Vision for a Biodiversity Observation Network
Phase 1: Sandy Creek Nature Center

Tori Staples

Let's empower citizens to run a network of ecological research sites around the world, engage them and their communities in science, and generate the knowledge that society needs to understand and address pressing environmental issues.

Climate change and other large-scale factors threaten biodiversity and the ecosystem services the biota provide. Without massive public participation in research, we are unlikely to understand fully the impacts of these factors and to recommend timely solutions. These problems are simply too big to be solved by governments and professional scientists alone. We therefore recognize citizen science as a powerful tool of science education and scientific enterprise. Discover Life and our partners envision a network of study sites across continents from which to mobilize citizens and observe biodiversity. The Athens-Clarke County community is in the unique position to pioneer this network. We propose a partnership with the Athens-Clarke County Department of Leisure Services to observe the biota at Sandy Creek Nature Center and to advance our shared goals of service.

Discover Life ( is a natural history website with servers at the University of Georgia. The website integrates original web tools and supports multiple citizen science research protocols. We wish to share Discover Life's most well-developed protocol ( with the Athens-Clarke County community and to establish a permanent moth observation site at Sandy Creek Nature Center.

Moths are an ideal sentinel group for study worldwide. They are biologically diverse and ecologically important, and they can be studied safely and efficiently by non-specialists. By the use of digital photography, cell phones, GPS, on-line identification tools, and the support of Discover Life's taxonomic experts, students and other community members will collect verifiable, high-quality data on species occurrences and interactions. We will empower this community to collect, analyze, and share data on moths. Eventually, this community will expand its observation to include plants, amphibians, birds, lichens, and abiotic variables. By involving Athens-Clarke County students in meaningful, original research, we can teach them quantitative methods, problem-solving, communication, teamwork, and other valuable job skills. Adult naturalists will benefit from continued science education, community involvement, and the satisfaction of contributing to research important for the environment.

We at Discover Life wish to support a permanent observation site at Sandy Creek Nature Center. The Athens-Clarke County Department of Leisure Services can help us meet some of the logistical needs of doing so. Discover Life will coordinate and train volunteers and security teams to photograph moths at Sandy Creek Nature Center. Therefore, participants need permission to visit light traps after hours. This project requires small modifications to the Walker Center facility to accommodate timed light traps and a small shelter from rain.

For more information, please contact Tori Staples: (678) 343-1201.