Jenn is a rare and wonderful person – she has the critical skills of a scientist, and the communication skills to inspire people and encourage collaboration.
This makes her a perfect leader in citizen science, because she knows how to work between worlds. She understands the priorities of both science and people who simply love the marine environment and want to help, and she’s able to find pathways for both to achieve these goals.
This episode was a great reminder that the people of Moreton Bay should take a moment to pat ourselves on the back – we really are making a difference to the health of the Bay.
The involvement of ordinary people in science to help understand and manage our local marine patch, as Jenn mentioned, when Moreton Bay was recognised as a Mission Blue Hopespot. (Mission Blue is a global conservation advocacy organisation led by Dr Sylvia Earle, a former Chief Scientist for NOAA, and Time Magazine’s first ever “Hero for the Planet”)
Why citizen science?
Citizen science really does contribute an immense amount to the global “body of knowledge” we have about our natural environment.
For just a small sample, pop over to Reef Check Australia’s publications page and click through the different links – all of this information – new to the world – was made possible by people who aren’t scientists. They simply have an interest and a willingness to get involved.
(While you’re there, have a gander at how many of those publications have Jenn’s name attached – this is what I meant when I said I’d seen her name pop up so often in my studies. She really is helping everyday people make a difference to new generations of scientists!)
Citizen science is not a new phenomenon! People have been contributing en masse to building formal knowledge for thousands of years.
(Opinion: the vast contribution that non-scientists make to our formal understanding makes a great argument for a) letting go of the “ivory tower” mould, which sadly still exists in some scientific circles and b) dismantling the current academic publishing system, in favour of some form of open access. But those are topics for another blog… 😉)
The benefits of being involved in a citizen project are not all for science, or for any of the applied fields that make use of the knowledge. Volunteers for citizen science get a lot of personal benefit from their involvement too! Some may gain professional skills they’re lacking, but they also get to socialise with like-minded people, discover new things, or simply spend more time doing what they already do, but with a more meaningful purpose! Win.
Find a citizen science project and get started
From picking up trash to fishing to wandering in the mangroves: you don’t need to be a diver to contribute to marine science. The Reef Citizen Science Alliance is a network of 13 different groups, and there’s one to suit your interests and availability.
Don’t live close to the Bay? Got you covered: Australian Citizen Science Association and Atlas of Living Australia have a project finder for you – you can search by location, field of interest, and type of science involved.
You can even find a project that doesn’t require you to leave your desk! Zooniverse is a collection of research projects from around the world. Researchers often have immense amounts of data – far more than they have time to assess. They have nature projects, history projects, language projects, art projects and much more. You could help identify orangutan nests from drone photos or transcribe documents from the time Shakespeare was alive or identify the sounds of New York. You might even be the first to identify a new planet in another solar system!
What are you waiting for? 🌏🔬