Become A Citizen Scientist – A Global Movement 

Guest post by Denise Wright, @DeniseCWright

Currently the world is facing many challenges such as the need for accelerating medicine, safeguarding water sources, and protecting the environment. Everyday people, from children through adults, can help conquer these challenges by volunteering to be citizen scientists. Globally, this April, we are celebrating Citizen Science Month. There are many different types of citizen projects that may peak your curiosity and can be done from an app on your mobile device or directly on your home computer. Where can you find these citizen science projects so you may participate ?

SciStarter contains over 3,00 projects that can be searched by scientific topic, age level, and location. This is a great way for educators to have their students from kindergarten to twelfth grade participate and integrate real world scientific research into their course curriculum across all learning disciplines. A unique project that can be found on SciStarter is Globe At Night. This citizen science project is trying to eliminate light pollution from our night skies. Light pollution impacts us from viewing stellar objects in the night sky, can impact animals, our personal health, and energy consumption. Volunteers in the project can easily submit local light pollution observations from their computer or smartphone.

Zooniverse contains over 70 online citizen science projects that cover topics such as medicine, the arts, history, language, space, social sciences, and nature. Volunteers sign up on the site and assist lead project scientists with their research. The site has tutorials for each project so participants can easily understand how to conduct the research. Online forum discussion threads are used so volunteers and researchers can discuss their findings. The Citizen Science Project, the Milky Way Project on Zooniverse was analyzing data from the Spitzer Space Telescope and WISE Satellite Observatory. From this project volunteers discovered “yellow balls” which were actually new star forming regions that were never noted before.

NASA has a variety of citizen science projects that cover topics such as the environment, wildlife, exoplanets, snow observations and more. One of the unique projects that I have used with students is the NASA Globe Observer. Participating in this research involves downloading an app that tracks global mosquito populations, clouds, land cover, trees, and global eclipses. This app can be easily downloaded on a smartphone or ipad. The NASA Globe Observer App containers tutorials to assist with your observations. Once complete these observations can be submitted to NASA. Mosquitos are studied due to the concern of spreading disease globally; populations are usually tracked due to changes in rainfall. This research is important since NASA satellites cannot track mosquitoes from space. Clouds play a role in transferring energy, observations can be easily made from space, but getting citizen scientists to help from the ground plays a vital role in research. Landcover and Trees provide information about the earth’s biomass, potential for landslides, floods, and wildfires.

So, since it is April , and we are celebrating Citizen Science Month , I encourage everyone to get your family members involved ! The benefits from these projects are many such as increasing curiosity , new discoveries and research studies, improving scientific literacy, increasing public education, and influencing local research and policy. When your family members become citizen scientists you are helping our world on a global scale. There is no better time to become a citizen science than right now.