John Brandauer (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Series: Civic Science In Wisconsin

The pursuit of knowledge about Wisconsin's flora and fauna is not just the province of professional researchers. Public participation in science has woven itself into Wisconsin's history of naturalism and conservation, an important complement to work in the state's research universities and regulatory agencies. People around the state have volunteered their time to help with everything from monitoring invasive insect pests to observing Wisconsin's bat and bird populations. People who participate in citizen or civic science have the opportunity to develop a closer connection with the natural world, and a chance to develop greater understanding of and consensus around environmental issues. Wisconsinites who aren't scientists in their daily lives also can and do undertake all sorts of projects to help address environmental challenges, from building rain gardens to fostering habitat for monarch butterflies.
 
Invasive species are a familiar and persistent challenge across the United States. Kudzu is engulfing the South, gypsy moths have been consuming forests in the East, and the emerald ash borer is wreaking havoc on several species of ash trees here in the Midwest.
Darcy Hess admits she and her husband have strange viewing habits — their home outside Beloit has several large containers filled with caterpillars in various stages of development.