Science at home
Are you running out of homeschooling ideas or want to do something productive?
How about joining in on some citizen science? Citizen science is public participation in scientific research, usually through data collection or data analysis. It has been going on for over 100 years with the first use as a collective bird count done in the early 1900s.
Citizen science is as important now as ever during our lockdown days. Due to the effects of Covid-19 and our lockdown procedures, scientists are struggling to go out into the field to collect their data and complete their studies. They need your help to achieve their goals. It just happens to also be quite fun to be a scientist for a little while! If you are passionate about wildlife, conservation and the environment, you could be spending your time collecting data that, eventually, will be used in scientific papers, research or even government legislation. It could even contribute to a breakthrough that changes our understanding of the universe.
If you have a curious mind or a passion for anything from astrology to conservation there's a project for you.
We have put together a list of our favourite places to get involved!
Science At The Keyboard
You don’t have to leave your sofa to become a scientist.
One of the best places to find projects is on Zooniverse: https://www.zooniverse.org/projects.
Each project has different levels of complexity from yes-no questions to transcribing old scientific note pages. There is something for everyone here. You can observe how well new antibiotics are working on Bash the Bug, https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/mrniaboc/bash-the-bug; or you can start by scanning videos from camera traps and identifying the types of species and activity that you see.
A great example of this is the Chimp&See project. You’ll help the scientist to understand the lives of these apes; their behaviours, relationships, and environments - and to extrapolate new ideas about human origins: https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/sassydumbledore/chimp-and-see/classify.
If these seem too complicated, we really enjoyed being virtually transported to South Africa with the mountain zebra camera traps. Here you simply have to say if you see an animal or not. Here you will be helping to observe how translocated hyenas are doing since their move and if the conservation efforts made so far are working. Snapshot Mountain Zebra » Classify
Another great website to get your green thumbs and fingers into is Digivol. These involve similar camera trap projects, such as this one on parrots: https://volunteer.ala.org.au/project/index/77484912.
It has a few multiple-choice questions about each photo, so you end up learning a little about the species, rather than reporting if it’s simply there or not.
On this site, there are also projects transcribing old expedition notes. This is a really interesting task to undertake as you can learn a huge amount from the notes you are writing down: https://volunteer.ala.org.au/#/expeditionList.
If you enjoy transcribing, then there are even more volunteer projects with Smithsonian: Browse Projects.
Science In Your Garden
Did you get the chance to do an Easter egg hunt this year? Well, these citizen science projects are your much-desired upgrade. There's pretty much a version for all types of species found in the UK. if there are a particular species you're really interested in, have a look to see if there's a citizen science project on an online database like NBN’s: https://nbn.org.uk/tools-and-resources/useful-websites/database-of-wildlife-surveys-and-recording-schemes/
To help you, we have made a list of our favourite resources:
NatGeo runs different challenges throughout the year, which they call BioBlitz. A BioBlitz is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. There are sometimes competitions between schools, cities or individual groups. However, you can also run your own BioBlitz in your own garden and post all of your data on their online data collection site called iNaturalist.
You can sign in online or download the Smartphone app. The app isn’t too hard to use and provides tons of information to help you identify and learn about the species you find. The high-quality data uploaded to iNaturalist then become part of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility https://www.gbif.org/, an open-source database used by scientists and policymakers around the world.
This site is used by many charities for different challenges, for example, during the lockdown, RHS has started the cellar slug hunt! So, go grab a torch tonight and see how many you can find, make sure to take photographs of them and the plant you found them on. Then head to RHS to identify them and get your records on iRecord.https://www.rhs.org.uk/slugssurvey
Our favourite independent surveys
If slugs are not your thing then there's plenty of other surveys with their own recording systems:
You could join the Great British Birdwatch: https://www.bto.org/our-science/projects/gbw
Or help our pollinators: https://www.opalexplorenature.org/xpollination
If you can wait until June, then there will be the Big Butterfly Count: https://www.bigbutterflycount.org/
If you've seen any amphibians or reptiles like frogs, toads, newts, lizards or snakes and want to report it, please submit your sighting to the Record Pool at http://www.recordpool.org.uk/.
If mammals are more your thing then two great places to record them are:
You can actually sign up for training later in the year if you want to do more intense monitoring since our UK bat species are all protected and it is illegal to handle them.
Lastly, the slower moving of the natural world: our flora. If you find any ancient trees you can send it to the Woodland Trust: https://ati.woodlandtrust.org.uk/add-a-tree/.
Do you have any wildflowers in your garden? https://gardenwildflowerhunt.org/app/list/survey/welcome
All your plant records will appear on this map where everyone can see them mapped at 1km definition. They will also go into a special Garden Wildflower Hunt area on the BSBI Distribution Database, one of the world's largest biological recording databases.
If you really want to get into the more scientific surveys there's a slightly more complicated survey with NPMS where you can request a kit with quadrats to count wildflowers: https://www.npms.org.uk/content/how-get-involved.
Science in Your Hand - Apps
Project Noah is a worldwide project to document the planet's biodiversity by crowdsourcing photos of animals and plants in your local area — even if you don't know what they are.https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/project-noah/id417339475
Noisetube turns your smartphone into a device that measures noise levels in your neighbourhood. It's part of something called "noise mapping", which measures noise pollution across the world and helps us understand how it might affect things like wildlife or human behaviour. https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/noisetube/id475721267
Power Sleep is a way you can contribute without even lifting a finger, because you don't have to change your routine. All you have to do is you plug your phone in before bed and while you’re getting your beauty sleep, it decrypts protein sequences from across the globe. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=at.samsung.powersleep&hl=en_GB
You can also do a similar thing to help scientists learn about Coronavirus with the company Folding at Home: !https://foldingathome.org/covid19/?fbclid=IwAR1W7TsX8xi_Qu63rIDamoxswFY45C5dP22mcclqeBRqAzYnv0z08MFHSH4
Bloomin Algae - Citizen scientists across the UK are being urged to help the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) monitor harmful algal blooms which can threaten public health as well as the lives of dogs, cattle, birds and fish. Like the rest of the surveys you just need to take a picture of algae and note down what activities usually take place around that area. http://itunes.apple.com/app/id1220522608?mt=8
Asian Hornet Watch - is an app designed to record and help the early detection of Asian Hornet in the UK following the first confirmed record in September 2016. Asian Hornet is a non-native species within the UK and could have a serious impact on our insects including honeybees, so early detection is important. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=uk.ac.ceh.hornets&hl=en_GB
eBird Mobile - this app helps you easily keep track of the birds you see from home. You’ll need to create a Cornell Lab account. This is your ticket to everything at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Don’t have a smartphone? Log your sightings at eBird.org. https://support.ebird.org/support/solutions/articles/48000957940-enter-sightings-with-ebird-mobile#anchorDownloadMobile