Ryan Bliton and Megan Greenwood attempt to identify an insect during an annual survey JUly 27 at Scarborough Marsh. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

SCARBOROUGH — Data collected by volunteers during a marsh survey  will be shared through the database iNaturalist, giving scientists around the world access to information about local plants and insects.

iNaturalist is a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society, but allows people across the globe to virtually connect with experts to identify organisms and build their knowledge by talking to other naturalists.

The yearly initiative, now in its seventh year, invited members of the community to participate in a plant and insect monitoring session July 27 from 9 a.m.- noon. More than 20 experts and novices huddled together that morning at 92 Pine Point Road, listening intently as Linda Woodard, director of the Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center, described the process.

Textbooks to help identify plants and insects were available during a plant and insect monitoring event at Scarborough Marsh held in late July. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

“We’ll provide you the materials you need to aid in identifying and recording data,” Woodard told the group, pointing to nearby textbooks, bug nets and plastic bags used to collect samples. “And there will be a leader for the two groups, one of which will monitor insects, the other which will monitor plants.”

It had the potential to be no small task. Scarborough Marsh, which is owned and managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, has more than 3,000 acres that serve as a sanctuary for wildlife.

Woodard said BioBlitz events — or intense periods of biological surveying in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area — are common and not unique to the area.

“We do other monitoring events, too, like birding, but we chose to spread them out because we figured we wouldn’t have enough people show up to one big event,” she said. “We’re thinking of hosting this at other locations throughout Scarborough next year, but that’s still up in the air.”

Experts and novices gathered to participate in an insect and plant monitoring event at the Scarborough Marsh Audubon center July 27. Krysteana Scribner / The Forecaster

She said while there are some professionals in environmental studies come to the event each year, a majority of volunteers are novices interested in learning more about the environment.

Gary Roberts, who began volunteering at Audubon 35 years ago, said the database can serve as a location for people to visually see how trends in the marsh occur over the years. This year, he said, there seemed to be more invasive species than before.

“If there is any catastrophic event, you can go back into this database and know what you have in the past. From there, we could build a baseline so we know how to move forward,” he said. “I’m a proponent of controlling and understanding climate control, and it’s having an effect on the types of plants that show up here.”

Woodard, who has worked at the location for nearly 30 years, said surveying depends deeply on the volunteers that show up to help collect data.

“Scientists utilize this data to help determine the health of the marsh and to track changes or new trends that develop,” she said.

Woodard said at least 35 different insect species were tracked and put into the iNaturalist database, while over 100 plant species were found.

Falmouth resident Hailey Janelle, who works as an education intern at the marsh, said it’s important that people participate in the event, especially if they live locally.

“Insect populations, in particular, can tell us a lot about how the marsh is doing. They are more susceptible to temperature changes and things like that,” she said. “So people living in this town would benefit to know how nature is doing around them.”

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