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Be a sofa scientist!

Posted by Katie Remine, Living Northwest Conservation Coordinator and Bobbi Miller, Wildlife Conservation Manager

Just because we’re practicing physical distancing, doesn’t mean we can’t do our bit for wildlife and the great outdoors! There are still plenty of ways you can engage in conservation actions right from your living room or backyard. Woodland Park Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation staff invite you to join them as a wildlife conservationist with these five activities you can do from the comfort of your couch (or hammock)!

A Seattle Urban Carnivore Project motion sensor remote camera documents a group of raccoons in the greater Seattle region. Photo courtesy of Seattle Urban Carnivore Project / Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle University.

1) Report your sightings of urban carnivores

Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle University’s Seattle Urban Carnivore Project explores how mammalian carnivores, such as coyotes, foxes, raccoons, bobcats, and even cougars and bears live and interact with people across urban and suburban areas in the Seattle region. If you're seeing more wildlife in your own neighborhood, please visit our Carnivore Spotter website where you can record your local carnivore sightings and explore sightings throughout Seattle!

Image courtesy of Seattle Urban Carnivore Project / Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle University

2) Identify wildlife in camera trap images

Ever thought of becoming a wildlife researcher? We can help you fulfill that dream. Woodland Park Zoo is excited to invite our community to help us with our wildlife research! On the Zooniverse platform, you can help to identify the wildlife we’ve detected on camera traps in urban and wild places across Washington, as part of our Seattle Urban Carnivore Project and Washington Wolverine Project. New photos will be posted there soon, but in the meantime, if the desire to explore Africa is in your heart, we can "take you there" too. Check out Snapshot Ruaha to helo our conservation partners in Tanzania ID their photos.

A Seattle Urban Carnivore Project motion sensor remote camera captures a pair of black bears in the greater Seattle region. Photo courtesy of Seattle Urban Carnivore Project / Woodland Park Zoo and Seattle University

3) Document and explore biodiversity by joining the City Nature Challenge 

You can add your observations of wild plants and animals around your home to iNaturalist, an online platform for logging biodiversity observations. See how to get started here. You can also use iNaturalist to participate in a global urban biodiversity observation weekend event called the City Nature Challenge (CNC) . It runs from April 24-27 and this is not only the the 5th anniversary of this challenge, but it's also the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!

In light of the recent global health situation, CNC organizers have made a few adjustments to the event so that we can following public health guidelines and stay safe and healthy. Instead, of being a competition, they've refocused this year’s event to embrace the healing power of nature and to encourage collaboration. You can learn about all the ways you can participate here.

iNaturalist also offers a really new and different way to see Woodland Park Zoo, too--and to learn why it it truly is an urban oasis. Click here to virtually explore all the different wild animals and plants that people have identified and logged on zoo grounds.

4) Look for and report your observations of monarch butterflies 

Monarch butterflies are seen only occasionally in western Washington, but are more common in parts of eastern Washington. The Western Monarch Mystery Challenge is a citizen science campaign running now through April 22, 2020. This effort which is led by researchers from Washington State University, Tufts University, UC Santa Cruz and the Xerces Society, is designed to help us learn more about monarchs in order to inform urgent conservation efforts. If you see a monarch butterfly anywhere in Washington, take a photo and post it to iNaturalist to help out this project!

Monarch butterflies are occasionally seen in western Washington but are more common in the eastern part of the state. Photo via Peter Miller on Flickr

5) Discover local birds in your backyard

You can use the Merlin Bird app to help you identify birds you observe in your backyard or neighborhood. Or virtually head to the shrub steppe habitats of eastern Washington (where Woodland Park Zoo works with raptor researchers) to better understand and protect magnificent birds such as golden eagles, rough-legged hawks and burrowing owls, like our very own Papu. You can also participate in a Zooniverse monitoring project to help study Papu's wild cousins.

Papu, seen here as a chick, is a burrowing owl who lives at Woodland Park Zoo. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo

6) Explore the world! 

On iNaturalist, you can virtually explore some of the wild places that Woodland Park Zoo and its partners help to protect, as well as observations of wild plants and animals on zoo grounds! 

7) Celebrate Earth Day! Join a virtual discussion with Woodland Park Zoo

This Earth Day, April 22, chat live with zoo experts and hear inspiring stories of how we’ll do anything for animals, even while we’re closed. The event starts at 6:30 p.m., learn more at