Citizen science allows volunteers to participate in research projects, with the aim to help scientists and community groups increase scientific knowledge. Let’s hear James’ top 10 reasons why everyday Queenslanders should give citizen science a go!
1. Start a new hobby
Getting involved in citizen science projects gives you the chance to try a new hobby — you could take up photography, diving or join a local club. It’s a great way to make new friends, and provides a great opportunity to de-stress and change your mind set for a little while.
2. Learn about the world
Volunteers get to hear from professional scientists and researchers about important issues. You can learn about issues that impact all of us — particular plants or animals, behaviours of wildlife and the local environment. Globally, citizen scientists can participate in ecology, the environment, biology, astronomy, biochemistry, health, social science and archaeology — to name just a few!
3. Help make brand new discoveries
Researchers need citizen scientists to gather data, report sightings and analyse information. Volunteers are able to provide valuable data and advice for scientific research that may not otherwise be available — they can speed up the research process as there are often numerous citizen scientists contributing. Citizen scientists may be able to cover large geographic areas not accessible to scientists and over long periods of time. Did you know — last year, over a 48 hour period, 37 new species of spider and a new species of moth were discovered in the Cooloola area as part of the Cooloola BioBlitz? Imagine what new discoveries you could be a part of!
4. Learn what a typical day looks like for a scientist
Each project will give you the opportunity to learn scientific skills including collection, analysis and methodology. You will have the chance to enhance your team work, communication or critical thinking skills and potentially get a chance to use the latest technology in your pursuit for discoveries.
Scientists can mentor and coach science enthusiasts and inspire future generations to study science at school or university. It provides younger members of the community with the tools and knowledge to become leaders, advisors and experts in science disciplines.
5. Help protect the environment
Numerous citizen science projects involve helping to protect threatened species and habitats. Whether you love animals, rainforests, our precious waterways, oceans or the Great Barrier Reef, there are lots of scientists who need your assistance to help look after our planet.
6. Connect with family
Sometimes it is hard to think of things to do on weekends and holidays. Citizen science projects need help all year long, and being involved in a science project gives you a great reason to spend time with your loved ones. Do your children like technology? There are many citizen science apps you could try. One that comes to mind is Questagame — a mobile game which takes you outdoors to discover species, provides challenges, adventures and even prizes for your discoveries.
7. You can get involved from the comfort of your own home!
You can help scientists by monitoring wildlife from your own backyard or local park! For example, you can join thousands of Australians involved in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count, where participants count birds of all shapes and sizes in their backyards and log the data using the Aussie Backyard Bird count app.
You can even curl up in front your computer or tablet and do citizen science! Projects like Galaxy Explorer let you help Australian astronomers by classifying galaxies 3–4 billion light years away.
8. Be outdoors, which is good for your health
We all know that fresh air combined with gentle exercise is good for your health and wellbeing. Many projects need volunteers who like the outdoors — whether that is at the local creek, on a boat or at a national park — there’s plenty of options to choose from. Some projects need amateur photographers to capture images, and some projects use scuba divers or surfers!
9. Anyone can do it
You do not need any prior experience or scientific training to join in on the fun.
For example, you can explore the Great Barrier Reef without having to put on the wetsuit, mask and flippers with Virtual Reef Diver. You can classify hard corals in submitted underwater images from professional monitoring teams or submit your own.
10. Feel good factor
‘Making a difference’ to your local surroundings and knowing that you’re contributing to science is a wonderful feeling. The potential global impacts of citizen science are phenomenal. Citizen science can increase our scientific knowledge, and when applied, this has the potential to improve human health, our environment and society.
Interested to give it a try?
Search the Australian Citizen Science Association website to find a project in your area.