Simply put, citizen science is public participation in scientific research. The best part is you don’t need a formal science background or a fancy degree to contribute, just the willingness to volunteer your time and effort.
Examples of citizen science you may already be familiar with in the River Park include: the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, Lake Hodges BioBlitz, San Dieguito Lagoon water quality monitoring and monthly bird surveys.
Goals & Objectives
The overall goal of the San Dieguito Citizen Science Monitoring Program is to create a sustainable, cost-effective, and scientifically valid monitoring program for the San Dieguito River Park that can be carried out by volunteer citizen scientists. The program will collect critical data necessary to fill knowledge gaps on our lands and better inform future land acquisitions, adaptive land management, habitat and species restoration, educational initiatives and future research while encouraging community involvement and engagement.
The monitoring program relies on partnerships with researchers and citizen science groups that have been vetted by the wildlife agencies and other regulatory organizations. We are using approved protocols to ensure that we are collecting scientifically valid data that can be shared regionally and submitted to the South Coast Multi-taxa Database.
Camera Traps – We are using permanent wildlife cameras to monitor animal presence on our properties. Wildlife cameras are checked once a month and volunteers review photos and record species detected on the study sites. We look forward to implementing future regional camera monitoring protocols as they are developed.
Track & Sign Surveys – The San Diego Tracking Team (SDTT) approached us wanting to help with our monitoring program. SDTT has been conducting wildlife track and sign surveys in San Diego County for over 10 years and regularly assist on projects with local researchers including San Diego State University and USGS. Their monitoring protocols have been approved by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, and the City and County of San Diego. Our long-term goal is to recruit enough volunteers to form our very own tracking team for the River Park.
The Palomar Audubon Society has partnered with the Conservancy to conduct quarterly bird surveys on our property. Palomar Audubon is a local chapter of the National Audubon Society serving the North San Diego County. As part of the citizen science monitoring program, members conduct a walking survey to record all bird species detected on the study sites. We look forward to implementing future regional bird survey protocols as they are developed.
Botanical Surveys – We are conducting general botanical surveys in order to establish a baseline inventory of all plant species on our property. Surveys are conducted in spring during typical bloom periods. With assistance from qualified field botanists and volunteers, all plant species encountered while walking along roads, trails and other areas are recorded. Special status plants observed are documented and mapped using GPS.
Rare Plant Surveys – In coordination with SDMMP, the Conservancy is conducting surveys of known rare plant occurrences within the River Park. The objective is to document their status and assess threats in order to develop specific management recommendations. These annual surveys are being implemented across the region by a combination of land managers, contracted biologists, and trained volunteers. For more information, please visit the SDMMP web portal here.
The Southwestern Field Herping Associates (SWFHA) has partnered with the Conservancy to conduct baseline surveys of reptile and amphibian (collectively called “herps”) on our property. SWFHA is a non-profit volunteer group that uses citizen science to collect data to help conserve and manage native herp species. SWFHA members are regular USGS volunteers and hold state permits to survey for sensitive species. They conducted arroyo toad surveys for SDRVC in 2010 and participated in the Lake Hodges Bio Blitz in 2014. They are currently conducting coverboard surveys and assisting with our citizen science educational programs.
2018-2019 santa fe valley/crosby habitat management area
Total Acres: 170
Total Citizen Scientists (as of 3/18/2019): 37
Our fifth year of the Citizen Science Monitoring program took us to the Santa Fe Valley/Crosby Estates Habitat Management Area (HMA), managed by Rincon Consultants. This open space is located within the San Dieguito River watershed, south of Del Dios Gorge. Get more information about this preserve, including maps, here.
During 2018-2019, our Citizen Science Monitoring program focused on land located below the Del Dios Gorge to the Fairbanks Ranch / Rancho Santa Fe area. The Fairbanks Ranch / Rancho Santa Fe study area coincides with one of SDRVC’s major ongoing habitat restoration projects (initiated in 2015) and generates valuable biodiversity data to evaluate the restoration project’s effectiveness and support additional fundraising for the restoration project’s ongoing implementation.
We hosted bird surveys every three months beginning in January 2018 led by Conservation Manager Jonathan Appelbaum and the Palomar Audubon Society. We surveyed two transects in 2018 and 2019, located within and adjacent to SDRVC’s ongoing habitat restoration project within the riverbed.
We also continued our partnerships with other local experts and citizen science groups. In the spring of 2018, Angelique Herman, a professional botanist led a group of citizen scientists recruited by the California Native Plant Society – San Diego Chapter, and the Rancho Santa Fe Association (RSFA) to inventory rare species within RFSA’s Arroyo Preserve. The Southwestern Field Herping Associates (SWFHA) continued coverboard herp (reptiles and amphibians) monitoring in the Arroyo Preserve.
Additionally, four motion-activated wildlife cameras (trail cameras) were installed within RSFA’s Arroyo Preserve and monitored by SDRVC volunteers, including SDRVC 2018 summer intern, Justin Salazar, to assess wildlife movement and usage of the site (including mammals, birds, and herps).
In 2018-2019 surveys continued in the Fairbanks Ranch – Rancho Santa Fe Study area results are updated regularly. Click on the links below to see lists and photos of species recorded As of July 2019.
Our third year of the Citizen Science Monitoring program took us to the top of the watershed near Volcan Mountain on the Conservancy’s Rutherford B parcel. We kicked things off with a bird survey in February led by the Palomar Audubon Society. We partnered with them for eight such surveys in 2017.
We also continued our partnerships with other local experts and citizen science groups. In the spring, Keir Morse, an expert botanist led a group of Citizen Scientists in order to inventory flowering annuals. The Southwestern Field Herping Associates (SWFHA) added Rutherford B to the list of parcels they are helping us monitor for herps (reptiles and amphibians). Also, Bill and Susan Carter from the Volcan Mountain Wildlife Imaging Team assisted us in placing wildlife cameras as part of our mammal surveys.
A total of 157 plant species and 70 wildlife species were detected during the 2017 surveys at Volcan Mountain, including 10 mammal and 60 bird species. Click on the links below to see lists and photos of species observed:
The Conservancy kicked off the 2016 monitoring program at Bernardo Mountain with a botanical survey on January 23rd. Led by expert botanists, our Citizen Scientists explored the hillsides in an effort to compile a list of all the trees and shrubs growing on site. This was followed by a second botanical survey in April to inventory flowering annuals.
We also continued our partnerships with local citizen science groups including Palomar Audubon, Southwestern Field Herping Associates (SWFHA), and the San Diego Tracking Team (SDTT). Palomar Audubon led quarterly bird surveys at Bernardo Mountain and both SWFHA and SDTT were instrumental in planning our herp and mammal surveys.
In addition, our Junior Citizen Scientists from High Tech Elementary North County conducted a “Critters on Camera” research project. They reviewed wildlife camera photos, collected data on species occurrences in the River Park, and created field guides to teach other aspiring citizen scientists how to identify our local species.
A total of 202 plant species and 92 wildlife species were detected during the 2016 surveys at Bernardo Mountain, including 5 invertebrates, 10 mammals, 70 birds and 7 reptiles. Click on the links below to see lists and photos of species observed:
The first year of our San Dieguito Citizen Science Program was a success with 150 citizen scientists participating! With the help of our many partners, we completed Argentine ant surveys, a wildlife tracking outreach program, herp surveys, bird surveys, rare plant surveys and a botanical survey. In addition, we also teamed up with a great group of 5th graders from High Tech Elementary North County.
Ms. Shelley Glenn Lee and her students joined us for a hands-on field day where we trained them in survey protocol, use of equipment (e.g., GPS units and camera traps), and how to collect and record data. We then put these young citizen scientists to work reviewing wildlife camera photos and collecting data on species occurrences in the River Park.
But that’s not all – each student conducted a research project and created a piece of art based on a locally sensitive animal species of their choosing. They are now using their artwork to help raise funds for the Conservancy and the Citizen Science Program. With such a great start, we look forward to expanding the program into additional properties in the future!
A total of 172 plant species and 95 wildlife species were detected during the 2014/2015 surveys at the River Park JPA Headquarters, including 9 invertebrates, 9 mammals, 66 birds, 10 reptiles and 1 amphibian. Click on the links below to see complete lists of all species observed:
You are on this page because you want to be an SDRVC Citizen Scientist! Learn about our upcoming Citizen Science projects in Santa Fe Valley, near Del Dios here!
I’m a scientist, he’s a scientist, she’s a scientist, we’re all scientists, wouldn’t you like to be a scientist too? Here at the Conservancy, we’re hoping you say yes because we need citizen scientists to help implement the San Dieguito Citizen Science Monitoring Program!
Check out the current citizen scientist opportunities below and see what works for you. Whether you are available one-time only or would like to make a longer-term commitment, we can use your help. For additional information on the opportunities below, or to begin your citizen scientist journey with us, please email Conservation Manager Jonathan Appelbaum at email@example.com.
Upload your plant and wildlife photos from the River Park and provide us valuable biodiversity data! All you have to do is download the iNaturalist app on your mobile device, create an account and join our San Dieguito Citizen Science Biodiversity Project. Then you can upload your photos and provide some basic information about your observation. Your observations, combined with our site-specific citizen science surveys, will provide us valuable data to help us monitor and manage the biodiversity of the River Park in the long-term.
Wildlife Camera Photo Review
You don’t need to leave your house to help us monitor wildlife in the River Park! We have permanent camera traps to help us monitor the presence and movements of animals in the park. Confirming the presence of animals informs land management decisions and helps guide our conservation programs and priorities. Volunteers are needed to review and sort photos and record basic information. All you need is a computer, valid email address, and access to a photo sorting program (e.g., iPhoto, Picasa, Google Photo, etc.). Visit our “Results” page to get a glimpse of some of the animals you might find.
If you are a birder or an aspiring birder – we want you! We are looking for people to assist with our quarterly bird surveys in partnership with Palomar Audubon. You don’t have to be a member of the Audubon Society to join, you just need to love birds and be able to hike at a moderate level. Surveys are typically conducted mid-week between 7:30-11:30 am. We’ve detected over 100 different species in the River Park – how many will you see?
Join the Tracking Team
We are actively recruiting volunteers to form our very own wildlife tracking team for the River Park in Partnership with the San Diego Tracking Team (SDTT). Because tracking is a learned skill that requires time and practice, we suggest you attend one of SDTT’s FREE quarterly Wildlife Survey Volunteer Trainings to see if tracking is for you. To register for this training, please visit the SDTT website at www.sdtt.org or send them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know of your interest and progress, and we’ll help facilitate future trainings and invite you to our practice “dirt time” outings!
We are always on the lookout for volunteers interested in helping with our citizen science education programs for children, family and school groups. From being a chaperone, to demonstrating our citizen science methods, to helping develop curriculum, there’s a spot for you on our team. Come share your love of nature and inspire others to be stewards of the River Park!