What is Community Science?
Community science (often referred to as citizen science) is a broad reference to the act of scientists and community volunteers coming together to research science-based community issues through observation and data collection, and to provide access to scientific information to community members. The goal of any scientific study is to draw conclusions about real world questions. Whether you’re pursuing a career in a science field or simply enjoy being engaged in learning opportunities, your contribution to a community science program is greatly valued.
Community Science engages volunteers of all ages in hands-on, scientific learning and exploration on issues that directly impact your neighborhood, your city and its surrounding environment. Participation provides community volunteers the unique experience of collecting valuable data and contributing to real scientific research.
- observing wildlife and environmental conditions
- collecting samples and data
- applying scientific methodology to testable situations
- sharing information with your locality, the state and sometimes even across the globe
Lynnhaven River Now (LRNow) has several active community science programs including
- Water Quality Monitoring
- Waterway Cleanups
- Oyster Spat Collection.
Passive, observational programs specifically focused on Pleasure House Point Natural Area include:
- Diamondback Terrapin Tracking (under revision)
- Wildlife Sightings (under construction)
In addition, there many other worthwhile Community Science programs hosted by other science-based organizations.
If you love to discover, investigate and learn, the Community Science programs below offer you an opportunity to engage in your community in a new and exciting way.
*We are using the term “community science” instead of “citizen science” to provide a more inclusive umbrella to the members of our community scientists. For more information on this terminology change, please see the National Audubon Society’s statement on Community Science.
Observation-based Community Science Programs:
Participate one time or every time you visit Pleasure House Point Natural Area.
Diamondback Terrapin Tracking: – This program is being revised and will be available soon.
Help Lynnhaven River Now by letting us know when you observe evidence of Diamondback Terrapins at Pleasure House Point during your visit. Participate one time or every time you visit Pleasure House Point.
Whether you see an adult female laying eggs, babies hatching or moving towards the water, a nest that has been disturbed, hatched eggs, or a terrapin swimming in the water, we want to know about the activity. Pleasure House Point is one of the few places on the Lynnhaven River where the terrapins can still nest, making the conservation and continued care of this natural area a high priority. Due to a loss of suitable nesting habitat and other stressors, the Diamondback Terrapin, Malaclemys terrapin, is a “species of concern” in Virginia.
“Terrapin” is the designation given to turtles that live in the water less frequently and live near brackish, or a mixture of salt and freshwater such as a marsh, and swampy areas. They will spend about half of their time on land and half in the water. National Marine Life Center, www.nmlc.org.
Coming soon, an interactive map where Community Scientists can leave the location, date, time and details of a Diamondback Terrapin sightings. If you’re out walking at Pleasure House Point and see a Diamondback Terrapin, a predated nest or eggs, add your sighting to the map.
Wildlife Sightings: – This program is being developed and will be available soon.
Pleasure House Point Natural Area, a City of Virginia Beach park, offers a unique mix of maritime forest, salt marsh, beach and mud flats that is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species that will delight the observer. In addition, it is a popular stopover site for migrating birds during the spring and fall. Add your sighting(s) to the list of flora and fauna other guests have reported at Pleasure House Point.
This program is being developed and the updatable list will be available soon.
Community Science Programs:
Oyster Spat Catchers:
Help Lynnhaven River NOW “catch” baby oysters to supplement oyster knowledge and population in Virginia Beach’s tidal waters. Comparing various substrates against oyster shell, participants provide valuable information on oyster spat’s settlement, distribution, density and substrate preferences. This program is fun and easy – a perfect family activity for participants with year-round access to a pier in the tidal waters of Lynnhaven River, Owls Creek or Little Creek in Virginia Beach. After the data is gathered, the spat caught through this program is relocated to conservation reefs in Virginia Beach waterways to continue to help protect and clean our local tidal waters.
View the Spat Settlement Distribution Maps and learn more about this program by clicking HERE.
This program begins early spring. E-mail Helen if you are interested in becoming an Oyster Spat Catcher. You must live on tidal waters in Virginia Beach to participate in this program.
Once a month volunteers can participate in a Lynnhaven River NOW Waterway Cleanup. During the cleanups, each bag of trash is weighed, and the total amount is recorded on a map. This helps us determine if cleanup sites are improving or becoming more littered over time. The data also helps us determine the frequency of attention to established cleanup sites and determine future sites across the city of Virginia Beach.
If you are interested in volunteering as an individual or as a group for a waterway cleanup, visit our Waterway Cleanup page or Event Calendar to find information on upcoming cleanups. Cleanups are usually family-friendly, and they may be water and/or land-based. in advance to receive specific communications about each event.
Click HERE for information on the LRNow Stewardship & Access Committee who plan and support our cleanups as well as the 2020 cleanup schedule.
Register in advance for cleanups HERE to receive specific communications about each event. Email Helen for additional information or call (757)962-5398
Water Quality Monitoring Program:
Community volunteers help Lynnhaven River Now keep an eye on Virginia Beach waterways by becoming Water Quality Monitors. In partnership with HRSD, Lynnhaven River Now works with volunteers to collecting water samples at 20 different waterway sites across Virginia Beach. Water samples are delivered to HRSD for processing and the results are returned to LRNow and the volunteers. This data is published to provide local community groups, schools, the City of Virginia Beach and state agencies.
Water Quality Monitoring Sites can be found HERE.
2015 – 2017 water quality data is available HERE .
2018 – 2020 water quality data is available HERE.
Email Helen for more information on our water quality monitoring program in Virginia Beach.
Additional Community Science Programs:
If you are still looking for the right Community Science opportunity for you, we have listed a few below. There are many more to be found by simply searching online for “Community Science” or “Citizen Science” projects.
Virginia Balloon Study:
Balloons have long been a part of life’s celebrations. Unfortunately, these seemingly innocuous toys come with an often-unseen cost to our wildlife neighbors. When balloons are released, accidentally or with purpose, they eventually come down often getting caught in trees where the entangle birds or drift to the ocean where they are mistakenly ingested as food by marine animals. There is a growing body of data which continues to link balloons to wildlife mortality.
Legislation has been repeatedly been introduced to make balloon releases illegal. While our lawmakers continue to sort through the issue, our community can reduce this impact by educating other about the destructive nature of balloons and helping to find less harmful ways to celebrate.
Help scientists better understand the sources and impacts of balloon litter, by reporting a single balloon or multiple balloons found in a single cleanup by registering the balloon(s) at the site above. This site also allows balloon litter photos. This study is supported by Clean Virginia Waterways of Longwood University and the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center.
Catch the King:
Join the effort to Catch the King with this locally developed, environmental survey. Community scientists collect GPS flood data throughout coastal Virginia. All you need is a smart phone, the app and the willingness to tromp along the shoreline during high water events.
This volunteer-driven survey aims to map the king tide’s maximum inundation extents with the goal of improving predictive models for forecasting pervasive “nuisance” flooding. Other major storm and flooding events are also mapped. The project’s current focus is centered on mapping inundation extents in coastal Virginia, though volunteers from outside of the current focus area are welcome. Visit the Catch the King link above for registration and app information.
Learn more about phenology and animals through nature’s notebook! As our planet continues to change, it is important to connect people with nature. Nature’s Notebook provides that connection with nature as you record both plant and animal observations. As an observer, you’ll notice things you never saw before. The slightest blush on a maple leaf that foreshadows the coming fall. The new, more vibrant feathers warblers put on days before mating. You can develop a more nuanced appreciation of our natural world when you participate in Nature’s Notebook.
Become a certified NestWatch Monitor, confirm your nest(s) and add your data on the success and failure rates of nesting birds to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Observing the reproductive biology of birds including the number of eggs laid, hatched, and how many hatchlings survive provides scientists with information that helps to identify illness, predation, climate impacts, and other stressors that can impact our feathered friends. Nest visitation is required every 3-4 days. You must be certified to participate in this project. Approaching nesting bird can be disruptive to these avian parents and hatchlings so following standard, controlled protocols is a must. Find out how to start this spring by visiting the NestWatch website.
Project Feeder Watch:
Don’t have the time or desire to search for a bird nest in the wild but enjoy observing them from the comfort of your home? Then look no further, Project Feeder Watch may be the perfect project for you. This winter-long project begins in November and ends in April. Through this program, The Lab at Cornell is gathering data to quantify the abundance of the winter birds and their movements. All that is required of observers is a bird bath, bird feeder, or plants that are known to attract birds. Observations can be taken at any location at the observer’s pace. Visit the Project Feeder Watch website to find out how to get started.
From the Midwest to the East Coast, Canada to California, whether squirrels live in your neighborhood or not, you can become a squirrel monitor! Submit your squirrel observations from your school home or office. This project is great for all ages. Squirrels are active 365 days out of the year so monitoring them can help us better understand the ecology of our neighborhoods through a squirrel’s eyes.
Bumble Bee Watch:
This project relies on individuals for the data needed to track and conserve North America’s bumble bees. Upload photos of bumble bees to start a virtual bumble bee collection. Identify the bumble bees photographed and have the identifications verified by experts. Help researchers determine the status and conservation needs of bumble bees. Locate rare or endangered populations of bumble bees. It’s easy to get started.
Are you hoping to create your own Community Science project? The links below may help you on your way.