Becoming a Citizen Scientist
As Master Gardeners, we share science and research-based gardening information with the public. We help our neighbors and our community with proven methods for managing everything from plants, to soils, to pests, to wildlife, and more. It can be incredibly rewarding. But have you ever wanted to be directly involved in the science itself? To help build the research that supports our efforts? It turns out that you can through citizen science.
Citizen science, or crowd-sourced science, is volunteer research conducted or contributed by ordinary citizens like us. It can support professional scientists in profound ways; by providing data, sharing experiences, raising new questions, and by connecting diverse areas and disciplines that would otherwise never come together. Individuals, teams, and networks of volunteers can allow scientists to do research that might otherwise be too costly or time-consuming to be practical. Citizen science can also open new areas of research. At the same time you can increase your own skills and understanding of the subject and the scientific method.
As a citizen scientist you can work locally on projects like Portland's urban coyote study, which tracks coyote sighting in the Portland area; or nationwide ones like project BudBurst, where volunteers around the country monitor plants as the seasons change, or the well known Great Backyard Bird Count. Some projects are even global in scope including National Moth Week, which collects data on the distribution, biodiversity, and ecology of moths, to help better understand their role in nature.
Your volunteering can be as simple as loaning idle time on your computer for large data crunching on projects like Oxfords climate modeling experiment, or you can participate in crowd-sourced information, where you actively collect data. Some people like to work on "games" created to solve scientific problems. As an example, fraxinus is a game designed to help scientists discover why the ash tree is susceptible to a fungus. Citizen scientists can even collaborate with scientists in defining their own project.
If you are interested in being a part of the science that supports our work as Master Gardeners, there is a world of opportunity available in this rapidly expanding field. Whether you are interested in vegetable gardens, birds, bugs, wildlife, or any other field, becoming a citizen scientist can be your way to get involved.
These area few of the available online resources, and the sites for the projects mentioned here:
- Projects for citizen scientists - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_citizen_science_projects
- Projects for citizen scientists - boinc.berkeley.edu/projects.php
- Projects for citizen scientists - citizenscience.gov
- Projects for citizen scientists - scistarter.com
- Gathering climate data - www.climateprediction.net
- Gathering plant data - budburst.org
- Gathering bird data - birdcount.org
- Gathering moth data - nationalmothweek.org
- Gathering local coyote data - portlandcoyote.com
- Environmental education game - educators.brainpop.com/lesson-plan/citizen-science-game
- Facebook game for ash trees - apps.facebook.com/fraxinusgame