Wildlife Division - Community Science / Volunteer Opportunities

Many of Connecticut's wildlife conservation programs are dependent on the assistance of volunteers. Please browse the descriptions below and contact us if you would like more information on getting involved.

iNaturalist Project - Discover Outdoor Connecticut

Red-spotted purple butterflyDiscover, track, and share your observations of Connecticut's wildlife alongside our DEEP Wildlife Division biologists, Master Wildlife Conservationists (MWCs), and other dedicated volunteers as we try to identify as many plants and animals as possible from across the State. The purpose of the Discover Outdoor Connecticut iNaturalist Project is to engage every level of naturalist across Connecticut and help residents learn more about the plants and animals that share the land, water, and air with us. We will also be sharing information about other collection projects, events, and volunteer opportunities throughout the year, including pollinator week, migratory bird day, and many more!

Not sure what you have found? Post your photo of an unknown species to the project, and everyone else taking part can help identify what you have found.

New to iNaturalist? View our iNaturalist Webinar to help get you started.


Report Mallard Nests

The Wildlife Division is in the midst of a large-scale project to assess nesting success, nest habitat selection, brood movement, and habitat use in mallard ducks. Mallards are seemingly very adaptable, much more so than our native puddle duck, the iconic black duck. Our landscape has changed in the past 30 years with much more development and wetland loss. At the same time, the suite of medium-sized mammals has increased. This study will allow Division biologists to assess how mallards have adapted to these changes and how their productivity has been affected. We know that the breeding range of black ducks in Connecticut has shrunk in response to a changing landscape, but mallards seem to be adjusting, but we are not really sure.

Biologists are looking for assistance in finding mallard nests, starting in mid-April. Mallards nest in many different places, and we are trying to stratify our study to cover all nesting possibilities. If you have mallards nesting on your property or find an active nest, please contact the Wildlife Division’s Migratory Bird Program at Min.huang@ct.gov.

A female mallard sitting on a nest on the forest floor.

Mallards nest on the ground on dry land that is close to water; nests are generally concealed under overhanging grass or other vegetation. This hen mallard is camouflaged while she sits on her nest on the forest floor.

A mallard nest with eggs.

A mallard nest is usually a shallow depression or bowl on the ground in moist earth. The nest may be lined with grasses, leaves, and twigs from nearby. A female mallard usually lays from 1 to 13 unmarked creamy to grayish or greenish buff eggs.


The CT Bird Atlas Project

American Robin

The CT Bird Atlas Team, Regional Coordinators, and Steering Committee, would like to thank each and every one of the volunteer birders for their tireless contributions towards this Project over the past four years. There is no way it would have been completed without their contributions and data. Over the course of this project, a minimum of 25,000 hours of survey time was spent during the breeding season. There were over 26,000 separate surveys conducted by CT Bird Atlas volunteers during the four years of breeding season data collection. During the winter portion of the Atlas, a similarly impressive total of at least 6,900 hours was spent in cold, sometimes inclement weather to collect the valuable data.

Over the next year, look for results and products from this effort on the CT Bird Atlas webpage at www.ctbirdatlas.org.


Bald Eagle Community Science Projects

Bald eagleThe DEEP Wildlife Division monitors nesting bald eagles in Connecticut. Almost all information about new nests and the status of existing nests comes from volunteers. This information is critical to allow the Wildlife Division to protect individual nests and Connecticut’s bald eagle population.

The Division also participates in an annual Midwinter Eagle Survey in early January and relies on volunteers to survey certain waterbodies and rivers to document the presence of wintering eagles.

How Do I Participate?

Please visit our Bald Eagles in Connecticut webpage to find out what you need to know about Connecticut's bald eagle nesting season and the Midwinter Eagle Survey.


Bobcat Research Project

BobcatThe Wildlife Division is currently conducting an ongoing bobcat population survey to determine habitat use for bobcats within Connecticut. Data collected from this project will be used to determine the abundance and distribution of bobcats in the state.

This is a great way to partner with the Wildlife Division to help monitor the state's bobcat population!

What Is Involved?
Community scientists are asked to report bobcat observations. Eligible reports can be live sightings, road-killed or deceased bobcats, or signs and tracks of bobcats. When reporting an observation, please provide a date of when the sighting took place, town, number of individuals observed, and whether any individuals had ear tags or a collar. 

To learn more about the project, visit the following:

Report Bobcat Sightings

View a map of current bobcat sightings in Connecticut.

Anyone who finds a ROAD-KILLED BOBCAT is urged to call the Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011 and provide location details. (Please do not report sightings at this number. Select the link above.) To ensure the bobcat carcass remains until DEEP staff are able to collect it, we additionally ask (if the situation is SAFE) that you move the bobcat further from the road and cover it with branches or a bag. Avoid handling the carcass and use a shovel, branch, or other item to move it.


Report Sightings of FishersFisher

The Wildlife Division is collecting sighting reports to help monitor Connecticut's fisher population. The fisher is a large member of the Mustelidae (weasel) family that prefers large tracts of coniferous or mixed hardwood-softwood forests. Report your observations to deep.ctwildlife@ct.gov. Be sure to include the date, time, location, and any photos or video of your sighting. Please note that many people claim to have heard fisher calls that sound similar to a person "crying". In reality, those calls are most likely coming from a red fox (fishers are not very vocal). Report vehicle-killed fisher, as well, so they can be collected for research. Thank you for your help!

If you observe a fisher with a radio collar in Connecticut (most likely in the eastern part of the state), please report your sighting at https://www.lakenganoe.com/fisher-report-line.html. The collared fisher are part of a research project through the University of Rhode Island. Each collar has a unique identifier written in two locations, so if you happen to get a good look at the collar (via trail camera or binoculars), please include any symbols or letters you may have seen. However, please do not approach the animals to get a "better view".

Fisher Fact Sheet


Wild Turkey Brood Survey

The Wildlife Division conducts the annual Wild Turkey Brood Survey to estimate the average number of turkey poults (young-of-the-year) per hen statewide and to assess annual fluctuations in the turkey population. This index allows the Division to gauge annual reproductive success and to evaluate recruitment of new birds into the fall population. Weather, predation, and habitat conditions during the breeding and brood-rearing seasons can all significantly impact nest success, hen survival, and poult survival.

What Is Involved?
From June 1 to August 31, volunteers are asked to record all of the hens, poults, and toms or jakes (males) observed during normal travel (please only submit sighting reports during June 1 and August 31). (See photos below to help with identification.)

To participate, use the new online form (reporting form will be live starting June 1) after each turkey brood sighting during June 1 and August 31. As in previous years, paper copy submissions will still be accepted at the end of the season (starting September 1). Download a Wild Turkey Observation Form to record your observations (instructions are found on the data sheet). This is a great way to partner with the Wildlife Division to help monitor the state's wild turkey population.

Who to Contact:

Completed paper Observation Forms should be returned, starting September 1, to: Will Cassidy, DEEP Wildlife Division, Franklin WMA, 391 Route 32, North Franklin, CT 06254 (860-418-5961) or email william.cassidy@ct.gov.

Wild Turkey Poult

Young turkey poults are difficult to see in the tall grass and vegetation. Please provide an accurate poult and hen count when participating in the survey.

Wild turkey hens and poults

Hen turkeys are buff-colored with feathering to the top of the head.

Tom turkey

Toms are large, with black iridescent coloring in the feathers and a red, white, and blue-colored head.


Master Wildlife Conservationist Program 

Master Wildlife Conservationist emblemThe Master Wildlife Conservationist Program (MWCP) is an adult education program based in Burlington, Connecticut, that trains participants in the fields of wildlife management, natural history and interpretation. The purpose of the program is to develop a volunteer corps capable of providing education, outreach, and service for state agencies, environmental organizations, libraries, schools, and the general public.

What Is Involved?
Participants receive 40 hours of intensive classroom and field training and have one year, following completion of the training, to provide 40 hours of volunteer service. To maintain certification in the program, a minimum of 8 hours of advanced training and 20 hours of volunteer service each year must be completed.

How Can You Get Involved?
The MWCP is a very popular program. Only 20 people are chosen to participate in each training program. Classes are usually held in the spring. No training programs are scheduled for the immediate future. For more information about the program, contact: Laura Rogers-Castro, DEEP Wildlife Division, Sessions Woods WMA, PO Box 1550, Burlington, CT 06013; 860-424-3011; laura.rogers-castro@ct.gov.


image of a purple martin

Purple Martin Colony Monitoring

Sightings of banded purple martins WANTED! You can help by keeping an eye out for banded purple martins starting in spring and reporting them to the Wildlife Division. Are you a purple martin landlord with a colony on your property? Learn more about this species of special concern and how to get involved.


Report Ruffed Grouse

image of ruffed grouseAll members of the public are asked to report grouse sightings, which may consist of actual bird observations or drumming activity. To report grouse sightings, please contact Division biologist Will Cassidy at william.cassidy@ct.gov or 860-418-5961.

To obtain grouse distribution and harvest information, the Wildlife Division is asking grouse hunters to submit hunting reports through the Ruffed Grouse Hunter Log.


Chimney Swift

Chimney Swift Watch

Chimney Swift Watch is a regional initiative to more thoroughly assess the chimney swift population in Connecticut.

What Is Involved?
Volunteers are needed to monitor chimney swift roosting and nesting chimneys located throughout the state. The Wildlife Division also is requesting reports from property owners who have chimney swifts in their chimneys. (Learn more)

The Chimney Swift Watch webpage also provides general information about chimney swifts and a curriculum program developed for students in grades 1-2, as well as a Chimney Swift Ambassador program for high school students.


 

Content last updated in August 2022.