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By focusing on small areas, sometimes familiar, sometimes overlooked, we can better understand how to protect the biodiversity around us.

<br />Cleveland Museum of Natural History naturalists places a biocube at Mentor Marsh as part of citizen-science Project Protect CLE.<br />The Smithsonian is credited with launching Biocube Life in One Cubic Foot as part of a citizen science project to look at biodiversity by region.

Two ways to be a citizen scientist

1. It's amazing how much life can be found in one cubic foot. Discover what plants and animals share our biosphere inside Biocubes—Life in a Cubic Foot, a citizen science project brought to you by The Smithsonian with local organization by The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The museum is monitoring biocubes of its own in its Perkins Wildlife Center and at Mentor Marsh, and we invite you to try your hand at building a biocube, and place it for observation in your yard or a natural area.

2. Our planet is facing a biodiversity crisis, but there are practical ways that you can help add to scientists’ knowledge about our ecosystem. The natural history museum has created a way to deepen our connection to nature. By participating in ProtectCLE, you are increasing the amount of information about urban, suburban, and rural Ohio environments that is freely available to scientists.

Get involved

1. Choose a 1-cubic-foot study site. It can be a spot in a park, schoolyard, or vacant lot, even a puddle or a spot on a sidewalk. Using a biocube to set a study site helps you focus on all the species without being overwhelmed. Click here for full biocube instructions.

2. Observe and photograph plants and animals inside this one-foot cube. Catalog as many or as few of the species you want. Collect insects in a jar to photograph, then return them. Watch from a window—a squirrel might hop through. Count and photograph the plants you see; weeds and trees count, too. Click here for data collection & photography tips.

3. Share your data with the science community. Post your images to the iNaturalist online database. iNaturalist is a community of nature lovers and scientists who pool their data to create a real-time picture of life on our planet. Posting all the species you find lets scientists look for relationships and patterns that might otherwise be hard to see. Even post stuff you can’t identify—the iNaturalist community will help identify it for you! Click here for more information about iNaturalist and the iNaturalist apps.

The Museum’s Natural Areas Division currently protects over 10,000 acres of land throughout Northeast Ohio. ProtectCLE encourages local citizens to become stewards of preservation and conservation, “adding to the acreage” of protected land in our community one cubic foot at a time.

Additionally, all ProtectCLE data on iNaturalist will link to the Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership for Biodiversity (LEAP), a consortium of organizations that work to enhance and protect the biodiversity of our habitats and ecosystems. Together, we can contribute to the documentation and preservation of the diverse natural communities in the Cleveland area.

Going to school

The natural history museum is working with Sean Sullivan, a science teacher in the Cleveland Heights/University Heights (CHUH) School District, to build a curriculum for grades 3-5 and produce a kit for the Museum’s Educator Resource Center (ERC). The ERC is dedicated to supplying educators of Northeast Ohio with the skills, materials, and information to present science lessons in an interdisciplinary manner that is accurate, effective, and engaging.)

This school year the ERC will be piloting this project with a group of elementary-school teachers and their students from CHUH, as well as with outdoor educators at Citizen’s Leadership Academy and Citizen’s Leadership Academy East middle schools.

During the pilot year, the select group of teachers will work with the ERC team to deploy, monitor, and collect data from cubes they keep in their schoolyards. The students will then use the mobile app iNaturalist to document any specimens they find and share data with other citizen scientists. Once the project is underway, students will be able to compare their schoolyard specimen data with the Museum’s biocube data on our website. The students' data will also be tagged to LEAP (Lake Erie Allegheny Partnership for Biodiversity) through iNaturalist, which will allow them to contribute to a local citizen-science project and assist with the important effort of building a biological profile of our community.

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