What do you do if there’s a spider crawling across your floor? Instead of smushing it, scientists may want you to bottle it up and send it off to their lab.
With the advent of social media and smart phones, scientists and researchers are increasingly looking to “citizen scientists” to help gather data about the natural world. It’s crowdsourcing for the science community – helping scientists understand the natural world better through an exponentially larger set of data than they could ever collect by themselves.
The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is a prime example of science organizations harnessing citizens’ long-lost dreams of being the next Bill Nye to gather data for research projects that span the world.
Examples of current projects include gathering samples of insects found inside your home, volunteering to place infrared motion-activated cameras in natural areas, and even providing a swabbed sample of the bacteria living in your armpit. (This last example is for a primate armpit microbiome project, not researching the next generation of deodorant).
There’s even an app you can download – iNaturalist – that facilitates the user taking pictures of plants, animals, and fungi that they observe. The species are identified and mapped, along with displaying the accompanying picture, for anyone to view on the iNaturalist website. The Museum is interested in North Carolina data, but the website facilitates similar information sharing worldwide.
The Museum hosts all of this information – ranging from how to get involved to the specific projects in which citizens can participate – on their website at: