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Voluntary, Citizen-Science Opportunities

Want to take volunteering to another level?

Several area organizations rely on volunteers and provide training for citizen-science projects. Those range from simple planting, watering and monitoring of trees, to taking samples and keeping detailed logs to help scientists monitor populations or seasonal changes related to climate conditions.

While other agencies and organizations offer volunteering opportunities, the Climate Change Coalition of Door County, Door County Land Trust, Ridges Sanctuary and Crossroads at Big Creek hosted an event this fall to let area residents and visitors know more about citizen science opportunities.

The Ridges Sanctuary

As the oldest conservation organization in Door County – and first land trust in the state of Wisconsin – The Ridges Sanctuary has oversight on the largest number of citizen-science programs. Those include Water Action Volunteers Stream Monitoring; Budburst Phenology; Christmas bird count; Midwest crane count; bald eagle nest watch; sucker monitoring; plant inventory; orchid shade house maintenance; orchid plot monitoring; and dwarf lake iris project. 

Many of these programs are sponsored by outside organizations, such as the International Crane Foundation, UW-Extension, Shedd Aquarium and Chicago Botanic Garden. Those interested in volunteering for any of the programs can email Tony Kiszonas, Director of Research, at tony@ridgessanctuary.

Julie Knox takes data measurements for an orchid research plot at The Ridges Sanctuary. It’s one of many volunteer, citizen-science opportunities available at local organizations. Submitted.

Crossroads at Big Creek

Volunteering opportunities abound with Crossroads at Big Creek, said Program Director Corey Batson.

Dates are not yet set for its 2024 community science efforts, but Crossroads needs help with stream monitoring surveys May through October. Contacts include Katy Bradford at [email protected] as well as Batson (Southern Door coordinator) at [email protected] and Kiszonas at the Ridges (Northern Door Coordinator), at [email protected].

The Community Wetland Survey Team does wetland wildlife species inventories April thru July, and interested parties can contact Batson.

She also helps organize the Crossroads Bat Activity Survey and Christmas bird count.

Door County Land Trust

The Door County Land Trust (DCLT) has two main citizen-science efforts. The first is for its bird-nesting box program, which includes boxes for bluebirds, kestrels and wood ducks, said Paige Witek, DCLT community conservation coordinator.

Volunteers regularly check the nest boxes to both record the nesting success of the occupant as well as perform maintenance, including cleaning out the nest boxes at the appropriate time. The DCLT could use more volunteers when it installs more boxes.

“Training is provided – only an interest and care for nesting birds is required, and an ability to traverse over somewhat tough terrain,” Witek said.

The DCLT also got involved this year with the Budburst program, where trained volunteers observe a set of blooming and budding plants during the spring months, noting what pollinators and how many visit the plants, and the dates and times that the blooms and buds form and open.

The Budburst program falls under a larger project – the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Pitchers Dune Thistle Habitat Restoration and Neighborhood Outreach Project. Budburst is a much larger initiative run by the Chicago Botanical Garden.

About 20 trained DCLT volunteers participate by observing pollinators. They watch a flowering plant for 10 minutes and take note of which groups of pollinators visit and how many are visiting that plant – as well as some other basic information about the plant including the number of flowers and flowering stage.

If interested in participating for the Land Trust, email Paige Witek, at [email protected] or call the office at 920.746-1359 or find more information at doorcountylandtrust.org.

Climate Change Coalition of Door County

Area residents kept trees alive during the June drought after The Big Plant in spring, monitoring and watering seedlings. Jeff Lutsey, executive director of the Climate Change Coalition (CCC) of Door County, said those volunteers saw a 95% success rate keeping seedlings alive in some of the most-accessible planting sites, such as the county’s Plum Bottom roadside park north of Carlsville on state Highway 42.

Lutsey said for the tree giveaways, he has avoided deciduous trees that serve as salad for whitetail deer, favoring Door County natives such as white spruce, white and red pine and balsam fir. But he has been experimenting with different sizes and deterrent techniques on his private property east of Ephraim.

Volunteers helped the CCC plant 720 additional trees this fall, bringing the countywide total, including the 2023 spring Big Plant, to 14,600.

If interested in helping with CCC citizen science and volunteering, email Lutsey at [email protected].