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NatureMapping Program

Step 2: More Goal Setting

Casual Observation or Monitoring

The Iowa NatureMapping Program is designed to gather location data on Iowa's mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. There are two ways of watching wildlife: by casual observation and by monitoring. You may do both as a NatureMapper.

Casual Observation

The first, and most common way, is through casual observation. This is done when you go hiking, watch out your living room window, or even when driving to work. Casual observation implies no set routine, just basic wildlife watching. A casual observation could be a fleeting glimpse of a species. Casual observations can provide very valuable data, and should not be overlooked. Often, it is the casual observation that first documents the existence of a species in an area. Recent mountain lion reports are good examples. You don’t have to change the way you watch wildlife or enjoy the outdoors to NatureMap! But keep in mind that the longer you stay in one place while observing wildlife, the more used to you wildlife becomes, and the more species you are likely to see. Take your time, relax, and have fun!


Monitoring, on the other hand, is done on a routine basis. It implies that you watch wildlife in the same place, at the same time, for the same amount of time, and in a manner that is not disruptive to wildlife, every time you watch wildlife. Monitoring can take place at your feeders, on a trail hike, in your backyard, at a local park, or wherever. Just remember: monitoring means routine. If you are on a trail, you may pick out one or more spots in which to stop and observe wildlife. Monitoring projects can be set up through your local Audubon chapter, school, business, or privately by yourself. Monitoring projects can be done daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or seasonally, it’s up to you.

Minimum time required to monitor:

Three (3) minutes per stop within each of your sites. This is usually enough time for wildlife to get used to your presence. If you spend more time at a site, you have a greater chance of seeing more wildlife species.

Minimum area required to monitor:

One (1) point; This would cover a radius of 25 meters around you. This area would be considered a "site". If you have a larger monitoring site (1 hectare, 50 hectares, 100 hectares), you may have more than one stop per site, or you may only have one stop, it’s up to you. For each monitoring site, you should determine the dominant habitats surrounding you based on a 1 hectare-sized area. While your monitoring site may be exactly 1 hectare, the 1 hectare-sized area used to determine the habitats is not used to determine the size of your monitoring site. The two are independent.