If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can win $1,000 or more by locating and helping to conserve endangered species.

It's all part of the Golden Gate National Parks Endangered Species Big Year, a yearlong contest where participants can seek out 36 endangered species, including mammals, fish, plants and insects within the confines of the 88,000-square-acre park system.

But you need to do more than just find the species; you also need to take an action to help protect them. And those actions aren't easy. For example, to get credit for seeing the California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii), you also need to volunteer and help restore the frog habitat at Mori Point. For the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus), a bird threatened by oil spills, you need to give up your car and walk, ride a bike, or take public transportation to work for a week.

The person who finds and helps protect the greatest number of the 36 endangered species by the end of 2010 will win a $1,000 gift certificate to retailers REI or Eagle Optics. In addition, another $1,000 will be divided among people who reach certain milestones throughout the year, such as the first person to find and help a southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis).

The contest has pretty strict ethical guidelines—including, obviously, a prohibition against disturbing the endangered species in their natural habitats—although the species observations themselves will be treated on the honor system and will be trusted unless they stand out or are for particularly rare species.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is home to more endangered species than any other continental national park, making it the perfect place to host an event like this. So if you're interested, put on your hiking boots and start exploring.

Image: California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii) via Wikipedia