By Stephanie Keeler, Community Program Coordinator
Nature is all around you, but you might not see just now much life exists in your own backyard. When you look into your yard, or another natural space close to your home, you may observe a stream of water, or field of grass, or few trees. But it isn’t until you take a closer look that you see the true range of biodiversity that’s hiding within. Biodiversity can be broken down into two words, bio meaning life, and diversity, which can be simplified to variety; so when you study biodiversity, you’re uncovering the variety of life on Earth! To help you explore more than the big picture items of nature, a biodiversity hula hoop can help.
Materials you’ll need
– Hula hoop or string to make a circle – Magnifying glass – A smartphone with the iNaturalist app – Journal for recording observations
To begin this simple and fun activity, all you need is a hula hoop or a length of string to shape into a circle about the size of a hula hoop. Place the hula hoop anywhere in your backyard or in a park nearby. Now start looking! Using a magnifying glass, or just your eyes, spot any plants, animals, or insects that call the space within your circle home. Your backyard or community park’s ecosystem is often too large or daunting to assess its biodiversity, so breaking it down into small hula hoop-sized samples gives you a snapshot of the variety of life that lives within these spaces.
If you want to be to be a citizen scientist, record what you see each time you step into your hula hoop. You can start a journal where you draw the species you discover and describe their features, behaviours, and habitat. If you have access to a smartphone or other mobile device, you can use an app like iNaturalist to report your findings directly to scientists and researchers from around the world! Take an image of something within your hoop, and the app will give you its best guess at what that species is using image recognition. The image observation can then be tagged with GPS coordinates and added to the app’s database to show where you spotted it. Other nature-loving citizens like yourself will also collaborate on the app to help verify species identification, so your observation will receive research-grade data confirmation.