Project Squirrel

Project Squirrel

Project Squirrel was originally created by Wendy Jackson and Joel Brown, and has been operating since 1997. During this time, more than 1,000 people have participated, provided observations, and filled out the project's survey. Participants have been able to learn a great deal about these squirrels, at first in the Chicago Metropolitan Region and now throughout the U.S.

Squirrels are worth studying because they are active during the day and everyone has an opinion about them. Additionally, squirrels can be important indicators of local ecology because they are resident in small territories and active year round, they require a range of resources that are also important to many other urban animals, and their populations rise and fall with the same predators and environmental conditions that affect our neighborhood wildlife.

No matter where you live, if there are squirrels in your neighborhood, you are encouraged to join Project Squirrel and become a squirrel monitor. Fox squirrels and grey squirrels are two of the most familiar species of wildlife in many neighborhoods and natural areas. To gain this insight, we must gather data about as many individual squirrels in as many places as possible.

Project Details

  • PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Steve Sullivan, Director
  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: The Chicago Academy of Sciences
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Observation
  • COST: Free
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages

    Pick a street and walk or ride a bike down the street, stopping to record data at set intervals. If you are working in an area with streets laid out in a grid, just make notes at every intersection. Share this information with Project Squirrel via their Web site.

    For additional information, contact Steve Sullivan, the project's director, at The Chicago Academy of Sciences.

See more projects in FreeObservationAll Ages.

What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

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