Do you live in an urban area? Have you ever noticed a huntsman spider killing a cockroach? What about a food fight between native birds? Or two lizards mating? Stepped on wombat poo?
This World Environment Day researchers are inviting you to slow down, sip your morning coffee and stare at the world around you. You may spot something amazing.
If you do, take a photo or make a sketch and head over to The Urban Field Naturalist Project, where ordinary citizens are sharing stories of the wild things they see in their back yards, on their balcony, or on the footpath waiting for the bus. The project is a collaboration between University of Sydney, Taronga Zoo and University of Technology Sydney.
“Some of the best scientific observations have come from the work of amateur scientists or casual observations from the public,” said Associate Professor Thom van Dooren, a philosopher at University of Sydney, who has a passion for observing snails and crows.
“For this project, we aren’t really looking for data, we are asking people to get immersed in a sense of wonder,” said Associate Professor van Dooren.
Professor Dieter Hochuli, who is an expert in insects, spiders and birds, said the fundamental starting point of science is to make observations. He personally enjoys watching ants.
“Did you know all worker ants you see cleaning things up are female?” he said. “I like the brutality of nature, too. Nature is relentless, things get eaten all the time. I’m also a sucker for moths and caterpillars, I love learning about the things they do to avoid being eaten.”
The Urban Field Naturalist Project is like a Choose Your Own Adventure, Professor Hochuli said. “In Mexico, people started noticing birds were collecting cigarette butts and putting them in their nests. Why would they do that? Turns out the nicotine in the butts were acting as a natural parasite killer. We know so little about so much that lives in and around our cities.”
“Go out there and stare at stuff!” said Professor Hochuli. “Ask why is that creature doing that? How do we know that? What will they do next? We might learn something new and we might all gain a deeper appreciation of our environment.