Hikers Could Soon Become Citizen Scientists in Climate Change Monitoring

Los Angeles, as seen from the Santa Monica Mountains on a foggy day.

There's a mobile app for just about anything these days. From getting you to do more push-ups and track your calorie intake to sharing with your friends what you're watching on TV, smart phones have become a handy lifestyle tool. But they are becoming more than just that: they can also be used for the greater good.

Case in point, the National Park Service in 2009 launched an app that has created a small army of citizen scientists in the mountain range that bisects Los Angeles. "What's Invasive" educates users on the top six most invasive plants within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and asks hikers to snap and upload photos of the plants (GPS location is automated) to a public database. That has helped park rangers identify where the invasives are spreading, enabling them to destroy them before more harm is done in the park's 153,000 acres.

A Promising Effort for the Endangered Yellow-Legged Frog

A Yellow-Legged FrogOnce ubiquitous to mountain ranges in Southern California, the yellow-legged frog today is estimated to have a wild population of about 150 adults. That's according to last week's NPR story on the latest efforts to save the endangered species, which has suffered a 90% population loss since the 1970s. Reasons include fire, floods and disease, but also a change in climate.

"In the last 15 years, it has gotten warmer in the winters," Geologist and director of the James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve Becca Fenwick told NPR. "It doesn't stay cold in the same way, so the storms don't build up and create a large snowpack at this elevation."

Scientists from the San Diego Zoo this winter freed 18 tadpoles into the wild in Riverside County's San Jacinto Mountains. "The initial success that we have had with tadpole survival is very encouraging, but the real test will be how many tadpoles survived through the harsh winter," said Frank Santana, a zoo research technician.

Climate Oversight: Politics & Climate Research, Side by Side

The next couple of years could be very interesting for climate policy. With the 112th Congress' Republican-controlled House, the Environmental Protection Agency and climate regulations will likely be put under the microscope (even some would like to see it swept off the plate). For example, incoming chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan would like the EPA's proposed greenhouse gas regulations overturned outright.

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