Stewardship Monday: What is Citizen Science?

Campers take data on debris collected near Chrissy Field.

Campers take data on debris collected near Chrissy Field.

Citizen Science is research that is conducted entirely, or in part by non-professional scientists, and is an increasingly important way that science is conducted. Anyone can be a scientist! Many research institutes and universities now take advantage of that fact and encourage citizens to contribute to data collection, analysis, and communicating important results.

There are many ways to become a citizen scientist based on your interests, skills, and the level of participation you hope to put in. Smart phone applications, such as iNaturalist and Litterati are ways that you can be a citizen scientist daily—simply take a picture and upload it to their maps, and you have contributed! Other programs require training or special skills, such as ReefCheck for SCUBA divers.

All of these programs have in common that they empower non-professional scientists to contribute to science that makes a difference. It is a great way to dive into a topic that you care about, to learn, and often, to protect.

Interns take fish data

Interns take fish data

At Marine Science Institute, our students and our volunteers are all citizen scientists. In particular, they contribute to our Fish Data Program, through which we have collected data on the fish in the San Francisco Bay for over 40 years. Through this program, volunteers can collect, analyze, and share our data—and have opportunities to learn more about marine science, and to become a part of the science community. Last Saturday, some of our citizen science volunteers shared their work at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Currents Symposium about citizen science.

You can join our fantastic corps of volunteers too! This is a wonderful opportunity for those who are interested in gaining valuable hands-on experience with data collection in the field, community service hours, or to acquire knowledge of the animals in the Bay. The opportunity to analyze the data is great for those interested in analysis, trends, and patters that emerge from long term observations. Click here to learn more about the program and to see some results!

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