Chances are that if you are reading my blog, you like science. But you don’t need to be a scientist to contribute to scientific research.
You can contribute through citizen science, which is a collaborative form of scientific research that involves the voluntary participation of public citizens (i.e. YOU). Citizen science projects can be done by individuals or by teams, and they’re often under the direction of a leading scientist or institution.
Do you think that one or two scientists alone could follow the entire fall migration of the Monarch butterfly from the US and Canada all the way down to Mexico, across thousands of miles?
Well, they certainly could.
But how long would it take for only a few individuals to collect data on the Monarch’s population size and travel patterns? And how much funding would that require? With citizen science butterfly counts, you can have many participants living in the migration corridor volunteer to collect data based on their observations. Such wildlife-monitoring programs are not only cheap, but they allow for large-scale data collection. Quite efficient they are.
So for the scientist, citizen science is a very powerful way to improve scientific research because it can greatly improve the sheer quantity of data that is collected, and it’s a great solution to a shrinking science budget.
But what’s in it for you?
Citizen science makes research a more democratic process, which means you get a say. Also, a fresh set of eyes on an old problem can lead to creative innovations. Isn’t it wonderful to think that you can discover something new and contribute to our scientific knowledge? Plus, it’s a nifty way to engage with the world (for more, read this).
There are a large number of projects and online outlets for you to share and contribute to science, so I am including links to them below. Some of them are regional. But no matter your interests, there is likely to be a perfect project for you. So get on out there and start collecting!