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e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

Community invited to participate in Westcott Nation research project 2/17/2020

Westcott Nation research members

Students at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry invite community members to participate in a research project to identify the biodiversity of Westcott neighborhood area. The Westcott Nation Biodiversity Challenge seeks to improve the biodiversity of this region through education, outreach, and teamwork.

"We are surrounded by nature, even in cities like Syracuse," said Kim Badger, ESF student from Ossining, New York, and team member. "Areas like the Westcott neighborhood are where humans and nature meet and have the opportunity to share the same space. Awareness of what species we have in the area and where they are located helps us study and protect them."

Participants will be eligible for prizes. First place will be awarded to the person who submits the greatest number of different species; second place will be awarded to the participant who submits the greatest number of observations in total. Submissions may be posted through April 26.

The nine-member team is one of seven groups, approximately 60 students enrolled in a course called Senior Synthesis in Conservation Biology this semester, conducting research on the Westcott Neighborhood this spring. Students hope collaborating with the community will increase the data collected, which will allow them to make more informed decisions about future research projects.

"Participating in our challenge is a way to directly have a positive impact on the local environment, while also learning and enjoying your time outside," said Badger. "The information we gather as a team - students and community - will be used to inform future research projects, further educate the Westcott area about our local biodiversity via outreach initiatives and to develop an educational website to provide the Westcott area and local communities with the knowledge and tools we all need to thrive alongside a flourishing urban ecosystem."

To participate in the project, download the iNaturalist app or find it online at www.inaturalist.org. Create a free account. Log in with a username and password. On your smart device, click the camera icon and observations will be added to the database. On a laptop/desktop, click the green upload icon (top right) to upload images.

"We are looking for images of local biota," said Liam Reed, an ESF student from Buffalo, New York, and team member. "Our goal is to identify plants, animals, and fungi. We're looking for quality observations rather than quantity."

Team members are hoping submissions will highlight the diversity of species found in Westcott Nation and the balance between native and invasive species, although they are not interested in photos of captive animals in the area, including pets.

"An ecosystem is healthiest when all the necessary elements are present," said Matt Barkley, an ESF student from Naples, New York, and a team member. "Biodiversity in an urban environment is important because genetic diversity improves our chances of responding to changing conditions and reflects the fact that each species plays a small role in the success of our world."

Members of the team include Zac Babbit (Huntington, New York), Badger, Barkley, Thomas Bigelow (Gouverneur, New York), Chris Gemelli (Brooklyn, New York), John Hoag (Hamburg, New York), Reed, Ellie Sherman (Skaneateles, New York), and Jack Zeng (Staten Island, New York).