Citizen Scientists and Sustainable Travel

July 3    Citizen Scientists and Sustainable Travel: Aiding Field Science While Exploring the Natural World from the Equator to the Poles”. Presented by Sarah Aciego, University of Michigan.

Citizens as scientists, contributing to serious research problems across the globe, has become an ever more integral and even critical part of global science efforts. Traditional science research, funded through government agencies and private foundations, has documented a wide variety of global changes from natural and anthropogenic causes. But these studies are often limited by funding, either in their spatial or temporal extent, and important features in a time series or map can be lost due to discontinuous projects; citizen science efforts can remedy these limitations. The growing field of public participation in scientific research (PPSR) engages members of the public in collecting data for projects that may require measurements over long time periods, over wide geographic areas. Acting as a citizen scientist can be an extremely rewarding process for those involved. Citizen science projects built around personal travel bring a greatly expanded understanding of local geology, glaciology, oceanography, and culture. Although projects vary in the degree of collaboration between science researchers and volunteers, new technology and guidance from organizations ensure consistency in data collection and subsequent analytical accuracy. Many are familiar with the transformative ornithological work that bird watchers have done to document migration patterns, but community geologists have also been active from the early days of citizen science in Greenland, to current projects documenting “King Tides” in Hawaii, to air quality in the Appalachian Mountains, and to hydrologic data assessment of flood stages. These projects have varied in their technologic requirements from early ones requiring complex film utilization, to more recent ones that utilize simple cell phone pictures and dedicated apps. However, the citizen scientist data have been instrumental in maintaining baseline measurements in the absence of fully-deployed projects in many places, and have led to >100 peer-reviewed publications. New advancements in miniaturized probes for pH and temperature assessment, and processing geo-spatial information, will allow citizen scientists to become ever more integral players in global environmental monitoring in the future. The only questions left to answer are: where do you want to go and what do YOU want to study?  Video