Take a Trip Around the Globe with Citizen Science
Citizen science is taking the world by storm. Not only has citizen science expanded the possibilities for scientific research in the United States, but it has had a large impact all over the world! Many countries utilize citizen science and crowdsourcing due to its flexibility and potential for impact on society. In this blog post, we will explore citizen science applications across the globe.
In Europe, there are over 230 citizen science communities across 28 European Union countries that promote citizen science. These communities are supported by the European Citizen Science Association. Other organizations like EU-Citizen.Science and doing it together science are also committed to advancing citizen science in Europe. The European Union and the European Commission have invested great interest in using citizen science to drive environmental research and policy.
An example of a European designed citizen science project is the LitterBug App. This app allows mobile phone users from all over the world to take pictures of spots with litter in the environment to help “rid our environment from litter!”. This app was developed by an Austrian environmental organization, Global 2000, in conjunction with the Austrian Alpine Association Edelweiss and Gebirgsverein.
Citizen science also has an impact on scientific communities in Asia. The journal, CitizenScience.Asia, connects citizen scientists through events and an online community. CitizenScience.Asia’s online platform allows scientists to readily share their experiences with citizen science.
After the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant meltdown in Japan, citizen scientists developed an organization, Safecast, devoted to open access monitoring and data collection on environmental information. Safecast is now an international company that relies on volunteers to gather and share environmental data on radiation and air quality.
South America contains some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. Many citizen science projects work to monitor the environment in hopes of asserting the importance of conservation and preservation of native species. One organization, Citizen Science for the Amazon, works with over 30 other organizations from all over the world to track Amazon fish migration. Citizen Science for the Amazon is developing a mobile application to track migratory fish in conjunction with local and indigenous populations. They also have developed manual monitoring kits that allow citizens to track water quality and levels.
Also a continent with biodiverse ecosystems, Australia has many organizations dedicated to the advancement of citizen science. For example, the Australian Citizen Science Association (ACSA), is a member-based community that works to promote citizen science and crowdsourcing. Membership to the ACSA stays up-to-date on the latest news involving Australian citizen science. The ACSA also offers a citizen science project finder to people interested in becoming involved in a project.
One project, the Witness King Tides Project, allows citizens to join an interactive photography community that focuses on sea-level changes. This project asks citizens to take pictures of key landmarks in Australia during very high tides. This will help scientists visualize the future impacts of sea-level rise. Another project, Spot a Shark, asks citizens to take and upload pictures of sharks. This helps scientists identify species diversity of sharks in oceans surrounding Australia.
Two organizations, the Tropical Biology Association, and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology held a Citizen Science symposium on June 29 to promote citizen science in East Africa. Citizen science experts met to discuss the importance of using citizen science in conservation efforts. This symposium represents an important step towards integrating citizen science in conservation research.
Similar to the Australian citizen science project, Spot a Shark, Africa has a program called Giraffe Spotter. This program allows citizens to take a photo of a giraffe in the wild and upload it to a database. From there, researchers review the pictures and see if the giraffe matches any existing photos they have. The database records the site the giraffe was spotted, an image and the total number of encounters. This helps scientists understand giraffe population dynamics.
In the United States, citizen science has exploded within the past decade. Many organizations, like citizenscience.gov, CitSciBio, Citizen Science Association, and SciStarter are dedicated to advancing the use of citizen science in both the United States and internationally. These organizations help connect citizen scientists and help spread the word about citizen science. Other agencies, like the NIH, offer financial support to emerging and exiting citizen science projects. Here is a list of funding opportunities for citizen science and crowdsourcing projects in the United States.
Not all citizen science projects are initiated by traditional scientific researchers. Many projects start at the community level as grassroots projects. One project, Gardenroots, was started by community members in an Arizona town who wanted to monitor contaminates of concern near community gardens. The project is still ongoing today and allows community members to work alongside researchers at the University of Arizona. Not only can scientists collaborate with members of the public in research, community members can enlist the help of scientists to help improve their communities.
Other citizen science projects feature online games that help scientists analyze data via crowdsourcing. One such game, EyeWire, has helped scientists map the 3D neural network of the human brain by engaging volunteers to solve complex puzzles. Games like EyeWire help involve their players in science through an interactive web interface. These games can be played by hundreds or thousands of players, helping spread the research and accelerate the data analysis process.
Citizen science can be seen all over the world in many different applications. From environmental conservation efforts to neurological observations, citizen science can have a positive impact on many areas of scientific study. Partnering with communities in science can help bridge the gap between science and society. In the future, citizen science will continue to help drive discoveries that solve unanswered questions. Anyone and everyone can have a meaningful impact on science- thanks to citizen science!