Saturday, February 13, 2016

Citizen Science and the Great Backyard Bird Count

Contributing Author: Gentle Heron

“I’m not a scientist,” you protest. “I never did well in science classes in school.”

I beg to disagree. Anyone can be a citizen scientist.

A citizen scientist is a nonprofessional who collects data on the world around him or herself and shares the data with professional scientists. Observations of your surroundings are important scientific information, when combined with thousands of other observations from citizens all over the world. Citizen science is a way to crowd-source data collection. It’s a fun way to connect your hobbies to the advancement of human knowledge.

There are citizen science projects in the areas of astronomy, oceanography and biology. Specific project topics within biology range from moths to ants, from butterflies to birds.

This weekend (Feb 12-15, 2016) is the Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by Cornell University and the National Audubon Society. After creating an account, you simply observe wild birds and record their numbers and species. The minimum observation period is 15 minutes. You can watch in your backyard or travel to a park or other natural location to birdwatch. You can even watch a bird feeder outside your window from the comfort of your home.

Data collected by birdwatchers worldwide is displayed in real-time on the project website. Scientists combine all the information collected to get a close look at bird populations. They can use this information to see what is happening to our wild birds, including the effects of diseases, migration and climate change.

Go outside this weekend, watch and count the birds, and record your data as a citizen scientist. You can participate in other birdwatching projects when this weekend has passed.

Link for moths:
Link for ants:
Link for butterflies:
Link for birds:
Link for Great Backyard Bird Count:

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