Fight or Flight: How will North Carolina’s animals respond to climate change?

North Carolina’s changing climate is altering habitat location and quality, breeding and migration patterns, and the availability of food for a variety of local animal species. Floods, droughts, and rising seas threaten breeding success of shore birds like the piping plover. Sea level rise and intensifying storms destroy sea turtle nests and egg-laying habitats. Migratory bird ranges are shifting in response to rising temperatures. Higher temperatures and decreased water quality pose health risks for cold-water fish like brook trout. As our climate continues to change, some species will adapt. Others may have nowhere to go.

sea turtles
Rising sea levels due to climate change threaten the habitats of several species of wildlife in North Carolina, including the brown pelican, piping plover and loggerhead sea turtle. Conservation efforts like this one on Beacon Island in Pamlico Sound are needed to protect these animals.

Changes We Can See

Maybe you’ve noticed different birds visiting your backyard feeder, a strange new insect chirp is keeping you up at night, or you no longer see turtles nesting on your favorite beach. Animals are extremely sensitive to environmental changes. Changes in animal behaviors and habitats can provide early warnings about how climate change will impact North Carolina.

Scientists need more observational data to find out what the animals of North Carolina can teach us about climate change and its impact on our region. Check out these citizen science projects for some ideas about how you can help collect valuable climate change data while engaging in fun activities like birdwatching, guarding sea turtle nests, monitoring oysters, and a whole lot more.

Get Involved

North Carolina Sea Turtle Project Monitor sea turtles along the coast of North Carolina.

Oyster Spat Monitoring Project Track oysters along the North Carolina coast and collect information about the local environment, including salinity, air and water temperature.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology Choose from nearly a dozen fun and exciting birdwatching projects.

Neighborhood Box Turtle Watch Photograph, document, and map encounters with box turtles in your neighborhood.

School of Ants Collect ants in your schoolyard and backyard to help scientists make detailed maps of the wild life that lives just outside (or even in) our doorsteps.

Monarch Larva Monitoring Program Monitor butterfly distribution and abundance patterns through weekly surveys of monarch larvae and breeding habitats.

Check the North Carolina Audubon Society website for current citizen science opportunities like reporting whooping crane sightings, tracking banded shrikes, or searching for color-marked shorebirds.