An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

Lesson 2: What is ClimateWatch?

Teacher led notes/speech/discussion

Through a group discussion or presentation introduce Earthwatch and the ClimateWatch program.

You can download and use the ClimateWatch video to help explain ClimateWatch.

Useful Links

Why record observations? How can citizen scientists help?

“Changes in rainfall and temperature across Australia are already triggering changes in the established flowering times, breeding cycles, migrations and distributions of the country’s flora and fauna, both native and introduced. Citizen scientists play a very important role as we do not have enough dedicated scientists to monitor different areas.” Dr Lynda Chambers, Senior Researcher, Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research – Bureau of Meterology, ClimateWatch Science and Technical Advisor.

Scientific research requires a lot of data in order to make valid conclusions.  For example: you can’t make the statement that “All birds lay their eggs in summer” if you only observe one bird laying their eggs in summer.  You need to make many observations of birds behaving the same way (and also, NOT behaving in that way at different times of the year), before you can conclude that “All birds lay their eggs in Summer.”  Gathering data is time consuming and also requires a lot of complicated statistical analysis, so Earthwatch asks for our help to gather lots of pieces of data – together – to create a big list of many observations that scientists can analyse and use to test hypotheses.


What are Indicator Species?  (Teacher led notes/speech/discussion)

Climatewatch has worked with scientists to select a list of native animals and plants found in Australia.  These have been called INDICATOR SPECIES.  They were chosen because their behaviours are reflective of seasonal changes, rainfall, temperature and other weather patterns.  They were also chosen because they are easy to identify and can be seen often, as well as having a large distribution.  For example: we wouldn’t pick a Burrowing Bettong, because they do not show behaviours related to seasons or weather, they are endangered, so they are not easily observed in the wild, and they do not have a large distribution – they are only found on 2 Australian islands.  It would be difficult to make lots of observations of Burrowing Bettongs.  But, we see loads of magpies and we all know what they look like, don’t we?

Another example:  the bobtail hibernates over winter and starts to emerge in Spring when the weather is hotter (we know this already) and the West Australian Christmas trees will flower in Summer.  We want to find out if this is changing because the weather is changing.  Will the bobtails start to wake up earlier if it is getting hotter earlier in the year? Will they nest at a different time?

Look at the ClimateWatch Science Advisor comment under the What to Observe section for each species to find out what questions scientists want ClimateWatchers to help answer.

Classnotes: Write the definition of these terms

  • Climate change
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Global warming
  • Climatewatch
  • Indicator species

This lesson has been developed by the Penny Musgrove, Environmental Education Officer,City of Melville.