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May 1, 2015
For immediate release

TORONTO – Spring is here and with it NatureWatch and the Toronto Zoo are encouraging Canadians to get into their backyards and local parks and contribute to scientific research at the same time. NatureWatch.ca is launching an enhanced, easy-to-use, mobile-friendly website to encourage Canadian families to reconnect with nature. People can become ‘citizen scientists’ and report sightings of frogs and toads, flowering plants, receding lake ice, and even earthworms. It’s a call to the public for a nationwide effort to help track how environmental changes are affecting Canadian nature.

Started over fifteen years ago, the Canada-wide NatureWatch program includes FrogWatch, PlantWatch, IceWatch and WormWatch – with plans for more programs to come. People are given information in these programs on how to use smartphones or computers to pin nature observations on an interactive map.

Robert McLeman, a geography professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and one of the organizers of NatureWatch explains how it works.

“Imagine you and your kids are playing in the park and you spot a frog. Can you tell what species it is? Grab your phone, open FrogWatch on the browser, and scroll through photos of frogs native to your province until you find a match. You can even hear a recording of the call. Then, you can submit your observation straight from your phone using an interactive map. It’s so easy, a kid can do it – and that’s the point.

"Citizen science is a powerful tool that connects Canadians to wildlife and the local environment and captures information on ecological trends over time," said Julia Phillips, Adopt-A-Pond Coordinator, Toronto Zoo. "The Toronto Zoo is proud to be a long-standing partner of the NatureWatch collaborative and excited to support citizen science initiatives like FrogWatch to inspire Canadians to save and protect species and habitats in their own backyards."

Observations entered into NatureWatch are combined to track species distributions, variations in the lengths of seasons, and other important environmental processes. Users can access a map of NatureWatch observations from across Canada, and read reports on how their data is being used in research. Data collected with the help of citizen scientists has been proven to be very reliable for scholarly research, and past NatureWatch observations have been used in peer-reviewed scientific studies.

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MEDIA CONTACTS:

Robert McLeman
Associate Professor
Geography & Environmental Studies
Wilfrid Laurier University

T: 519.580.0384 / 519.884.0710 x2653

E: rmcleman@wlu.ca 

Kevin Crowley, Director
Communications & Public Affairs
Wilfrid Laurier University

T: 519.884.0710 x3070

E: kcrowley@wlu.ca

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