Saturday, 27 April 2013

Citizen Science

Citizen Science has been gaining popularity over the past few years. Of course, Citizen Science itself is a fairly new concept, with Rick Bonney – a Director at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, New York – credited with coining this term in the 1990’s. Citizen Science, which involves the general public in research studies, is a win-win for both; it provides the researchers with extensive data, while at the same time it is an exciting opportunity for the public to actively engage in scientific observations and environmental conservation.

The ‘Big Butterfly Count’ is probably one of the best known Citizen Science projects presently underway. Promoted by Butterfly Conservation – the organization headed by the celebrated Sir David Attenborough – this project was launched in 2010 to assess the health of U.K.’s environment through a survey of butterflies. Members of the public were invited to spend just 15 minutes on any bright day counting butterflies, and were then asked to upload their data. Last year (2012) close to 27,000 people participated, counting almost 24,500 butterflies and moths across the U.K. (

India has also seen some interesting Citizen Science projects recently. ‘Citizen Sparrow’, spearheaded by BNHS, asked the public to spend a few minutes documenting the presence or absence of sparrows in localities familiar to them. This project received 10,906 observations from 5,808 people at 8,609 locations. Although the project officially closed on 15th June 2012, people are still invited to send in their observations. (

Two other ongoing projects are ‘MigrantWatch’ and ‘SeasonWatch’. In MigrantWatch, participants are invited to keep a regular watch for one or more migratory bird species around their homes, work places, or other spots that they regularly visit. They are asked to note the date of the first and last sightings, and to then submit this data online. For those who want to go a step further, they can keep a detailed daily log of their sightings of migrant birds. (

SeasonWatch aims at studying the changing seasons by monitoring the seasonal cycles of flowering, fruiting and leaf-flush of common trees. Participants are invited to select a tree and to spend about 5 minutes once a week monitoring it. Their observations, which they then upload, will enable the researchers to better understand how climate change is affecting the lifecycle of trees. (

Many of us want to contribute our mite towards environmental conservation, but have no idea how to do so. Well, Citizen Science presents the perfect opportunity. And with the holiday season presently on, it’s the perfect time to embark on this adventure. So find a project that interests you and get going! 

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