More often than not when describing a target audience for scientific output there is a dichotomy between ‘academic’ and ‘the general public’. In a way, it makes sense that if I am writing a blog article I will not include all of the jargon that I would include in a scientific paper , but nonetheless I wouldn’t want to ‘dumb it down’ just because it is ‘for the general public.’
A way of overcoming part of this dichotomy is to actively involve everyone in the science, with data collection. Some big citizen science projects already do that. Anyone , irrespective of their background, can log species seen, on a walk, in their garden, on a big database that allows monitoring species distribution changes and will give scientists location to focus on with sampling campaigns where anomalies are observed.
Other projects involve temperature logging (e.g. during a scuba dive your computer will record temperatures at various depths and you just have to report these!) .
More ‘complex’ ideas involve members of the public that are amateur naturalists (and hike, dive, spend lots of time outdoors) to take some simple course in species recognition, which are often ran for free , and then take part in organised surveys on a weekend (e.g. for butterflies, or rocky shore species) or fill special forms during their dive filling exact locations drawing the bottom features and main species encountered (‘seasearch’) . Reefcheck also offers volunteers divers with the opportunity to be involved in protecting the Mediterranean Sea (reefcheck med) but also tropical seas (reefcheck tropical, eco diver) .
This use of volunteers has become increasingly popular.
Some might say it is a ‘cheap way of getting science done’ , but I believe it can be an essential tool to gather long term data that otherwise we will never get (good luck getting funding for something so long term yet so unknown - basically just baseline monitoring).
Moreover, by passing the scientist hat to non scientists we will educate and empower more citizen to actually care. Kids and retired, alike. Once people will discover the hidden gems, I believe they will start to care more. Perhaps they will discover patterns. Maybe they will realise that less butterflies are in overly built area, that you need some flowers to have more bees. That if you have more trees of different shapes you have more birds.. and so on.
The great things about today’s technology is that people no longer have to go out with notebook, books or extensive knowledge. You can just head out with a phone and some app. In some cases you might even be able to see a map straight away, or some simple graphics that will validate the importance of what you just snapped. Better than just snapping for an insta like if you ask me ;)
So what are you waiting for?
If you enjoy being outside you can help the scientific community! As I mentioned there are many opportunities , so I would recommend speaking with your local conservation groups for something that might be close to you.
In the meantime some resources where you can start:
Scistarter.com - find a project
General list of various project
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