In Citizen Science, Crowdsourcing, Governance on April 21, 2014 at 11:09 am
Waterfowl arriving in California’s Central Valley in the fall. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The dry Central Valley of California seems like the last place that would be rich in wetland bird habitat, but the region is a critical part of the Pacific migratory flyway, containing critical fragmented pockets of foraging grounds. A variety of shorebird species, with their adapted long legs and beaks, poke around in flooded lands to search for their meal that will sustain them till the next stop on their journey North.
A new initiative called BirdReturns, financed by The California Nature Conservancy, uses eBird citizen science bird observation data to collect information about habitats frequented by threatened species along the migratory pathway in the Central Valley. eBird is a successful citizen science program run out of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and asks participants from all over the world to submit bird observations online or via a smartphone application. This eBird data is overlaid with satellite imagery of existing wetlands, allowing experts to target agricultural areas that are critical habitats for bird migration.
This image is taken from eBird’s website. It displays citizen science observations for the Central Valley of California.
Using this the data the BirdReturns program asks farmers to auction off their land to the Nature Conservancy for a couple weeks, agreeing to keep it flooded to a level suitable for bird foraging (usually a couple inches will do). This model is called, “Payments for Ecosystem Services,” a popular economic approach to valuing nature for the regulatory services it provides like clean water and air.
Eric Hallstein, an Economist with the Nature Conservancy, recently told the New York Times that the data-intensive initiative is “disrupting the conservation industry by taking a new kind of data, crunching it differently and contracting differently.”
The BirdReturns program demonstrates the incredible value that large scale citizen science datasets can provide for critical conservation programs.
In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing on April 1, 2014 at 10:58 am
Oak Processionary Moth
The Oak Processionary Moth, or Thaumetopoea processionea, is a pest. Large populations can strip bare even the mightiest of oak trees as the moth’s caterpillars devour a tree’s leaves, while also posing skin and respiratory issues for human and animals.
The moths’ eggs reportedly arrived in the United Kingdom on young oak saplings imported in to West London from Continental Europe in 2006. Some say the moth’s range is also growing as climate change warms temperatures throughout Europe.
So what can you do when these pests come to town? In the United Kingdom, the Open Air Laboratories (OPAL) conducts a Tree Health Survey, which engages interested citizens to alert scientists when pests like the Oak Processionary Moth are first sighted. OPAL’s citizen science effort extends the reach of the limited number of official forestry and plant health inspectors, giving them an early warning and the best opportunity to stop the pests. Read the rest of this entry »
In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, News and Events on March 6, 2014 at 8:37 am
Imagine a world where all people are able to understand, value and participate in science. This is the vision that inspires the Citizen Science Association (CSA), an emerging organization that will support organizers advancing scientific research that involves the public. It isn’t so hard to do. There are many prominent ornithological programs that engage bird watchers in research. These are not the only ones. There have been many scientific contributions of amateur astronomers. These are not the only ones. Right now, you could look at almost any scientific discipline, and if you look deeply enough and carefully enough you’re going to see some aspects of citizen science happening.
As announced at a February 16th AAAS meeting:
“The CSA is offering free inaugural membership for 2014 to grow, unite, and guide this global community of practice focused on public participation in citizen science. The CSA recognizes all forms of citizen science and focuses on building the community of practice involving those who organize volunteers. Whether organizers are scientists, educators, data managers, technology specialists, evaluators, or enthusiastic volunteers, the CSA welcomes those who want to benefit form a network based on the diverse practices of citizen science.”
The work of building the association is just beginning. While four committees have begun to coordinate planning, the CSA is soliciting the involvement and leadership of future members. Membership requires no financial contribution at this point, and people receive complementary membership by completing a short survey. According to the CSA, this survey will help the association understand the diverse needs, interests and expertise of the citizen science community; gauge the energy, initiative and commitment to CSA activities; and inspire potential funders. Read the rest of this entry »
In Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, News and Events on February 24, 2014 at 11:16 am
With 4,464 votes, Vincent van Gogh’s Houses at Auvers (1890) was the most popular painting selected for the crowdsourced exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Photo credit: Open Source
Visitors to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts recently stepped into the role of curator by voting on their favorite Impressionist artwork for inclusion in an exhibit called “Boston Loves Impressionism.” Amanda Beland, a reporter for Boston Public Radio’s show “You Are Here,” covered the exhibition’s opening as part of a Feb. 9 segment dedicated to crowdsourcing and citizen science. For the show, Beland interviewed Anne Bowser, a research assistant at the Commons Lab, to better understand the motivations of volunteers who contribute to crowdsourcing projects.
Bowser explained that volunteer motivation is complex and changes over time. “At least initially, citizen science is usually connected to people’s existing hobbies,” she said. “So for example, somebody may start monitoring avian populations because they have a birdfeeder in their backyard and they like to look at birds. And then different motivations come into play as people continue, or look at different projects, or transform their participation from just gathering data, to doing some form of analysis or interpretation, or posing new questions with data sets, or becoming project leaders.”
Check out the full segment on Beland’s Soundcloud page.
In Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, Governance on February 13, 2014 at 2:23 pm
source: Wikimedia Commons
A new bill in the House is raising some key questions about how crowdsourcing is understood by scientists, government agencies, policymakers and the public at large.
Robin Bravender’s recent article in Environment & Energy Daily, “House Republicans Push Crowdsourcing on Agency Science,” (subscription required) neatly summarizes the debate around H.R. 4012, a bill introduced to the House of Representatives earlier this month. The House Science, Space and Technology Committe earlier this week held a hearing on the bill, which could see a committee vote as early as next month.
Dubbed the “Secret Science Reform Act of 2014,” the bill prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from “proposing, finalizing, or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or reproducible.” If the bill is passed, EPA would be unable to base assessments or regulations on any information not “publicly available in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis.” This would include all information published in scholarly journals based on data that is not available as open source. Read the rest of this entry »
In Citizen Science, Commons Lab, Crowdsourcing, News and Events on January 17, 2014 at 5:45 pm
The Science & Technology Innovation Program of the Woodrow Wilson Center is looking for a new Program Assistant to support the Commons Lab. This position will serve as the principal administrative support and research assistant to the senior associate who leads the Commons Lab. PDF of Vacancy Announcement
All qualified candidates may apply. Please visit the Wilson Center jobs page to review the full vacancy announcement for duties, requirements, and application procedures. The position announcement closes JANUARY 24, 2014.
In Citizen Science, News and Events on January 14, 2014 at 11:00 am
Editor’s note: This is a re-post of an EPA news release initially published on January 9th, 2014.
(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has revamped its Citizen Science website to provide new resources and success stories to assist the public in conducting scientific research and collecting data to better understand their local environment and address issues of concern. The website can be found at www.epa.gov/region2/citizenscience.
“Citizen Science is an increasingly important part of EPA’s commitment to using sound science and technology to protect people’s health and safeguard the environment,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “The EPA encourages the public to use the new website as a tool in furthering their scientific investigations and developing solutions to pollution problems.”
The updated website now offers detailed information about air, water and soil monitoring, including recommended types of equipment and resources for conducting investigations. It also includes case studies and videotapes that showcase successful citizen science projects in New York and New Jersey, provides funding opportunities, quality assurance information and workshops and webinars.
The EPA Region 2 Citizen Science Program, which covers New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and eight federally recognized Indian Nations within New York State, welcomes the efforts of citizen scientists to better understand and protect the environment. By providing the tools to increase the quality of the data collected and assist in its interpretation, the EPA is helping the public achieve greater levels of environmental protection.
Visit http://www.epa.gov/region2/citizenscience today to explore the new Citizen Science website and sign up for our mailing list to receive regular updates on Citizen Science from EPA Region 2.