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Community Science at the RCRCD

The RCRCD has a long and rich history of  providing and facilitating opportunities for communities to participate in community science...

Current and Upcoming Projects

Blue Bird Nest Box Monitoring Program

Help Bring Back the Bluebird Population!

Person monitoring a bluebird nest box.

Did you know that bluebirds nest in tree cavities? Unfortunately, many urban areas have few trees. We can provide cavities for bluebirds and other native birds by hanging nest boxes on trees in special urban locations, such as above irrigated lawns in parks, golf courses, and even cemeteries.

Each spring, the Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District seeks volunteers to hang and monitor nest boxes. Volunteers hang and check boxes weekly from February through June. Each team or individual usually monitors between three to five boxes, which takes about one hour per week. RCRCD matches volunteers to their closest nest box location to limit travel time.

Many Western Bluebirds fledge each year thanks to our local volunteers. Some other native birds also use a few of the nest boxes, including the Ash-throated flycatcher, who's numbers are in decline. The results of our monitoring studies are sent to a national data bank at Cornell University. If you are interested in volunteering or just learning more about bluebirds, please contact Erin Snyder, at 

Additional sources of information about bluebirds:The North American Bluebird Society (NABS) promotes the recovery of bluebirds and other native cavity-nesting birds. California Bluebird Recovery Program is a great source of local information.

The Bluebird Book, the Complete Guide to Attracting Bluebirds, by Donald and Lillian Stokes.

To contribute personal bluebird observations to a national data base, check out NestWatch at Cornell University School of Ornithology. 

Phenology Project

RCRCD is participating in the USA National Phenology Network through the Nature's Notebook program. Phenology is the study of seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.  The USA-NPN brings together citizen scientists, government agencies, non-profit groups, educators and students of all ages to monitor the impacts of climate change on plants and animals in the United States. When you visit the LandUse Learning Center you can observe and record data for the species identified in the study.

RCRCD Monarch Habitat

In Spring of 2020, the RCRCD received a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Board and the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, to establish 2 acres of Monarch breeding and foraging habitat. In addition, funds were allocated towards community education on the plight and conservation efforts related to Western Monarchs. 

Once millions of Monarch Butterflies would overwinter on the Pacific West Coast but their population has been on a drastic decline since the 1980's. In the winters of 2018 and 2019, just 30,000 monarchs were counted at overwintering sites. This drastic decline is due many factors including loss of habitat, pesticide use and climate change. With the population at just 1% of it's historic size, is is now critical to take the appropriate actions to support Monarch populations.

We have a long uphill battle to save the Monarch, but through community education and outreach, partnerships and conservation efforts, the RCRCD will continue to strengthen our endeavors. Despite the hurdles we faced with the Covid-19 pandemic, we have planted native milkweed and nectar plants at our 2 acre site in Riverside. This will be an on-going effort. It is our hope that not only will this provide critical foraging and breeding habitat to Monarch butterflies, but that it will be an educational resource for the entire community. For more information please contact project manager Michele Felix-Derbarmdiker

To learn more about what you can do to support the Western Monarch, visit the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and download a copy of our handout: Steps to Succees with Milkweed and Monarchs. 

Upcoming Volunteer Events:

Monarch Butterfly Surveys: April thru October

July 9th & 23rd, 2022

August 13th & 27th, 2022

September 10th & 23rd, 2022

Monarch Habitat Larval Monitoring Flyer Summer-Fall2022.pdf

Past Projects

The RCRCD has collaborated with a number of federal, state and local organizations on diverse citizen science projects... 

Operation Healthy Air

Operation Healthy Air seeks to increase our understanding of the role of vegetation, such as trees, in decreasing air temperature and improving air quality at scales that communities make decisions. In this case, the cooling of local neighborhoods and reducing ozone formation. Operation Healthy Air engaged partners and citizen scientists to map and measure how differences in their environment–such as the number of trees or amount of pavement–affect local air quality and temperature.

We initiated pilot “campaigns” in Long Beach, and along the Inland Empire in the summer of 2017, and expanded in 2018 to greater Los Angeles and other cities. Funding for this program comes from grants from NASA’s Earth Sciences program and the National Science Foundation, as well as individual donors.

Operation Healthy Air is a partnership between national and local partners, community-based organizations, universities, schools, aquaria, government agencies, and community members. The research is led by Dr. Darrel Jenerette and his lab at University of California Riverside, Dr. Jun Wang and his lab at the University of Iowa as well as Mark Chandler at Earthwatch Institute.

Operation Healthy Air engaged 200 community members and 750 students from Long Beach, Claremont, Ontario, San Bernardino and Riverside among other communities. These community participants together with 25 local partners helped deploy over 250 temperature sensors and 18 ozone sensors and map over 60 acres of local habitat.

You can now explore the results from the Operation Healthy Air community science project. We’ve created a website where you can explore the air temperature data from our study including the sensors placed by community participants. The website was developed by Dr. Lorena Castro who is part of the research team at University of Iowa led by Dr. Jun Wang. Through this website, you will be able to compare the air temperature from up to six different sensors as well as against a high-resolution air temperature forecast model. You can compare backyards to front yards, streets to city parks or schools, nighttime to daytime, as well as data across days. Check out our “How To Use ESMC iButton Data Explorer” blog for tips on how to use the tool.

Operation Resilient Trees

Does a Coast Live Oak in Santa Monica do as well as one in Palm Desert? How much more water does a Jacaranda growing in Riverside use versus one that lives in Downtown Los Angeles? Is a tree that’s planted in a concrete median using the same amount of water as one that’s in the middle of a park? These are some of the types of questions the researchers will be seeking to answer.

Over 100 community scientists collected data from nearly 800 trees 2015-2016, recording GPS coordinates, tree health, trunk and canopy size, and the percent permeable surface around each tree. This data provides a large enough sample size of trees to make meaningful conclusions and researchers at UC Riverside can now conduct additional analyses to determine each species’ physiological performance across different climate zones.

Resilient Trees 1.0 studied ten different tree species:

California Natives-

  • California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa)
  • Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia)
  • Pink Dawn Chitalpa (Chitalpa taskentensis)

Classically planted species (ones that were frequently planted in the past and are still with us today)-

  • Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
  • Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia)
  • Shamel Ash (Fraxinus uhdei)

Modern species (ones that are commonly planted in the present day and will be with us for years to come)-

  • Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
  • Tipu (Tipuana tipu)
  • African Fern Pine (Podocarpus gracillior or Afrocarpus falcatus)
  • Brisbane Box (Lophostemon confertus)

Resilient Trees 2.0 studied another ten tree species:

  • African Sumac (Rhus lancea)
  • Olive Tree (Olea europea)
  • Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo)
  • Indian Rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo)
  • Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis)
  • Chinese Flame Tree (Koelreuteria bipinnata)
  • Netleaf Hackberry (Celtis reticulata)
  • Engelmann Oak (Quercus engelmannii)
  • Water Gum (Tristaniopsis laurina)
  • Pink Trumpet Tree (Handroanthus impetiginosus)

Thanks to the efforts of these community scientists, the lab now has enough usable trees to proceed with its research into what the right trees are for each place- a valuable task that would otherwise be delayed by months or years without help.

Interested in the raw data?  Visit the Resilient Trees 1.0 iNaturalist project page or download the Excel file here: Resilient Trees 1.0 Data (All).  For Resilient Trees 2.0, visit the iNaturalist project page or download the Excel file here: Resilient Trees 2.0 Data (All)