2020 was a big year for volunteer computing with major projects ending, important new projects starting up, and lots of accomplishments.

It’s been just over a year since I put out the 2019 State of Volunteer Computing Update, so it seems like an appropriate time for a new one!

New Projects

2020 saw an influx of new volunteers and donated computational power, largely due to interest in, and press coverage of, multiple projects focused on COVID-19 research. The OpenPandemics project, which started this year on World Community Grid, is currently focused on COVID-19 but future phases will likely research other diseases. Long-running projects like Folding@home and Rosetta@home shifted their focus and computational resources to COVID research.

Another new project in 2020 is MLC@home


Hell For Sure Lake

The hike up to Hell For Sure Pass, at the NW border of Kings Canyon National Park, is very strenuous and incredibly beautiful. With the trailhead at Courtright Reservoir at 8,200' and the pass at about 11,300' you are looking at lots of elevation gain and the risk of altitude sickness if you don’t drink enough water and give yourself time to acclimate. Luckily, the John Muir Wilderness and national parks have lots of amazing campsites to stay at and there are some nice lakes with trout along the 14 mi. route up to the pass.

We spent one night…


Young mink — White River near mouth of the Buffalo River

Ever spot a furry critter while on a hike or float and wonder what it was? Not sure how to tell the difference between a mink and river otter? Or between a beaver, woodchuck, and nutria? Then this post is for you!

I was inspired to write this piece after spending a few minutes gazing in awe at a furry animal pawing the ground near Scull Creek and the Scull Creek Trail in Fayetteville. Several strangers joined me in stopping to stare at our little friend in what felt like Fayetteville’s version of a bear spotting in Yellowstone. Everyone had…


At least seven volunteer computing projects are supporting research on SARS-CoV-2 and potential treatments for COVID-19. Hundreds of thousands of people are participating and are currently contributing processing power equivalent to multiple supercomputers to this important goal. If you are looking for ways to help, why not put your computer (or smartphone) to work on one of these great projects?

If you are a longtime volunteer and have been running SETI@home for years (or decades) and are bummed that the volunteer computing component is coming to a close, why not shift your computational resources over to these projects and potentially…


As we enter a new year, the world faces many huge problems. One of the biggest issues, climate change, can spark or worsen others. If, like me, you experience feelings of anxiety, sadness, or helplessness when thinking about the climate crisis, it may help to know that you CAN do something about this issue; even while you sleep! With just a few clicks, your computer can join multiple volunteer computing projects that focus on climate and weather modeling. …


Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are now worth billions and major corporations like Tyson, Hormel, Kellogg’s, and Kroger are introducing their own meat substitutes.

Plant-based meat companies are currently worth roughly $14 billion and many experts believe the industry could grow to $140 billion within a decade. I personally think it will actually be more than that as awareness of meat’s environmental and climate impacts grows over the next few years and as governments consider and pass meat and carbon taxes. Things like tick bite-caused meat allergies and swine fever outbreaks (which have recently killed hundreds of millions of pigs in Asia and Europe) could also impact meat prices and boost interest in plant-based meats.

A lot of big name fast food chains like…


Are you putting your computers and smartphones to work on cancer research? Hundreds of thousands of people are and tens of thousands are earning cryptocurrency for it.

Update: See the 2020 Update here.

As I write this, my laptop (and phone and Raspberry pi) are busy at work contributing to cancer research, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, and more.

If you haven’t heard of the terms volunteer computing, distributed computing, or grid computing, the quick definition is that they describe the use of multiple computers to work on problems with large computational demands. The concepts are not 100% interchangeable, so if you are interested, click the links on those terms to learn more.

Past Accomplishments:

Over the past 20 years, volunteer computing projects have contributed to hundreds of scientific…


When looking at the dire challenges we are currently facing on climate change I find it inspiring and educational to look at how far we’ve come. Things people, just ten years ago, said could never be done are being done. Suddenly, the impossible has become possible. Remember these developments when you are getting down about how we can possibly make the massive changes over the next decade needed to avoid climate catastrophe:

“Renewable energy is so expensive, we will never be able to afford replacing fossil fuels with them.”

Renewables are cheap! In many part of the world, solar and…


The concept of Drawdown, is that in order to reverse global warming, we don’t just need to halt the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, rather we need to bring them back down. I was a research fellow for Project Drawdown, which published a book of “ The 100 most substantive solutions to reverse global warming, based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world”. This book is now a NYT Bestseller and is available in several languages (currently being translated into 10 languages).

I’ve been excited to see more and more cities, states, countries and businesses commit…

Johnnie Chamberlin, PhD

Johnnie is passionate about climate solutions, sustainability, smart growth, active transportation, clean energy, science, and the outdoors. @JohnnieCham

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store