Serious and increasingly frequent environmental concerns emerged in the mid-20th century, igniting the beginnings of Environmental Science as a profession. As the profession has grown, so too has the need for more data, and the number of scientists required to collect and analyse these data. The impact these data and the narratives that accompany them can have on policy and behavioural change has also subsequently grown, with environment health playing an ever increasing role in discussions and debate, from global level to national, to community, and to the individual level.
With the increase in available technology, science becomes even more accessible to both scientist and non-specialist ‘citizen’ alike. We can all learn about fascinating and important updates across the scientific world right from our smartphones. We can interact with the scientific community through social media. We can even contribute to science, right from the comfort of our living room in “citizen science”.
Citizen science allows anyone, regardless of training or academic background, to engage with scientific projects both in collecting and analysing data. Projects range across the scientific spectrum from Astrology to Zoology, and projects falling within environmental sciences are not in short supply. Our journal from August 2016 “They walk among us: the rise of citizen science” explores this concept in further detail, providing a useful introduction to citizen science with some great examples from the sector.
Why volunteer your time participating in citizen science? As explored by Gitte Kragh, motivations to participate can range from altruistic motives such as contributing to science or a greater cause, to more self-directed motives such as an interest in the topic, desire to learn and joining a community of like-minded individuals.
As lockdown regulations begin to ease across the world, you may still find yourself with time to fill, a need for a community or a desire to volunteer and be involved, and an understandable desire to do so from the comfort of your living room. And in honour of World Environment Day, we would like to highlight a few projects that you can engage with that relate to the environmental sciences that can be practiced in a safe, social-distance minded way.
- Zooniverse has a comprehensive list of citizen science projects across a variety of disciplines, including 13 climate based projects and 60 nature based projects.
- British Trust for Ornithology – Garden Watch has been running since 1995 and is a year round garden-based project to monitor bird species in the UK.
- Woodland Trust – Nature’s Calendar is believed to be the longest written record of its kind in the UK, monitoring phenological changes to biodiversity.
- The Big Butterfly Count is happening again this year between 17th July and 9th August.
- The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology have a variety of projects you can get involved with including pollinators, predatory birds and air quality.
- Countryside Jobs Service list several projects you can get involved with across a variety of taxonomic groups and scientific research groups.
If you are working on a citizen science project or about to begin a project in the environmental sciences that you would like mentioned here, please do get in touch.