Citizen scientists track neighborhood squirrels with Project Squirrel

October 14, 2015, 10:13 a.m.

Do you like watching the squirrels in your neighborhood? You can take your daily observations to the next level by joining Project Squirrel. This citizen science project is helping biology professor and evolutionary ecologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago better understand changes in squirrel distribution and ecology.

Started in 1997, the citizen scientists who have reported sightings have helped illuminate quite a few pieces of important information.

For instance, CBC reports, "Among all the data Project Squirrel has collected, one piece stands out the most right now: grey squirrels are spreading and they're headed north. With this information, Brown wants to take Project Squirrel into the western parts of Canada and the United States to track the migration pattern in these areas."

More information can tell scientists the reasons behind their spread, if and how they are out-competing native squirrel species, and how to predict further spread of the species.

So if you enjoy watching squirrels flit up and down the trees in your yard or in local parks, sign up for Project Squirrel and record your observations. Squirrels are important indicators of the health of local ecology, and your observations just might help reveal important patterns for everything from the health and distribution of tree species to the health and distribution or raptor or predator populations.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.