From safeguarding the future of our bird populations to discovering how RNA technology can help with challenging health conditions and everything in between, scientists are doing what’s best for our world. We’re doing some amazing things. But science isn’t just for universities and researchers. Science is for everyone, and you don’t necessarily have to wave your lab coat to make a meaningful contribution.

Amateur researchers known as “citizen scientists” often collaborate with professional scientists to help them learn more about our world. Ordinary people have participated in and contributed to scientific research for centuries.

Crowdsourced data collection

One of the main ways citizens can contribute to science is through data collection. Collecting the amount of data needed to conduct research is often very difficult for scientists. This is where they call upon their civilian counterparts to assist with tasks such as monitoring and recording that they cannot accomplish on their own.

“Often we need very fast data at large spatial scales. For example, after a fire, we needed to know the impact on biodiversity in the affected area,” said UNSW Sydney and Australian Museum Veterinarian Dr. Dr. said. Jody Rowley says “There is no way we scientists could collect all this data ourselves. We need help. We are eternally grateful and acknowledge the efforts of all participants.”

Dr. Roli is the principal scientist of FrogID, a citizen science project that advances our understanding of Australia’s native frog species. Thousands of people across Australia record frog calls through his free FrogID app and to date he has built a massive database of nearly 700,000 frog records.

Thanks to citizen scientists working together to record frog calls through the FrogID project, scientists were able to discover and explain two new, much faster frog species in eastern Australia.

“This database has revolutionized our understanding of Australian frogs and is used by myself and other researchers, land managers and conservation agencies across Australia,” says Dr Rolle.

Anyone can join FrogID. Just download his FrogID app for free, go outside and listen to the frogs. Photo: Jody Rowley.

Dr. Michelle Harley of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering leads Coast Snap, an innovative community beach monitoring program where citizens use social media photos to generate coastline data. Every day, community members share snapshots of the coastline to help researchers better understand how the coastline is changing over time.

“By using CoastSnap, citizens are contributing to expanding datasets that would otherwise be inaccessible every day,” says Dr. Harley.

CoastSnap started as a small community event in Sydney’s North Beach, but thanks to public enthusiasm, it’s become a global project. More than 20 countries around the world are now actively tracking coastal change.

“I didn’t expect the level of participation to be incredible, and I think it would have been as big as it was, thanks to the community,” says Dr. Hurley.

The data generated through the project is also often highly accurate. With Coast Snap, this is almost comparable to what is collected by professional coastline monitoring equipment.

“We can use the data to monitor the risk of coastal erosion and identify hotspots that need special attention. It also helps us predict when things will change,” says Hurley.

improve public understanding of science

Dr. Harley says citizen science helps raise public awareness of the critical role of science in science and decision-making. Projects involving the public can help bridge the gap between decision makers and communities.

“Involving communities in data collection helps remove some of the barriers that exist between coastal managers, governments and citizens,” says Dr. Harley. “This project will help us obtain high-quality coastal monitoring information while educating the public about beach dynamics.”

Some citizen science projects also help improve scientific literacy by giving participants hands-on experience with the terms, skills, and methods that scientists use.

“The citizen science project got me interested in becoming an environmental engineer,” says Dr. Harley. “When I was little, I remember going to the local stream and measuring the phosphate and pH of the water.”

Giving people a taste of what it’s like to be a scientist also helps foster interest and enthusiasm for science, and can inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM.

“It’s great when people get involved in the project and completely fall in love with frogs, or at least become a little more aware of them,” says Dr. Rowley.

“Certainly, one of the hopes of citizen science projects like Coast Snap is to inspire more people to become environmental engineers and environmental scientists, because the world needs more people.” says Dr. Harley.


With CoastSnap, citizens contribute to researchers on otherwise inaccessible coastal data. Photo: Coast Snap/UNSW Water Research Laboratory.

Engaging in Responsible Citizen Science

You might want to jump right in and start walking around the bush. However, it is important to always consider ethics when working with science, especially when it comes to projects involving animals and the environment.

“The FrogID project is designed to safely collect critical data without inadvertently affecting frogs, such as not handling them, and is a ‘safe frog pledge’ that we all should take.” there is. Dr. Lowry says.

Please take the time to read the project guidelines and make sure you are contributing in the most beneficial way.

“It is important to carefully follow the instructions to ensure that the collected data can be used and that the information is collected securely,” says Dr. Harley.

If you’re interested in becoming a citizen scientist but don’t know where to start, I recommend finding an established project that fits your interests.

“Of course, you may not know if you’re interested in frogs, echidnas, or leaves until you’re a citizen scientist who starts paying more attention to them and collects data about them. So try different projects.” It’s also a good way to start,” says Dr. Rowley.

Here are some ways citizen scientists can support UNSW researchers today.

Amphibian Records: FrogID

Critically Endangered Southern Banned Frog (Mixophis balbus)

One of the frogs, the dangerous brown frog, used FrogID to record calls to burned areas after a fire.Photo: Dr. Jody Lowry

To monitor frog populations, we collect recordings of frog calls across Australia.

Citizens have recorded about 700,000 frogs, which scientists use to make many discoveries, including new species of frogs.

Members of the public can download the FrogID app to keep counting Australian frogs and help scientists further conservation efforts.

Read more: Many Australian frogs will not tolerate human impact on the environment

Watching Beach Changes: Coast Snap

Coast Snap Station on Manly larry pace

Coast Snap is a network of simple beach camera mounts that allow members of the public to take pictures and upload them to social media. Photo: Larry Pace.

Become a coastal scientist to help predict changes on our coasts.

CoastSnap uses a photopoint cradle and image processing to turn your phone into a powerful coastal monitoring tool. Over time, community photographers have created an accurate record of how the beach erodes and recovers.

Anyone with an interest in the Coast can join from anywhere in the world with a smartphone.

Read more: Revolutionizing coastal monitoring one social media photo at a time

Identify Australia’s iconic species, the dingo. bingo!

The Lonely Dingo on Fraser Island

You can support Dingo Research from the comfort of your own home. Photo: Shutterstock.

Helping scientists better understand and manage dingo populations.

Dingo? bingo! The camera enlists the help of members of the public to locate dingoes and other animals from images obtained from a network of traps.

Complete collection of Dingo? bingo! Now that the photos are available and ready for classification, join us now and help our research team learn more about dingo behavior.

Read more: Dingo? Bingo!How to Help Dingo Research at Home

Tracking Wildfire Recovery: Environmental Restoration Projects

A fern sprouting after a wildfire

Ferns have sprouted new shoots after the January 2020 wildfires. Photo: Casey Kirchhoff

The Environmental Restoration Project invites citizen scientists to share their photos of wildfire restoration.

The Eureka Award-nominated project mobilized 1,600 volunteers who made more than 25,000 observations to help track damage and biodiversity loss and gather critical recovery data. .

To provide data, participants can download a mobile app available from the global citizen science platform iNaturalist, take pictures and upload images.

Read more: Environmental Reform After Wildfires: Citizen Scientists Document Thousands of Observations

Restoring the Undersea Grasslands: Operation Posidonia

Giulia Ferretto Port Stephens Posidonia Australia Underwater Planting

Giulia Ferreto of UNSW Science anchors Posidonia Australia to the old boat Mooring Scars in Port Stephens. Photo: Grumpy Turtle Creative.

Collect pieces of seagrass that are used to regenerate seagrass meadows, one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet.

Posidonia We support seahorses, blue crabs and snappers and have successfully regenerated them with the help of local volunteers.

If you’re a dog walker or local beach lover, be part of the solution by joining the local ‘Seagrass Storm Corps’.

Read more: Putting Poseidon to work: How citizen scientists are helping endangered seagrass recover

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