A recent review of over 230 “citizen science” projects highlights their important contribution to research and policy. The review was commissioned by the UK Environmental Observation Framework (UK-EOF).
Citizen science projects are ones that ask for (or require) the help of the general public. In many cases, the volunteers do not need any training and much of the work can be done online, so field work isn’t a requirement.
The researchers reviewed 234 projects and made several conclusions:
- new technology (social media, smart phones) is “revolutionizing citizen science”
- data quality can be excellent, although it is not recognized as legitimate by all researchers and policymakers
- it is very cost-effective
- there is great potential for citizen science projects to expand
“The development of communication technologies through the internet offers many new options which will help even more people to get involved in contributing information for monitoring our environment, which is under increasing pressure,” project leader Dr. Helen Roy, an ecologist from Nerc Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), told BBC News.
If you’re interested in joining a ‘citizen science’ project, here’s a list of some of the best ocean-based projects we could find:
- ECOCEAN Whale Shark Photo-Identification: online–a place to submit photos of whale sharks that can be used to identify, track and learn more about them
- Jellywatch: international–contribute to a long-term dataset by recording and submitting any jellyfish, squid or red tide sightings along with a description or photo of the condition of the beach
- Leatherback Watch Program: US, west coast–help scientists by recording and reporting all sightings of leatherback sea turtles
- Recording Invasive Species Counts: UK–designed to find out more about the distribution and ecology of non-native species, both on land and in the water
- Seafloor Explorer: online–help identify species and ground cover in images of the seafloor (we’ve written about this one)
- The Shore Thing: UK–works with schools and other volunteers to record information about the marine life of rocky shores around Britain as a way to help predict future changes
- The Whale Song Project: online–help researchers learn more about whale communication by listening to clips of whales and finding the short clip that matches it best
Have you participated in a citizen science project? Tell us about it in the comments section, below!
Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.