Thursday, May 7, 2009

Project Squirrel

Mom is very excited about this new venture. She is always looking to conduct scientific research and this time I get to help her out.

We are going to be squirrel monitors. Believe it or not, squirrels can tell us a lot about our local environment and how it is changing. But how will we know about squirrels unless people gather data about them? That's where we come in.

We will be observing squirrels everywhere we go. If I see a squirrel in the yard, I will tell Mom so that she can record the observation. This should be pretty easy to do because we have a squirrel who loves to steal food from one of our bird feeders. He hangs upside down on the feeder and when Mom sees him she sends me out in the yard to scare him off. Everytime this happens, we will record an observation.

If I am out on my walk and I see a squirrel, then that observation will also get recorded. If Mom is at the zoo and she sees a squirrel (or 2 or 3), she will record the observation. We will have our eyes peeled to the landscape looking for squirrels! The idea is to record observations everywhere you see squirrels because these observations help scientists better understand the ecology of our neighborhoods.

The observations are easy to record online. There is a form that Mom will fill out that asks for the date, time, and zip code of the observation. The form also asks how many squirrels you observed along with what type. Fox squirrels and grey squirrels are two of the most familiar species in our area and they are pretty easy to identify from one another.

The form asks for the setting of the squirrel observation - a house, apartment building, vacant lot, etc. Squirrels are everywhere! You are also asked if there were specific trees at the site of the observation. Mom tells me that areas that have lots of big trees typically have lots of squirrels. We do not have any big trees in our yard, but there are lots of big trees just down the block. I see the squirrel nests way up in the tops of the big trees when I crane my head all the way back.

We will also record if the squirrels we observed regularly obtain food from different sources, with one of the sources being birdfeeders. Do you think this is a bad thing that squirrels eat bird food? Are they really so hungry that they steal food from the birds or do they just do it to get on Mom's nerves?

I love the next question on the form - how abundant are dogs and cats at the observation site? I am the only dog in the yard, so dogs are not abundant there, but in places like a park where everyone walks their dog, dogs would be abundant.

You can be a squirrel monitor no matter where you live in the U.S. as long as you see squirrels. The researchers appreciate all the observations they can get, but they would like you to make at least four observations per site per year. They also want to know if you are in an area where it seems like there should be squirrels but there aren't.

Project Squirrel started in 1997 and since then they have received over 1,000 observations, primarily in the Chicagoland area. They have learned a lot about squirrels from the observations they have received like the fact that they found more fox and fewer gray squirrels than expected in areas with single-family homes, and that gray squirrels were found more often than expected in association with oaks and pines, whereas fox squirrels were associated with elms and maples. This is neat stuff!

Okay, I'm off to take my morning walk with Dad and to look for squirrels. I am so excited to be collecting actual scientific data that I finally understand how Mom feels. I am a pug scientist! Maybe Mom will get me a little lab coat like the one she wears so that I can look real official.

For more information on becoming a squirrel monitor, please check out http://www.projectsquirrel.org/. Even if you don't plan on being a squirrel monitor, there are some cool squirrel photos and interesting findings on the website. I might even submit a picture so that you can see my squirrels. You just never know what I am going to do next.

4 comments:

Pearl said...

Stubby boy, you are always up to something exciting! Mom loves squirrels. Sometimes she says they remind her of me when I was a puppy!! (She's weird like that...)

My uncle lives in Kansas City, and he has some kind of albino squirrel that lives in his backyard! It's all white! Isn't that cool?!

Stubby said...

Pearly Poo - I do try to lead a very interesting pug life.

Mom likes the squirrels, but then they eat all the bird food, the birds show up to eat, and they get all mad.

We just filled the feeders back up with food this afternoon and there was a chipmunk on one of them. It was very brave and stared Mom down. I thought it was going to attack. Luckily, the little guy ran away, but not after he ate a lot of food. Mom thinks that we surprised him and that he couldn't move because his belly was too full. I know the feeling.

Stubby xoxo

Apollo-of the Greek God's Pug said...

Oh, I like to chase squirrels. They never stick around too long and always seem to get away from me. My Mommy says that I'm too loud and give myself away with my thundering paws.

Stubby said...

Hey Apollo - I like to chase squirrels too, but now I have to chase and count at the same time. I hope I can do it. I have never caught one either - maybe we are both just a little too loud.

Stubby
xoxo