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Community Science at Crossroads

The Crossroads CWST team training to participate in wetland community science

Where We (the Community) Meet the Waters

About six months ago, Crossroads chose a theme for 2023 – “Where the Waters Meet: A Celebration of the Big Creek Estuary.” These waters indicate the health of our community and are a source of life for the ecosystem around us. But how much do we know about them? What is living here in our wetlands?

Answering this question requires more than reading a report – primarily because that report doesn’t yet exist! Over the years, Crossroads staff, contracted restorationists, and students have identified more than 170 plant species growing on the preserves. Through acoustic and visual monitoring, we’ve identified 78 migratory and nesting bird species and a handful of bat species. Less research has been done to explore the diversity of amphibians and invertebrates found throughout Crossroads wetland habitats.

This year with our focus on “Where the Waters Meet,” we will meet those same waters where they are and begin a monitoring project to better learn what is living within and around them. We are pleased to be launching two community science efforts in 2023 that will become resources for better understanding and managing the watershed of Big Creek. These projects are the Crossroads Wetland Survey Team (CWST) and, with support of Wisconsin DNR, the Water Action Volunteers (WAV) Program.

Volunteer, Erik Ost examines macroinvertebrates in a survey sample.
Volunteer Erik Ost examines macroinvertebrates in a survey sample.

The Crossroads Wetland Survey Team

CWST consists of community volunteers who are collecting data on the amphibians and invertebrates found throughout Crossroads. This trained team will be searching for frogs, salamanders, crayfish, and other macroinvertebrates (animals without backbones). The data will inform us on what species are living where and, eventually, how our improvements – invasive species removal and land restoration –are impacting the creek.

Meanwhile, our WAV team will finish its training in May and begin conducting surveys on the water quality all along Big Creek, from where it enters City property just north of Crossroads to where it flows into Sturgeon Bay at The Cove Estuary Preserve. This field research will explore temperature, stream flow, dissolved oxygen levels, turbidity (opaqueness), and conduct additional macroinvertebrate sampling. The data will be combined with existing chemical testing done by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, as well as statewide monitoring efforts by the DNR.

The most important aspect of these monitoring projects is you, our community. You’ve likely heard the term “citizen science” before. Citizen science occurs when a scientist or researcher collaborates with the public to collect data. Maybe you’ve counted birds or reported fish weights for the DNR. Maybe you’ve maintained a nature journal or even done water quality testing before. All of these projects and many more can be considered citizen science.

Community Science at Crossroads

At Crossroads, we think the term “Community Science” better reflects our efforts. The people volunteering for our monitoring projects are more than contractors or field technicians; they are part of a greater community dedicated to preserving and restoring a precious piece of land. We expect they will also be taking the skills and experiences they learn to promote restoration throughout Door County and beyond.

This is the essence of community science. Citizen science ends when the data is collected and the report is drafted. Community science expands to address the questions, needs and desires of a community. This year we are learning about our wetlands and our waterways in the hopes we can be stewards and restorative forces on the land and within the water.

If you are reading this, you are part of the Crossroads community, whether you hike the trails, kayak at The Cove, attend classes or lectures or have just visited for the first time. This year, our question is, “What is living here in our wetlands?” Maybe next year, with your help, our community-driven questions will be even more ambitious.

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