Citizen science
March 28, 2008 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of crowdsourcing approaches to conservation science, where anyone - not just scientists - can help in conservation efforts by gathering data, etc.

I just came across the Ecocean Whale Shark ID Project, which lets anyone upload photos of whale sharks to help ID and track them around the world. (You can also donate unused processor cycles to help crunch the data.)

I'm wondering if there are other programs like that out there, especially ones that harness the awesome power of the Interwebs.

I know organizations like Earthwatch let you pay to help with conservation project for a few weeks.

That's on the right track, but I'm more interested in projects that let anyone with an interest in conservation, some spare time and (presumably) an internet connection help do honest-to-god science, without (necessarily) having to travel to the ends of the Earth or drop a lot of money.
posted by gottabefunky to Science & Nature (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Climate Prediction.Net. Run the model from your PC and contribute the data:

By using your computers, we will be able to improve our understanding of, and confidence in, climate change predictions more than would ever be possible using the supercomputers currently available to scientists.
posted by freya_lamb at 11:59 AM on March 28, 2008

Project BudBurst
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 12:05 PM on March 28, 2008

p.s. Re: ClimatePrediction - to clarify, you don't have to do any actual modelling and reporting yourself, the system does it all for you - but you do get a nifty screensaver showing your model in action, and message boards etc for that community vibe. Without leaving the house!
posted by freya_lamb at 12:20 PM on March 28, 2008

There are many programs that ask you to report sightings of such-and-such rare species to groups that work to protect them (often governmental, but also academic or non-profit), which is the same basic idea as the whale shark project you link to. On a larger scale, birders like to do annual bird counts, were people from all over will go out on the same day, count all the different birds they see, and report the data back to the group that stores it in a database. There are also Streamkeepers programs for people who want to volunteer to collect data for a specific stream (including physical and chemical characteristics and flora and fauna surveys).

You might be interested in the NatureWatch program in Canada, that includes FrogWatch, IceWatch, PlantWatch and WormWatch.

In Canada, the government weather service has a volunteer program to help track storms, tornadoes, and other extreme weather and another program where volunteers report basic weather data that they measure.
posted by ssg at 12:27 PM on March 28, 2008

Not quite sure if these fit the bill, as no Internet is required...

I've helped plant and harvest native seeds in local habitat reclamation projects. Is that what you're looking for?

I've also heard of a local group (suburban Chicago) that has asked for volunteers to help count some species of fish in local streams. I can't remember specifics, but could research more if you're interested.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:28 PM on March 28, 2008

Frogwatch and a variety of bird counts.
posted by sulaine at 12:29 PM on March 28, 2008

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the UK do a Big Garden Birdwatch to assess the UK's bird population.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:36 PM on March 28, 2008

A bit different than what you're looking for, but I heard Gwen Ottinger speak last year about a group that distributes "buckets" to citizens to monitor environmental pollution. Look here: The Louisiana Bucket Brigade
posted by mariokrat at 1:06 PM on March 28, 2008

Danny Edelson, who's now a bigshot at National Geographic but used to be a professor in my department, has done this kind of thing.
posted by rbs at 6:39 PM on March 28, 2008

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