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REF NO.: 146

SUBJECT: Nature website tracks wildlife sightings for research

DATE: March 2,2010

Have you spotted a bear recently, or perhaps a coyote, moose, whale, caribou or birds? Perhaps some other kind of interesting plant or animal? Maybe you know where a patch of rare Boreal Felt Lichen can be found. If so, Dr. Yolanda Wiersma, an assistant professor of biology, would love to hear from you.
The landscape ecologist and conservation biologist has joined a Canada-wide project aimed at bringing together the public, internet technology and geographical information to support research on environmental issues.
Her new website, www.nlnature.com, asks users to log sightings of wildlife and species at risk as Newfoundland’s contribution to a larger Geomatics for Informed Decisions (GEOIDE) funded project led by Dr. Renee Sieber of McGill.
“Essentially, Dr. Sieber is interested in how the public interacts with internet and geographic technology, particularly Web 2.0 which includes social networking sites, YouTube and other web-based forms for sharing user-generated content with the world,” explained Dr. Wiersma. “In this case, the public are citizen sensors. They’re sensing the environment just like instruments you might put out in the environment as a researcher, except they’re real bodies, often with local knowledge and they’re sharing information with each other and the research team.”
Dr. Wiersma’s website will be used to collect data about how the public uses such sites for Dr. Sieber’s study including uptake rates, the critical mass of people needed to make such a site viable and information on the kind of people who would participate in such a website. It will also aid in Dr. Wiersma’s own research.
Any member of the public is invited to join in at www.nlnature.com. Setting up an account takes only a few minutes, but people can also contribute observations without an account.

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For more information, please contact Kelly Foss, communications co-ordinator, Faculty of Science, Memorial University of Newfoundland, at (709) 737-2019 or kfoss@mun.ca.

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