Citizen science is the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists. This means that a project was designed by a professional scientist but is labor and time intensive. Often these projects involve tracking and/or counting occurrences of organisms or conditions over large areas or over long periods of time, which is more than one, two, or several people can accomplish. These projects are designed such at citizens with all levels of scientific training can help collect and sometimes analyze data.
Citizen science gives volunteers the opportunity to learn something new and to be a part of a project that is applicable to their area. It provides them information that they may not have had access to otherwise.
Check out the two following links for more information on Citizen Science:
What do I need to do for this project?
- Choose a larger, broader scale topic in environmental science that you are interested in. Some ideas include: Conservation of Biodiversity, Climate Change Impacts, Pollution, Exploitation of Resources, Human Impacts on the Environment, etc. You are not limited to these topics – they are just meant to give you some guidance.
- Once you have selected a topic in step one, think about how you can relate that topic to our area of Eastern North Carolina. For example, you might be interested in conservation of the rain forests, but that doesn’t apply here. What would apply here is conservation of wetlands, shore lines, etc. Another example is how expansion or widening of highways impacts wildlife.
- Come up with a specific question you would like to investigate with a project. For example, you could ask the question of how human presence in parks like Cliffs of the Neuse impacts cardinal populations.
- Design a project to answer this question. Don’t worry about feasibility of the project. This means you can ignore aspects like budgets, scarcity of equipment, etc. You will need to estimate costs, etc. but you aren’t limited by this. Your project must include Citizen Science! Think about how citizens could help you gather data that would help you answer this question.
- Make sure your project is in line with the scientific method. This is the process of making an observation (steps 1&2 above), asking a question (step 3 above), making a hypothesis, conducting an experiment or study to collect data, analyzing the data, and reporting the results.
- Your project should clearly identify and explain the hypothesis, variables, what data needs to be collected though citizen science, and how this data will be used.
- Your project should also clarify what training (if any) is needed for volunteers to participate in the project. For example, if your project involves monitoring a specific organism, how will your volunteers know what the organism is? Will you provide images?
- Your project should also clearly stipulate how volunteers will collect data and submit this data to the project. For the example in c., are they simply counting the number of times they see the organism on a visit to a park and then logging this number before they leave at a park station or information stand? How long will this project last? Why is this timeframe needed?
- Although you do not have a budget set for this project (Spend all the imaginary money you want!), you need to include information as to why citizen science is a valid option for data collection. Why is this type of project more cost effective? What costs are involved with conducting this project? You should create a mock budget.
- Write up your paper. Include what you have come up with for each of the steps above. You should have the following sections in your paper:
- INTRODUCTION: this includes steps 1 – 3 from above. Introduce me to your larger topic. Why is it important to study? What does it mean (For example, what is global climate change and why should I care?). How is your larger topic applicable in our area? What is the question you are asking? You will have to a bit of research here. Make sure you are giving me enough background on the topic and convincing me that it is problem in this area. Basically, you are trying to make me care about this larger topic in our area and that your project is needed. You will submit a draft of this portion of the assignment by the end of Week 2 within the appropriate assignment link on our Moodle page.
- CITIZEN PROJECT DESCRIPTION: This is going to include steps 4 and 5 from above. Make sure you are describing all the aspects of your project. Make sure you are clear about how this project incorporates citizen science! Again, you don’t need to worry about feasibility of the study as we are not actually carrying these out. This section will also include your “budget” and costs. You may include images, sample data sheets, maps of study areas, etc. You will submit a draft of this portion of the assignment by the end of week 4 within the appropriate assignment link on our Moodle page.
- CONCLUSION: This section is going to wrap up your project. Let me know what you hope citizens will get out of this? What will they learn while helping you collect data? What will the data tell the larger public, who did not help collect it? How will you distribute this data? Will you publish data and results in stages if the project is ongoing? How will you make sure people can understand the data? You will submit a draft of this portion of the assignment by the end of week 6 within the appropriate assignment link on our Moodle page.
Here is more information on the scientific method:
Here is more information on what types of variables should be included in your project:
How will this project be graded?
Each section of the paper detailed above will be given feedback as to what needs to be added/edited before submitting the final draft of your paper. The draft sections themselves will not be graded and are meant to help you when putting together the final draft. Incorporating the suggested feedback and edits does not guarantee that you will receive 100% on the final draft, but will most definitely help your grade. You are welcome to submit draft sections as early as you like, but may not submit them late unless give advance permission to do so.
The final paper is due by the end of week 8 within the appropriate TurnItIn Link on our Moodle page. The paper will be graded against the rubric provided.