An Undergraduate Research Experience: Using technology to Monitor Japanese Beetles Related to Changing Climate Conditions, Across New York State

Principal Investigator:

Linda Jones, Empire State College

Our project uses a citizen science project model to engage students in science and sustainability. Students gather scientific data from their local environment and contribute to the development of a virtual map of Japanese beetles across the state. Through observations of their local environment, students examine the interconnectedness of species and climate and consider ways environmental change may alter species distributions. With assistance from the IITG, we will share and support the Beetle Project learning module and the open source code to the Citizen Science Project Template. We will provide and environment for the exchange of ideas and will generate interest in the development of other citizen science projects across SUNY by hosting a SUNY Citizen Science Conference.

Co-PI’s and Key Partners:

Nikki Shrimpton, Dean of the Central New York Center, SUNY Empire State College (Co-PI)
Sadie Ross, Director of Environmental Sustainability, SUNY Empire State College (Co-PI)
Jeremy Stone, Instructional Technologist, SUNY Empire State College (key partner)

Reports and Resources:

As promised in our end of the year report, we are providing links to the Citizen Science and Beetle Project websites we have developed using the funding provided by the USDA-NIFA-HEC and IITG grants. At those websites, the citizen science project template, which can be downloaded and used to develop citizen science projects, and the learning resources related to the Beetle Project, including instruction materials, interactive GIS community, and sampling protocols and instructional videos, are available. There are protocols for students who do not have access to the LabQuest2 monitoring units, but it should be noted that opportunities for equipment sharing are available by contacting Linda Jones at or

The learning module is built on a GIS platform using existing open source software to support online mapping integrated with environmental observations. The user platform is based on the Drupal open-source content management system with extensions to integrate the management of geographically-referenced research data and using scientific workflow tools to support student data. Everyone using this learning module will have the ability to upload data onto the same map and use the accompanying guidelines for scientific exploration. Because the module is built on an open platform, interested users can download the citizen science toolkit to explore topics, develop projects, and create maps and learning communities that suit the needs of their learners.The site will continue to be updated—materials and links added—and the platform itself will be updated to Drupal 7 during the upcoming year.

We presented a poster at the CIT2013 Conference held at SUNY/IT. The conference provided us with the opportunity to inform representatives from across SUNY about the project and to invite participation. Poster available on the Beetle Project Website.

One of the project objectives was to host a citizen science conference to connect individuals across SUNY interested in citizen science—project development and project participation. In April 2013, we hosted the first SUNY Citizen Science Conference at Empire State College. Even though the conference itself was relatively small, the participants were extremely engaged. We also attracted individuals with a wide variety of backgrounds— for example: K-12 outreach programs in New York City, biologist from Plattsburgh, and a mathematics professor from Fredonia. In the post conference survey, 92% indicated that they were likely/very likely to use something they learned about at the conference in their courses in the upcoming year, 57% indicated that they were likely/very likely to collaborate with someone they met at the conference in the upcoming year (33% not sure), and 82% indicated that they would likely/very likely to attend a second citizen science conference if one was offered next year.

After sending the RFP out for the citizen science conference we hosted at Empire State College, we found that a STEP/CSTEP conference was scheduled for the same weekend and that there were a number of individuals interested in attending the conference, but who would not be able to do so because of the conflict. As a result of that conflict and interest, however, we were invited by the APACS conference coordinators to present our project in panel and workshop sessions at the June 2013 APACS Conference in Albany. Presentations and workshop handout for designing citizen science projects available on the Beetle Project website.

As a result of the APACS conference, we were invited to offer the Beetle Project to a group of middle schoolers at the July 2013 Summer STEP program at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Worksheets used during the program are available on the Beetle Project website.

Project Websites:

Creative Commons License:

Attribution Non-Commercial Use Share Alike