Wednesday, May 13, 2015

So You Want To Be A Scientist?


Fig.1. Citizen scientists participating in the National Park Service’s Cascade Butterfly Project at Mount Rainier National Park (Credit: Kevin Bacher, 2012, via Flickr)

So you want to be a scientist? Not all science is done by people in lab coats holding pipettes. With so much research to be done, data to be analyzed, and places to visit - scientists are harnessing the power of the public’s curiosity. Citizen science is a great example of mutualism: scientists are able to gain assistance with research tasks, while the public participates in projects which interest them.

Citizen science is also a creative way for a scientist to expand their collections without having to travel around the world. Many physical samples sent in for studies often wind up in temporary collections, destined for consumptive sampling, but some efforts improve the breadth and depth of permanent collections. SciColl took part in the Natural Products Discovery Group (see below) and sent in a soil sample from the wilds of Washington, D.C.

Here are a few of our favorite citizen science projects at the moment. There are far more out there, so tell us about them. Leave a description of your favorites in our comments section or tweet about it with #CitizenScience @sci_coll!


Fig.2. A completed kit for the Natural Products Discovery Group, with instructions in the top right corner, a filled soil sample bag and used scoop at the bottom, and an envelope for returning the sample (Credit: Author)


Natural Products Discovery Group

Send in your soil sample to the Natural Products Discovery Group with the University of Oklahoma. Soil is home to a wide variety of microorganisms, some of which may hold the answers to combating human diseases. With drug resistance on the rise in pathogens, these researchers will study their collection of soil samples for microbes that have the potential to form novel cures and antibiotics.

Zooniverse’s Orchid Observers

The Natural History Museum, London wants you to photograph wild orchids this summer and transcribe specimen records. This data will help researchers record flowering times and track how climate change has affected the UK’s orchid population over time.

Smithsonian Transcription Center

Smithsonian Digital Volunteers are part of a force that transcribes a variety of pages for the Smithsonian Institution, from bumblebee specimen records and Latin arithmetic books to diaries from World War I. Whether you are interested in history or botany, the Smithsonian Transcription Center has a project for you!

Go Viral

For a more hands-on approach, researchers at the Boston Children’s Hospital want to know about influenza risk on an individual level. Volunteers are asked to describe their symptoms when they become sick and send in a nasal swab and/or saliva sample in a provided kit. This study intends to examine influenza from symptoms until the season’s end.

School of Ants

The School of Ants project examines ants that live in urban areas, especially around schools and homes. This project is led by scientists at the Field Museum, North Carolina State University, Arizona State University, and the University of Florida. Urban-environment biodiversity is a relatively new area of study and needs help to create a collection which will map species ranges across North America.





Glossary

citizen science
Scientific research completed in large part through public participation, from data collection and analysis, to developing or testing technologies.
mutualism
Two-way relationship beneficial to both involved parties

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