By Hayley Crandall
Believe it or not, backyards are biodiverse places and the Urban Ecology Center is helping people learn more about them.
The Urban Ecology Center is hosting its seasonal virtual “Yardversity” program beginning next week on Thursday, Jan. 14 and Friday, Jan. 15. This time around, it is focusing on the identification and understanding of animal tracks.
The events include a trivia session, a virtual lecture by Dr. Chris Yahnke of UW-Stevens Point and a livestream with Urban Ecology Center researchers on the topics of data collection and discussion.
“Obviously, because of the fact we’re still in a pandemic we can’t do programming in-person as much at our centers,” Ethan Bott said. “So, we’re really trying to connect people with their backyards and trying to understand the biodiversity in their backyards.”
Bott is a GIS and field data coordinator at the Urban Ecology Center.
The Yardversity project aims to educate residents on the living organisms in their yards while also working to contribute to research.
Participants are encouraged to use the iNaturalist app which analyzes pictures of nature taken in residents’ backyards. The app then not only describes what has been photographed, but shares the findings to a database, which allows for further discussion.
“If you think about the acreage of backyards in America or really just the amount of private land in America, there’s a huge amount of land that is not understood,” Bott said. “And we don’t know what’s happening out there.”
A goal with the Yardversity program is to compile a full research project, Bott explained, which will be used to understand what goes on in backyards.
The events touch on some of the features found in backyards. The winter theme centers around animal tracking, since snowfall allows for tracks to be much more easily recognized, Bott explained.
Past themes have included the exploration of dragonflies in summer and birds in the spring. Next month’s theme is all about owls, Bott said.
“Each month there’s a different theme, trying to help capture the change in the area,” Bott said.
Bott hopes participants walk away learning something new and the realization that their backyards are naturally diverse places.
“There’s a lot more in their backyard that they may not understand,” Bott said. “Obviously, in winter it’s a little harder because everything is covered in snow, but in the summer there’s stuff in the soil. There’s connections between soil and the plants and the animals that just in your backyard you can connect to nature.”
Trivia is taking place the night of Thursday, Jan. 14 and starts at $5 per person. The lecture and event are scheduled for the morning of Friday, Jan. 15, prices range.
Registration and further information regarding the program can be found at the Urban Ecology Center’s website, https://urbanecologycenter.org/.