Thousands of citizens are amateur scientists as 1000 eyes definitely see more
I came upon this nice article recently and as I am a nature lover, I decided to tell you about this.
Volunteers and their achievements
A 16-year-old girl from the Canary Islands discovered on the 6 of November 2018, an asteroid while working on her home computer. Her professor helped Alejandra Artiles and used software to analyze the images from an American telescope.
A young man from the Asturias region of Spain, Jorge Alvarez, made a special photo with his mobile phone. He was the first person to send information to the program called Mosquito Alert. The mosquito he photographed was an Aedes Japonicus, and it was the first sighting of this mosquito in Spain. This mosquito is the transmitter of terrible illnesses like Dengue, and different forms of encephalitis.
A few winters ago, an amateur ornithologist alerted the scientific community that the swallow was not migrating to then return to Cadiz in the spring. Fact is that the swallow was not leaving, and that is probably because of climate change.
These are 3 examples of where the normal burger (civilian) is contributing with his or her observations to scientific studies.
Mr. Francisco Sanz, who is the executive director of the foundation Ibercivis says that often the volunteer is a genuine expert in his or her field.
A book for those who love nature
For the traveler or tourist, this pocket-sized book is the ideal companion. Spain is one of Europes top destinations for birdwatching. On the list are 300 birds you might encounter on your journey, and with this guide you will be able to identify them.
How people became scientists
The pioneers were the bird observers. The program to observe the migratory birds in America was founded in 1883. In the ’50s Francisco Bernis and Jose Antonio Valverde mobilized hundreds of amateurs to document the concentrations of waterbirds in Spain. Their work formed the basis for the protection of Donana National Park, the Ebro Delta, a world heritage site, and the Natural Park of Albufeira in Valencia.
In this video you will pay a visit to Donana National park. It is well worth your time, and perhaps one day you will visit it in real life.
In 1954, the Spanish Society of Ornithology ( SEO ) was created. Many of the volunteers became members over the years. Today the society has 3.700 members and they take part in 12 active programs of SEO/Bird-life. They observe and register their observations thru applications on their computer and mobile phone.
These can be easy studies, like counting the birds they see, or more sophisticated ones such as alerting the communities of massive bird flocks which emigrate so those individuals involved with banding studies can mobilize and document the migration before the young birds continue on their way.
One does not have to be a specialist, but one has to be able to distinguish between the unique bird’s species. These volunteers are people who feel a love for their environment and want to help to preserve it. They donate freely of their time and resources to take part in these studies.
They pass the data which is collected on to the professionals of the. org and tested for suitability to be included in relevant scientific studies and other environmental issues.
The help of modern technology
Because most people have a computer nowadays, it has become a lot easier to be in contact. Individuals using smartphones, private telescopes, a weather station, and even binoculars have increased the number of observations and all this forms a human and technological network which surpasses the capability of the official groups.
They often come up with something, thru their investigations that had not been common knowledge before. They can report on a situation which scientists did not know about. All this is possible because of the network of thousands of extra eyes that observe their surroundings.
As in Europe, Spain has advanced and become more democratic in its form of investigation. The public science observatory was founded by Ibercivis with financing from the Spanish Science and Technology Foundation. Since 2011 over 200 projects have been registered and over 50.000 people have taken part.
Many and unusual projects
There are a large variety of projects available. Counting the sunspots, documenting when suicidal behavior is observed on the internet, observing the Iberian Wolf and counting how many there are, informing on the effects of earthquakes, observations on plagues and reporting wildfires. Even reporting foul smells worldwide. The list is much longer, but I think this will give you an idea of the different projects people collaborate with.
Some of these projects have to do with problems like the spreading of the flu. In Spain, there are 1000 people who signed up for this project and 25.000 people from 7 more European countries. People from Zaragoza University have created Gripe-Net. There you can place your observations on the flu in your surroundings.
Some famous people and their inventions
When you come to think of it, in old times scientist were wealthy men of leisure and amateurs. These were Individuals from the early part of the 20th century and earlier.
William Herschel was a musician who was also a hobby astronomer. In 1781 he discovered the planet Uranus with his simple telescope.
Then we have Benjamin Franklin. When the affairs of state left him some free time, he liked to invent things like the bifocal glasses and also the lightning rod. Have a look at the following video where you are presented 5 inventions by Benjamin Franklin.
Albert Einstein wrote his General Theory of Relativity when he was working in a patent office as a pen pusher.
During most of history, the scientific body was composed of “gentleman of means” who studied nature and the cosmos out of passion. Only later on it became a job for which they would receive a salary from universities or investigation centers.
We need to celebrate and honor the intrepid explorers and builders of our current scientific knowledge, but more importantly, we need to continue this into the 21st century. We all need to observe the conditions around our own minor part of the world and collaborate with the scientific community to keep our world the beautiful place it is. This is especially important for our environment, which is subject to abuse and can use all the extra help it can get. Let’s keep our eyes open.
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Source: Newspaper Sur, story by Ines Gallastegui
Photo Source: Pixabay
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