SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — When is a stroll through the backyard a real mission for science? A research project underway across North America has enlisted people around the Bay Area as “citizen scientists.”

“Here, over here,” seven-year-old Maddox Rochman-Romdalvik called to his playmate, Tessa Hartman. The two trampled through Rochman-Romdalvik’s San Francisco backyard, stooping to examine the plants up close. It looked like an ordinary afternoon playdate. But these two were conducting Ivy League research.

“I just look and try to see if there’s anything that is moving around in the plants,” Rochman-Romdalvik explained.

The goal is to find and photograph ladybugs for an extensive project mapping the creatures all over the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

Cornell University entomologist Leslie Allee is a researcher with the “Lost Ladybug Project.” She and her colleagues set out to discover why some native species are becoming so rare.

“It became apparent pretty quickly that as scientists, just a few of us could not really track and map all the species of ladybugs across the United States,” Allee explained with a smile.

Allee and the Lost Ladybug team were concerned the dwindling numbers of native species could reduce biodiversity, having a negative impact on pest control and other benefits of ladybugs in the environment. So they put out the call to nature-lovers near and far, posting identification tools and photography tips online. To date, contributors have submitted more than 17,000 ladybug pictures.

“We go out and wherever we are, we’re looking for ladybugs,” said Rochman-Romdalvik’s mother, Sue Rochman. “I love that he’s a citizen scientist. He’s out there and he or one of his friends could find a ladybug that is really important to the work that these scientists at Cornell are doing.”

“We’re really looking for nine-spotted ladybugs because that’s the one that they can’t find much anymore,” Rochman-Romdalvik answered. “Just go out and have fun looking for ladybugs and bugs!”

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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