Citizen Science is “For the Birds”

Backyard table and chairs with trees and plants where you can watch the birds
September 26, 2018

The work that I completed this past week on my new research project could easily be filed under “things I know now that I wish I knew then." When I tell my online Biology students that I continue working in scientific research while sitting at home, sipping coffee, and enjoying the view in my yard, they are incredulous! Yet, here I was this past weekend, collecting data on the presence of different bird species in a local neighborhood:

But citizen science is more than just “for the birds.” Research opportunities in Citizen Science rely upon the participation of the general public in the process of science and in recent years have opened up a new level of engagement within the worldwide scientific community. By leveraging the access of the general public to the internet as a way to connect people to projects in science, researchers can get help from the citizens around the world in both data collection and analysis of research results. Topics in citizen science can range from areas in traditional science such as astronomy, microbiology, and ecology to literature and social science.

My project this year is born from a new-found love of birds. Birding, or the hobby of identifying bird species during their annual migration patterns, has emerged as a way to document the relationships of habitat fragmentation, climate change, and local sustainability efforts upon species diversity. Using support materials from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the birding project that I am working on is one that will now be available to new students taking online Biology 100 – Concepts of Biology Lab. Celebrate Urban Birds will use the data that I collect today, and the observations Biology 100 students record each semester, as a part of a national reporting support network to inform the effectiveness of sustainability practices upon local habitats.

To learn more about citizen science projects that may interest YOU, visit Zooniverse.org or enroll in Biology 100L online to complete your own citizen science project.