Sitting in the backyard, drinking hot chocolate, and watching the bird feeder doesn’t seem like it advances the cause of science, but it turns out that it can. I wrote last month about participating in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)—a citizen science project based on thousands of bird watchers recording and submitting their sightings over a four-day period.
The final results have been tallied and more than 140,000 individuals in countries ranging from the United States to Chile to Saudi Arabia to India counted upwards of18.5 million birds, almost 5100 different species. The data will be used by researchers to determine the status and health of bird populations around the globe.
In this Yale Climate Connections segment ornithologist Caren Cooper talks about the importance of citizen science, reporting that “roughly half of the scientific papers she looked at relied on this crowd-sourced data”.
Tiger beetles are the subject of Sharman Apt Russell’s citizen science project that she writes about in her charming story Meet the Beetles (Orion Magazine November/December 2014). Reflecting on being middle-aged she writes, ” . . . I do not expect now to ever become a rock star or to go to medical school or to create cool television shows. But wait, I tell myself. Turn that idea around. At every point in life there is still a long list of what we can be. This is the clarion call of citizen science . . .”
If counting birds or tracking beetles doesn’t excite you, there are lots of other citizen science projects to get involved in. Two I have recently come across are the great sunflower project which focuses on pollinators and the monarch way station project which helps create habitat for migrating monarch butterflies.
Have a good week and spend some time outside!