Give us your feedback! Take a short website survey for a chance to win 1 of 10 $50 Great Parks gift cards. Take Survey

Operation Observation


Use your powers of observation to become a citizen scientist! Your help can make a difference in national environmental research projects. Each month, we’ll teach you how to take part in a new project.

Programs are free for all ages. Registration is encouraged to ensure that we enough supplies, but walk-ups are always welcome.
Jan: Project Squirrel
GOAL: Help scientists better understand urban squirrel biology.

TASK: Count squirrels in your neighborhood, report findings online.

To gain data on squirrel populations across the United States, citizen scientists are needed to count squirrels in their neighborhoods and, when possible, distinguish between two different types of tree squirrels: gray and fox. Anyone can participate in Project Squirrel. No matter where you live, if squirrels live in your neighborhood, you are encouraged to become a squirrel monitor.

When & Where

Miami Whitewater Forest: January 14, 2 p.m
Sharon Woods: January 15, 2 p.m.
Feb: Project BudBurst
Project BudBurst is on a mission: to get you outside taking a moment to observe how plants in your community change with the seasons. When you share your observations, they become part of an ecological record. Project BudBurst participants make careful observations of the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting phases of plants (plant phenophases) throughout the year. Spring, summer, fall, and winter phases are all valuable. The project has two protocols, Single Reports and Regular Reports, which you can follow to record your observations. Scientists and educators can use the data to learn more about how plant species respond to changes in climate locally, regionally and nationally.

When & Where

Miami Whitewater Forest: February 11, 2 p.m.
Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve: February 18, 2 p.m.
Mar: Ohio Frog & Toad Calling Survey
In 1838, Dr. Jared Kirtland published the first list of amphibians collected in Ohio. Since then a myriad of biologists have worked to determine how Ohio's frogs, toads and salamanders are distributed. The Ohio Frog & Toad Calling Survey utilizes the efforts of volunteers from around the state to conduct audio surveys at selected breeding sites.

When & Where

Miami Whitewater Forest: March 11, 7 p.m.
Woodland Mound: March 12, 2 p.m.
Apr: Lost Ladybug Project
GOAL: Help find out where all the ladybugs have gone, so we can try to prevent more native species from becoming so rare.

TASK: Find and photograph ladybugs

Across North America, ladybug species distribution is changing. Over the past 20 years, several native ladybugs that were once very common have become extremely rare. During this same time, ladybugs from other places have greatly increased both their numbers and range. Some ladybugs are simply found in new places. This is happening very quickly and we don’t know how, or why, or what impact it will have on ladybug diversity or the role that ladybugs play in keeping plant-feeding insect populations low.

When & Where

Miami Whitewater Forest: April 8, 2 p.m.
Sharon Woods: April 22, 11 a.m.
May: Celebrate Urban Birds
GOAL: Help ornithologists learn about 16 key species of urban birds.

TASK: Track 16 species of birds for 10 minutes in a small area.

An important part of Celebrate Urban Birds is to help scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology collect information about the 16 key species of urban birds and the habitats they use. The scientists have created a project that will use data collected from participants to study these resident and migratory birds and their interaction with the urban habitat. Participants can observe birds and collect data from urban, suburban and rural locations.

When & Where

Miami Whitewater Forest: May 13, 9 a.m.
Woodland Mound: May 20, 10 a.m.
Jun: Bee Spotter
GOAL: Gather information on the population status of bees.

TASK: Go outside with a camera and capture quality pictures of bees.

BeeSpotter needs volunteers to go outside with a camera and capture quality pictures of bees! Researchers at the University of Illinois are trying to better understand bee demographics in the states of Illinois, Missouri and Ohio and they can't do it without your help. Your data will become part of a nationwide effort to gather baseline information on the population status of these insects.

When & Where

Miami Whitewater Forest: June 10, 2 p.m.
Winton Woods: June 17, 2 p.m.
Jul: Firefly Watch
GOAL: Help scientists track firefly populations.

TASK: Count male/female fireflies in your backyard for 15 minutes per night

Firefly Watch combines an annual summer evening ritual with scientific research. Boston's Museum of Science has teamed up with researchers from Tufts University and Fitchburg State College to track the fate of these amazing insects. With your help, they will monitor population numbers of fireflies and determine what might be affecting their numbers.

When & Where

Miami Whitewater Forest: July 8, 8 p.m.
Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve: July 15, 8 p.m.
Aug: Mothing
GOAL: To understand how ecological factors affect moths.

TASK: Analyze moth data, photograph moths and upload or help identify moths.

Moths are incredibly diverse, are ecologically important as plant eaters, pollinators and food for songbirds. How will climate and other large-scale ecological factors affect moths? Join us to learn three different ways to help.

When & Where

Miami Whitewater Forest: August 12, 8:30 p.m.
Woodland Mound: August 25, 8:30 p.m.
Sep: Where is My Spider?
GOAL: Track the distribution of spiders in space and over time

TASK: Send pictures of spiders that you find

Spiders have long been thought of a useful natural method of pest control, but how will expected temperature changes or other environmental changes affect the spider’s usefulness as pest-killers and their distribution? We don't yet know how climate change will impact spiders, and in turn impact agriculture such as crops and farms- but when we understand where spiders are living today, we will be better able to predict what may happen to spiders and agriculture in the future. By just taking photos and observing spiders, you can help the Explorit Science Center learn about which climates certain spiders live in and track the distribution of spiders over time.

When & Where

Miami Whitewater Forest: September 9, 9 a.m.
Winton Woods: September 16, 2 p.m.
Oct: GLOBE at Night
GOAL: Raise awareness about light pollution.

TASK: Measure the night sky brightness.

Light pollution may be a global problem, but the solutions are local. GLOBE at Night is now in its 6th year and is hosted by the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Through this program, children and adults are encouraged to reconnect with the night sky and learn about light pollution and in doing so, become citizen scientists inspired to protect this natural resource. Teachers like the GLOBE at Night program, because it lends itself to cross-curricular learning: astronomy, geography, history, literature, and writing. The possibilities are great.

When & Where

Woodland Mound: October 8, 7 p.m.
Miami Whitewater Forest: October 14, 7 p.m.
Nov: CoCoRaHS: Rain, Hail & Snow Network
GOAL: Provide weather data to meteorologists

TASK: Measure rain, hail, and snow

CoCoRaHS, The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network is a unique, non-profit, community-based network of volunteers of all ages who measure and report precipitation. Each time a rain, hail, or snow storm occurs, volunteers take measurements of precipitation from their registered locations (reports of 'zero' precipitation are encouraged too!). The data are used by the National Weather Service, meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, city utilities, insurance adjusters, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, engineers, mosquito control, ranchers and farmers, outdoor and recreation interests, teachers, students, and neighbors in the community.

When & Where

Sharon Woods: November 5, 2 p.m.
Miami Whitewater Forest: November 11, 2 p.m.