Citizen Science

VIDEO: Citizen Science – Is It Beer O’Clock Yet?

While channel surfing on Sunday, I came across this segment on Weekend Sunrise (Click on the link above to view the video).

It’s about these two guys whose “job” it is to collect bottles of every beer right across USA – all in the name of science. Yeah, right!

It got me thinking about Citizen Science. It’s a fairly new term, but it has been practised for aeons. As the name suggests, Citizen Science is all about the collaboration between ordinary, everyday people like you and me to help undertake research which is then quantified and collated by the scientific community.
You may have heard of it by its other names: crowd science, crowd-sourced science or civic science.

When I think of scientists, I tend to elevate them to a rarified realm of existence – they in their white lab coats performing important experiments for the greater good of mankind. So it’s nice to know that they do, in fact, rely on us mere mortals for their undertakings.
At times, when it is far too expensive/time-consuming/labour intensive for a small group of scientists to undertake research, they call on the general public to help out.

There are hundreds of ongoing projects all across the globe for anyone to volunteer in. Here’s are some examples:

image* Think back to the Gulf War. Remember those huge oil spills and those images of marine life covered in oil, choking to death? Scientists needed help from the common man to monitor the devastating impact of this environmental disaster.

* If you’re an amateur astronomer, you could submit your photographs of the night sky to help astronomy-related projects.

* Here in Australia, TurtleSAT[4] is a community mapping project that monitors freshwater turtle deaths throughout Australia.

* If you have an interest in ornithology, you can help keep track of the birds in your backyard through bird population studies.

* My husband B loves to scuba dive and clicks heaps of photos of amazing underwater flora and fauna (see his photos below). He could probably help in a project like http://exploretheseafloor.net.au

Even kids can participate in projects like identifying bugs and native birds in their backyards to help in insect and bird population studies.

The best part is, it’s a win-win situation for both teams. Scientists get the help they need and we amateurs get a better understanding of what is being studied.
Just ask those beer drinkers. Oops! Beer-collectors.

So tell me, have you ever been involved in citizen science projects? Are you an outdoors person? Do you have any nature-related hobbies?

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