As environmentally conscious world citizens, “What can I do to help?” is a question that we frequently ask ourselves when the discussion of environmental issues comes up. The National Science Foundation has found a really cool answer- everyday people can work as scientists by helping to collect data for their projects.
Citizen Scientists are:
- Concerned volunteers who collect data and share their observations with full-time scientists.
- People who may or may not have any previous scientific training or background
- People who have a curiosity for learning and a willingness to complete relatively simple tasks (such as monitoring backyard rain gauges, taking pictures of local insects, etc.)
Citizen scientists are invaluable to the scientific community because they not only provide sheer numbers to aide in data collection, but also contribute new insights to on-going questions. A group of Foldit gamers helped generate models that assisted researchers in refining and determining the enzyme structure of an AIDS-like virus which then allowed the researchers to advance their work designing anti-AIDS drugs.
A few places to check out if you’re interested in becoming a citizen scientist are:
The USA National Phenology Network http://www.usanpn.org/
Project Budburst http://neoninc.org/budburst/
Projects Sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx?pid=708
As well as many others about sustainability, lady bugs, and the sky which are linked on the original National Science Foundation Article! A lot of these are great for kids or adults, and there are lots of options for what subject you can be working on and what kinds of activities you can do. Find something that you’re excited about, and get to it!