Get involved in scientific research with citizen science!

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Citizen science is an increasingly valuable and legitimate scientific tool where the general public – people without formal scientific training or education – become actively involved in scientific research.

Modern citizen science has been around for over 100 years, although the term “citizen science” itself was not coined until the mid-1990s by sociologist Alan Irving. With an increase in the accessibility of new technologies like the internet and smart phones, there has been a dramatic increase in the number and diversity of citizen science projects over the past few decades.

Citizen science was featured on the Cosmos Science Briefing panel as one of “7 Ideas Changing the World”.

It really is a game-changer if it allows scientists to undertake research that otherwise would not have been possible, perhaps due to a lack of personnel or funding. It is also an educational and outreach opportunity where the participating public can learn about science and the process of scientific research.

Citizen science has been used to help classify baby talk recordings, identify behavioral changes in birds during COVID-19 shutdowns and even uncover massive coral on the Great Barrier Reef.

Here are some hand-picked citizen science projects and resources that might help you start your journey to becoming a citizen scientist.


Read more: The current state of citizen science


Citizen science has been used to help classify baby talk recordings, identify behavioral changes in birds during COVID-19 shutdowns and even uncover massive coral on the Great Barrier Reef.

Here are some hand-picked citizen science projects and resources that might help you start your journey to becoming a citizen scientist.

Why not get involved in these citizen science projects?

insect seekers

Estimates suggest that over 70% of Australia’s insect diversity is still largely unknown to science, meaning they have no official name. insect seekers is a collaborative science project that works with schools in South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland to collect specimens of invertebrates – insects, bugs, spiders and certain sea creatures – and then formally describe them.

The team of taxonomists hold sessions with students to educate them on the scientific process and its application to Australian biodiversity. They go with students to regional Australia to catch insects, then expert taxonomists hit the microscopes and DNA labs to place the species in the tree of life. They then go to the students who found it to name the species.

Fold it

There’s nothing better than playing a game that actually teaches you something, and with Fold it players can gain hands-on experience with the critically important molecular biology process of protein folding. Players solve how a protein folds into a functional three-dimensional structure based on its amino acid sequence.

Predicting how proteins fold is incredibly computationally demanding, so researchers rely on players’ intuition and reasoning to discover new folds and protein designs to then test in the lab.

QuestaGame

What could be better than taking a nature walk while learning something new about the incredible wildlife you encounter? QuestaGame is an outdoor multiplayer adventure game where the mission is to take photos and submit as many sightings of unique species as possible. Best of all, observations are shared with national and global biodiversity databases.

Stall sensors

Citizen scientists help accelerate research into an aspect of Alzheimer’s disease with online gaming Stall sensors. Researchers had previously found that in mice with Alzheimer’s disease, stalls (clogged blood vessels in the brain) are responsible for this reduction in blood flow, and by reducing the number of stalls, the lab was able to restore the memory and reduce other cognitive symptoms in mice.

But to understand exactly how stalls contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, they have to sift through a lot of data, and that’s where Stall Catchers comes in; players watch videos of mouse brains and try to identify blood vessels as “flowing” or “blocked”.

Or find your next citizen science project yourself

The Australian Citizen Science Association (ACSA) encourages participation in citizen science and has developed a Australian Citizen Science Project Researcher to find Australian projects.

Zooniverse is the largest and most popular global platform for finding citizen science-powered research online, and home to some of the internet’s most successful citizen science projects – like Galactic ZooChimp & See, and Backyard Worlds: Planet 9. It also lets you know which projects could really benefit from your help right now, in case you need help narrowing down your choices!

Through SciStarter Project Finder you can find, join and contribute to science through over 3,000 formal and informal research projects, events and tools, and even filter by location to find projects near you.

You can read and join projects managed by CSIRO and of course browse the stories written on the Cosmos website under our Citizen Science tag.

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