OTTUMWA – Though winter technically ended a month ago, some nature scientists are just now starting to get back into the field to continue studying our environment.
"We want to know how many of each animal are around and their [condition] because they are a good indicator of the health of our enviorment," said Annette Whitrock, a naturalist at Pioneer Ridge Nature Area for the Wapello County Board of Conservation. "And a healthy enviorment is good for humans. "
There are benefits to the animals themselves as well.
“It’s something that needs to be done,” said Tyler Harms, a wildlife specialist at Iowa State University.
The project he works on,“The Multiple Species Inventory and Monitoring” survey, gives outdoors enthusiasts, lawmakers and scientists “a place to start” when it comes to making decisions about preserving at-risk animals.
“It was developed by the DNR in 2006 in response to a lack of information on certain species of wildlife, particularly those in need of conservation," said Harms. "Experts were concerned about that lack of data.”
County level researchers usually work on a smaller scale, geographically and in the number of species studied. For example, in Wapello County, there is the Christmas Bird Count, a Monarch Watch starting in the fall, and in April, Whitrock typically heads outdoors for the Frog and Toad Call survey.
Harms has a wider survey: everything everywhere in Iowa. The project is one of the most comprehensive counts of animals in the state. The multiple-species inventory takes nine different categories of living creatures into account, including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish.
“We survey all public properties across the state. Our goal is to survey all across the state in a wide variety of habitats.”
Wapello County was on that list, and has already had a research crew pass through.