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Welcome to our ongoing effort to catalog citizen science and other public participation in scientific research (PPSR) projects for UC California Naturalists and other citizen scientists.  We invite you to browse the listed projects or enter key words (like birds, youth, invasive, coast, Alameda, etc.) in the search box above to find projects in your area. It's a great way to stay involved and keep developing your skills as a natural scientist!

A vast majority of the information in the database was gathered from project websites and may be out of date. We encourage you to contact projects directly to get involved and learn about most recent opportunities. If you work with a listed project and would like to add to, update, or correct the information we have, please email cghdixon@ucdavis.edu. Also, please consider filling out the "PPSR perspectives" survey. Click here to access the survey, which will help guide this project in the coming year.

If you know of a project not on our list, please go to the "tell us about a project" link on the left so we can list the project here. Thanks for your help!

Special thanks goes to the National Science Foundation Informal Science Education program and the Stephen J. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation for supporting this database of projects.

Elkhorn Slough Nest Box Monitoring

  • Organization Name
    Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
  • Partners
    N / A
  • Contact Name
    S. Fork
  • Contact Email
  • Contact Phone
  • Other Contact Information

    More committed volunteers willing to monitor woodlots consistently every week are always needed to join the project; call S. Fork () if interested.

  • Project Purpose (taken from project materials)

    Obtain data on nest box occupancy (which boxes are occupied, and by which species), phenology (timing of reproductive events), indicators of reproductive success (clutch size, hatching rate, fledging rate) and parasitism (blowflies in nesting material). Monitoring these parameters serves as one way of keeping track of the health of oak woodland communities over time at the Slough.

    In addition to tracking patterns over time, this monitoring may also be useful for examining patterns over space.

  • Participant Activities

    Each spring and summer, participants monitor  about 150 nest boxes in 9 different woodlots of Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve weekly. About 5-10 volunteers meet in February, before the nesting season, to coordinate methods and training. For the following four months, each volunteer is responsible for checking all the nest boxes in one woodlot at least weekly.

    The next boxes are attached to coast live oak tree trunks approximately 6 feet from the ground. 

    Before the beginning of the nesting season, the nest boxes were made available to birds by closing the nest box door, which had been left open during the fall and winter. Observations of nest boxes began in mid-February. As a nest box was approached, the observer looked and listened for birds in or near the box. Before the box was opened, the observer used a flashlight and mirror to peer inside the box. If the box was empty, the observer recorded this and moved on to the next box. If a mouse occupied the box, the door was opened and left open to force the mouse to vacate the box. In 2002, we put mouse proofing on 68 of the boxes. This mouse proofing is soft-sheet plastic, which is cut to fit over the front of the box with a hole cut into the material to keep the nest box-hole exposed.

    As soon as nesting material was observed inside a box, the box was monitored at least once a week, but not more than twice a week. Active boxes were approached cautiously. Using the flashlight and mirror, the observer peered inside to see if there were eggs. The observer attempted to determine the date that the first egg was laid and the date when the last egg was laid based on the number of eggs first observed in the nest box and final clutch size. Once the eggs hatched, the nest boxes were checked once a week until the chicks fledged. After the young had fledged, the nest box was checked for infertile eggs or dead chicks. Chicks were assumed to have fledged if the nest box was found empty; number of chicks last seen was the number of chicks recorded as fledged. Since 2000, we have collected nests, sealed them in labeled Ziploc bags, and sent them to T. Whitworth for quantification of blowfly parasitism.


  • Data Entry
    • Collection Kits
    • Data Sheets
  • Other Participant Activities

    Other volunteer activities include: 

    • Leading guided tours of the Reserve
    • Staffing the Visitor Center and Bookstore
    • Providing general program support
    • Assisting with research at the Reserve
    • Working with our Administration and Maintenance Programs
    • Assisting with habitat restoration
    • Helping with special projects and events
  • System Studied
    • Birds
    • Wetlands - Freshwater Streams and Marshes
  • Geographic Scope
  • Region
  • Location
    Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
  • Location - Map
    1700 Elkhorn Road, Elkhorn, California 95076
  • Time Commitment
    • Weekly
  • Volunteer Qualifications

    Research and monitoring opportunities are open to volunteers interested in long-term opportunities. Volunteers should be committed to weekly monitoring for the season.

  • Volunteer Training

    Long-term volunteers participate in the Volunteer Naturalist Training Class. Naturalist training class topics include: ecology, biology, current and past research at the Reserve, ongoing Reserve projects, cultural histories, Interpretation skills, communication techniques, trail mechanics, and educational activities. Everyone is welcome.

    The Introductory Orientation training class will be on Saturday January 12.

    The advanced sessions are open to any potential ESNERR Volunteer but required to be a Volunteer Naturalist.  Naturalist classes are every Saturday in February (Feb - 2, 9, 16, 23) with a partial day on Saturday March 9.

    more information on the naturalist training can be found here: http://www.elkhornslough.org/volunteer/volunteer_class.htm

  • Cost to Participant
    N / A
  • How will the findings be used?

    Data from ESNERR are used by researchers and agencies to gauge health of Elkhorn Slough ecosystem, and are also submitted to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which manages a national database of volunteer nest box records, and identifies large-scale trends using this information.

    Data summary is published on project website.

  • Other Information
    N / A
  • Photo
    N / A
  • last update:

If you work with this project and would like to add to or update the information below, please email cghdixon@ucdavis.edu.

If you know of a project not on our list, please go to the "tell us about a project" link on the left so we can list the project here. Thanks for your help!

This database is focused on projects in California focused on the environment. For opportunities outside California, as well as national projects that don't have a California-specific components, check http://www.birds.cornell.edu/citscitoolkit/projects.