endangered or threatened list.  MacArthur Beach is truly an “Island in Time".

 

 

Sampling of leatherback eggs found in the nest Lucea Keller, Park Ranger Scott Duncan and Jessica Stuczynski (L-R)

                                       


  

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