Parsons Field Institute
Citizen Science News
Dear Parsons Field Institute and Citizen Science Friends,

We are excited to share with you our achievements from the 2019-2020 season. While our season ended differently than most of us expected, we've had many successes over the past year that we'd like to share.

Below we share highlights from each of our citizen science project leads. The achievements of the Parsons Field Institute are ultimately the result of everyone who participated - you are all amazing!

You can read more about these projects in our latest blog post !
Year-End Project Updates
Birds - Allison Mayes & Tara Deck
The first bird surveys went off well with counts in both the fall and winter.

The April/May surveys were postponed because of COVID-19, but a few surveys will take place the first week of May with teams of two (a bird expert and a steward lead who will be the recorder) using social distancing and using the recommended health guidelines. 

We have solicited teams to participate in the Global Big Day count on May 9th, are setting plans for nocturnal bird surveys in late May, our late summer counts, and plan to work on recruiting new birders this fall to assist with counts for next season.

Photo credit: Allison Mayes
Butterflies - Doug Jensen
In conjunction with the North American Butterfly Association, the Parsons Field Institute conducted two regularly scheduled butterfly counts during the 2019-20 season – September 28 and April 4. 

Results for the fall count (18 species but only 111 individuals) probably reflected the low rainfall of the preceding monsoon season. 

The spring count totals were about average (23 species and 747 individuals). A special thanks to those who, despite the coronavirus situation, comprised the small teams of experienced counters making the spring count even possible.

Photo credit: Liz Makings
Strategy - Dan Gruber
The invasive species mapping app, first developed by Don Pike of Friends of the Tonto and now sponsored by the Conservancy, is now being used all over central AZ. This app records locations and removals of non-native plants.

Regional training and surveys are being conducted by Conservancy staff and stewards, including Mary Fastiggi, Doug Jabour, Doug Jensen, Paul Staker, and our partners, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation and CAZCA.

The Conservancy continues to be a significant strategic player in CAZCA.
Arthropods - Jerry Holden
We completed our fifth year of the arthropod project, surpassing 16,000 arthropod specimens collected to date. Bill Bernert joined the team as the site lead at Ringtail/Sunrise.

Derek Uhey, a PhD student at NAU, has joined the project and will be analyzing our long-term data as part of his dissertation.

Photo credit: Derek Uhey
Bats - Debbie Langenfeld
Through ongoing research on bats, we verified that an old mine in the Preserve is being used as a maternity colony for Thompson's big-eared bats.

During a two-week pilot bat acoustics study, a partner at ASU detected 12 species of bats, including eight not previously known in the Preserve. That brought our species total to 1,003 plants and animals. (Note that this is still a severe underestimate, as it doesn't include hundreds of invertebrate species we have yet to observe/identify.)

Photo credit: Debbie Langenfeld
sue toad
Reptiles & Amphibians - Sue Handke
We started an exciting new toad phenology project last summer to document timing of emergence, breeding, and metamorphosis of the Preserve's four toad species. Due to the lack of monsoon rains last summer, we did not document breeding, but several toads emerged to eat. We did have some rains that filled the tank in late September, but it was too cold by then for mating.

On a fun note, this year is Sue's 10th year of coordinating the Herp Survey for the Field Institute. As she says, "A decade of researching and recording reptiles! It’s been a lot of fun learning about species I didn’t know I wanted to learn about!"

Photo credit: Sue Handke
Phenology - Jerry Holden
Our strange weather patterns over the past year gave us a lot to observe! We made 30,630 observations in 2019 and have made 12,159 observations so far in 2020. In an attempt to capture pollinator activity, we added the white-winged dove to our observation deck.

Our site coordinators continue to engage new and existing observers. Lou Ann Hillman joined the team as the site lead at Gateway, and Karen Fieldstad and Barb Pringle continue as leads at Brown's and Lost Dog Wash, respectively.

Photo credit: Karen Fieldstad
Corridor Monitoring - Ralph Lipfert & Mike Wunch
One year ago, we had 20 trail cameras deployed in the Preserve. Today, we have 33 and will soon be deploying four more in the adjacent regional park. We wrapped up the last phase of our camera project in September. Teams of stewards and partners deployed the new cameras in December and service them regularly.

With the new cameras comes a wealth of photos. Since December, we have accumulated more than half a million photos and are now investigating software to help process species identification. We look forward to learning more about the wildlife that call the Preserve home!

Photo credit: Aireona Raschke
Restoration - Jane Brady & Debbie Langenfeld
This year, we conducted our final plant sampling for the old trails restoration project, submitted a manuscript for publication on historical restoration, launched new projects on biocrust and seed restoration, and more!

Through these cutting-edge research projects, we are helping inform restoration practices across the Sonoran Desert.

Read about all our restoration work in our latest Conservancy blog post !

Photo credit: Debbie Langenfeld
Invasive Species - Paul Staker
Much of the focus this season was on expanding our effort to survey and map the non-native plants in the Preserve and then to schedule projects to remove the plants.

During the first half of the season, several projects were scheduled to physically remove or apply herbicide treatments to non-native grasses. In the spring, we focused on ongoing scientific studies to determine effective control treatments for invasive grasses.

Learn more about our many efforts to reduce invasive species in our latest Conservancy blog post !

Photo credit: Mary Fastiggi
Thank You, Project Leads!
Parsons Field Institute Team