Using the community science platform, iNaturalist, students will explore species observed in their environment and research a case study of invasive rabbits. Using iNaturalist, students can discover trends such as migration routes, flowering patterns, the population of a threatened species or even the spread of an invasive one. In this activity, students will discover the impacts that can occur when a pet, like a rabbit, is released into the wild. This will provoke inquiry related to invasive species and how we can track the impacts they may have on ecosystems. Students will learn how to map these changes in biodiversity in fun, visual representations known as GIFs. Exploring, contributing to, and communicating community science can be as fun as it is important!
- What’s an invasive species and what impacts can they have?
- How can released pets have significant impacts on the environment?
- How can community science map changes in biodiversity in an area over the course of a year or multiple years?
- How can observations about the natural environment contribute to community science?
BC CURRICULUM LINKS
- Complex roles and relationships contribute to diversity of ecosystems (Environmental Science 11)
- Human practices affect the sustainability of ecosystems (Environmental Science 11)
- Living sustainably supports the well-being of self, community, and Earth (Environmental Science 12)
Science Curricular Competencies (Grades 10-12)
- Demonstrate a sustained intellectual curiosity about a scientific topic or problem
- Make observations aimed at identifying their own questions
- Experience and interpret the local environment
- Consider some environmental consequences of their actions
- Contribute to finding solutions to problems through inquiry
- Express and reflect on personal experiences of place
- Class access to set of computers, iPads, Chromebooks, etc. and internet access
DOCUMENTS TO DOWNLOAD
For a general background on invasive species read Background on Invasive Species for Educators.
For more information on the impacts of invasive rabbits, read the article “Everything You Never Knew You Needed to Know About Rabbits.”
TERMS AND DEFINITIONS
Community science is the collaboration of the public, both scientists and non-scientists, to increase scientific knowledge by collecting, analyzing and sharing data. Community science helps professionals answer scientific questions and solve important problems. It doesn’t matter what your background is or how old you are. Community science is for everyone! Community science can also be known as citizen science.
Don’t Let it Loose Some common animals seen near our homes and schools, such as Red-eared slider turtles and European rabbits, are actually invasive species that were intentionally or accidentally introduced and now cause problems for native species and habitats.
One way that we can do our part to help protect habitats from invasive species is by being responsible pet owners and not releasing animals into the wild. Releasing pets into the wild is cruel to the pet—many starve to death or are killed by predators. Released pets can also spread disease, outcompete native wildlife or harm habitats.
To learn more about the problems caused by letting pets go “free” and alternatives to releasing unwanted pets into the wild, visit ISCBC’s “Don’t Let it Loose” webpage.
GIF is the abbreviation for Graphic Interchange Format which is a type of computer file that contains a still or moving image, such at the time lapse animation of series of images like map images. GIFs are easily created using free web-based programs.
iNaturalist is one of the world’s most popular nature apps. It helps you identify the plants and animals around you. It also connects with a community of over a million scientists and naturalists who can help you learn more about nature! And by recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. Students using iNaturalist and recording their observations of their natural world help build this understanding!
- Read over the Background section and associated links for information on invasive species.
- Review the article “Everything You Never Knew You Needed to Know About Rabbits.”
- For Part 2, review the document Invasive Rabbit GIF Example and identify which software and/or websites you would like your students to use for the editing and GIF creation of this project.
Part 1: Introduction to invasive rabbits
- Introduce the terms “invasive species”, “non-native species” and “native species”. Ask if anyone has heard of these terms and what they think they mean. See if they know of any examples of each.
- Ask students what they think a pet rabbit released into BC would be classified as and why they made that choice.
- Make a chart with the students for potential environmental, economic and social impacts an invasive rabbit may have. Ask for suggestions on how these impacts could be tracked.
- Introduce the concept of community science by first asking if anyone has heard of community science before and what they think it means. See if they know of any examples of community science projects. Use iNaturalist as an example if no suggestions are given. Explain how iNaturalist can create community awareness of local biodiversity.
Part 2. Use iNaturalist to highlight environmental changes
Activity description: Use iNaturalist to show changes in biodiversity over time. By changing the date range of observations, you can observe biodiversity patterns in your area. This can allow you to track migration routes, the timing of flowering (phenology) or even the spread of an invasive species. An excellent way to highlight these changes is to combine screenshots of the various dates into a GIF. An example of this process is in the document Invasive Rabbit GIF Example.
- Provide the link to iNaturalist. Have your students explore their community on iNaturalist and some of the species that have been recorded in the area. There is no need to create an account to explore observations on iNaturalist.
- Have your students develop a question that they would like to answer based on their exploration of the iNaturalist information by choosing a species and the geographic area and timeframe they would like to observe the species over. For example, how does the abundance/distribution of X species change over time (from MONTH, YEAR to MONTH, YEAR). The area can be as large as the province or as small as a community park, the timeframe can range from months to years.
- Students can compare the different population, migration or flowering trends at different times in the same area so they can see for themselves how biodiversity can be affected.
- Then have students create GIFs to map these differences in biodiversity. Below are instructions on how you can go about helping your class to create a GIF of their own:
Making a GIF using iNaturalist data
- Go to iNaturalist, select “Explore” from the top menu bar. In “Observations”, search your species or taxonomic grouping. Next, input the location you want to collect observations from.
- Filter observations by date observed. Filtering by month is best if you want to see seasonal changes of a species. Use Range if you want to observe changes annually or watch total observations of that species decrease or increase over time.
- Take a screenshot of each date observation that was filtered. You want to try to capture as close to the same area as you can in each picture. The best way to accomplish this is to set up how you would like the map to look during your first search and then simply change your filter without adjusting anything on the map while grabbing subsequent screenshots.
- Edit your screenshots to add any text or icons and crop the image to your desired size. This can be done using a wide range of tools such as the MS Office Suite, photo editing software (Photoshop) or online design websites (Canva). Remember to edit and crop the frames as close as possible to create smooth transitions and avoid the images jumping around.
- Search online for a suitable GIF creator webpage (see Resources section below) and upload all frames to the website. Many websites will also have the editing capabilities mentioned in the previous step, which will allow for uniform editing across all frames. Once uploaded and edited, you can adjust the timing of the frames before finalizing and creating the GIF.
- Save and share your GIF!
SHARE WITH US!
We’d love to have your feedback and see photos of your students’ learning and participation or their GIFs they created in this activity. Use the hashtags #InvasiveWiseEd, #BCinvasives or send to email@example.com for the opportunity to win resources and have your class have a virtual visit with an invasive species expert!
- Have your students share their GIFs as presentations to the class to further their communication of community science skills.
- Explore connections. Are there species that depend on each other, or does an invasive threaten a native species? Explore these connections and compare the biodiversity trends.
- Go outdoors to observe and learn more about the invasive species in your region. You may be surprised to find that there are many common species found in populated areas that are invasive, such as Eastern grey squirrels, European starlings, House sparrows and many plants!
- Organize a BioBlitz using iNaturalist. BioBlitzes record as many species as possible within a designated location and time. This is a great way to connect students to their environment while generating useful data for science and conservation.
GIF Generator Suggestions
Invasive Species Profiles
Don’t Let it Loose information and resources
- Von Tol, Alex. Aliens Among Us: Invasive Animals and Plants in British Columbia. 2015. Royal BC Museum, Victoria, BC.
- Wilcox, Merrie-Ellen. Nature Out of Balance: How Invasive Species are Changing the Planet. 2021. Orca Book Publishers, Victoria, BC.