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Ala. Extension Svc: ‘Marble Bowl’ lets fans cheer on AU/UA while celebrating nature in Ala.

by Cole Sikes, Alabama Extension Service

Grab your smart phones and buckle your chin straps. The 2023 Marble Bowl is kicking off this fall. In its second year, this competition continues to take the popular Iron Bowl football rivalry between Auburn University and University of Alabama to a new venue – nature. Fans on both sides of the rivalry can participate all season to help their favorite team claim their bragging rights.

What is the Marble Bowl?

Wildlife specialists with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System created the Marble Bowl in 2022. This outlet provides people an opportunity to exercise citizen science and, of course, some friendly competition. The term citizen science refers to public’s participation in scientific research. You don’t have to have an advanced educational degree to participate in impactful research.

“Alabama is blessed with incredible biodiversity and is among the highest in the nation,” said Wesley Anderson, an Alabama Extension forestry, wildlife and natural resources specialist and mastermind behind the Marble Bowl. “With these facts in mind, the increased need for documenting biodiversity around the state becomes clear.”

The name of this program comes from Alabama’s state rock – marble. Naturally, this title fits the subject at play. In the 2022 Marble Bowl, 361 participants observed more than 35,500 unique observations and 4,927 unique species. This culminated to 1,725 volunteer hours in the name of citizen science.

No Observation Too Small

From a common native plant to an invasive species, every finding submitted to the Marble Bowl will help experts create their own biodiversity playing field for research. Successfully documenting these species helps professionals identify areas of need.

“Our world is changing rapidly, and we need to develop a baseline of what biodiversity in our state looks like now so down the road we can assess how it differs and what we should do about it,” Anderson said. “This means observations made around where you live, work and play have value too.”

By utilizing the iNaturalist platform, observations can be made from the palm of a hand. Download the mobile application for observations on the go or use the website team pages to document findings upon return from an adventure.

Get Ready for a Bioblitz

As everyone enjoys football season, be sure to make a few observations while tossing the pigskin, and get ready for a BioBlitz in 2023. For rules and guidelines about this competition, visit the Marble Bowl web page on the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu. Also, you may find other citizen science programs in Extension’s online resources.