Monday, May 4, 2009

The Citizen Science Movement

Citizen science is the idea that daily observations by people in every walk of life, if made with a seriousness of purpose, can contribute to the scientific understanding of the natural world. Here at PRI we do a lot of things that are citizen science focused, including participation in CoCoRaHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network, and our work in the fossils of the region.

I just read an article talking about the impacts of concerned citizens on the biodiversity loss movement in relation to climate change. There are a lot of amazing things out there that you can do to contribute to the scientific effort. Just do a quick search for citizen science opportunities and find one you could feel passionately about.

Many people find controversy in the data collected by ordinary citizens, as the article points out. I, for one, believe it to be a fantastic movement. We can't be everywhere, we can't collect data on everything. But the fact is, everything is changing and being affected by climate change in some way. If you'd like to contribute your knowledge to the science, be it on birds, lilacs (which are starting to bloom here in CNY), bugs, clouds, or whatever you find particularly fascinating, please do. Even if you don't know all of the details, don't have a GPS unit, or are new to the subject, your efforts could prove to be invaluable in our study of the planet.

That's why we scientists usually live a "cluttered" lifestyle. My apartment is full of things that might be useful as information a child my mother was at a loss for the things I kept stored in bags and boxes. But, hey, it could be important someday. And so could your observations. Science is so much more than carefully mixing chemicals together. Every day you commit scientific acts, so admit to yourself that you, too, are a scientist, and join the citizen science movement!!

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