What’s the fastest way to collect scientific data? Get citizens involved! Citizen Science is a brilliant way to get communities involved with scientific experiments that directly affect us all. Anyone can write down observations or collect samples, which is a huge contribution to scientists. After all, there are a finite number of scientists with a limited amount of time and they can’t be everywhere at once. Contributing to Citizen Science is something everyone can participate in. It can be a fun project for you and your family, or for your entire K-12 classroom. Either way, Citizen Science is a great way to contribute to scientific research, engage citizens in learning about nature and science that directly affects them, and it results in smarter, stronger communities.
Citizen Science is alive and well in Seattle, with local programs like the Seattle Aquarium, the Seattle Audubon Society for Birds and Nature, Sound Citizen (which tests for human compounds in water), the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, and the WA Native Plant Society Noxious Weed Project. Most of these programs are free, but some come with a small fee, like the American Gut project and the uBiome — Sequencing Your Microbiome project.
Citizen Science doesn’t have to be organized by a group interested in collecting data for a specific purpose, in fact some programs encourage you to explore and learn more about science that interests you. These programs include DIY bio science labs and hackerspaces, which allow you to discover science in your own way for your own purposes.
There’s no down side to participating in any form of Citizen Science. It’s a fun learning experiment, it’s community-building, and it allows you to directly contribute to scientific discoveries without requiring a college degree. Plus, the more we know, the more we grow!