An amazing way to show your students the applicability of their schoolwork is to get them involved in a Citizen Science project. These projects (also known as crowd sourced science) are ones in which a professional scientist collaborates with the general public to collect and/or analyze data to support scientific research.

We teach kids a bit about Citizen Science concepts with our Chair of Health Sciences Career Quest. The Career Quest features Dr. Nicole Garneau - Curator and Department Chair of Health Sciences at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. One of Nicole’s many responsibilities is running the Genetics of Taste Lab where she overseas Citizen Science projects to gather human data regarding taste. For example, in one month Nicole will kick-off a Citizen Science research project called ‘The Science of Sour Study’.

This study will gather data from 1,000 museum visitors on just how humans experience sour taste. With the data, Nicole hopes to gain insights into how our tongue detects sour, which genes are responsible for it, or if the variations in our taste are due to our genetics. If you live in the Denver area and want to get involved in this study – you can volunteer as a Citizen Scientist to collect data or schedule an appointment to have your taste data collected (email genetics@dmns.org).

But if you are not in the Denver area, don’t fret. The great news is that you don’t have to take your students on a fieldtrip to expose them to Citizen Science projects. There are many studies that support remote participation and here is a sampling of such research projects:

  1. NASA Cloud Observers – observe cloud coverage and types to help NASA validate satellite data and get a more complete picture of clouds in the atmosphere and their interactions with other parts of the integrated global Earth system.
  2. Africa Wildlife Study – In Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique a huge conservation effort is underway to help populations of large animals that were decimated during past wars.  You can help scientists discover which animal species are still in Gorongosa by reviewing trail camera images and identifying wildlife.
  3. Globe At Night – help scientists study the impact of light pollution by measuring & submitting your night sky brightness observations via a mobile/tablet app. 
  4. Tulip Test Gardens – help scientists better understand the relationship between climate, geography and the greening of spring by planting a garden of Red Emperor tulips and tracking when they emerge and bloom.
  5. Eyewire – this one may be too fun for school – you get to play a video game to help scientists answer questions about optical nerves and how the human eye detects motion. 
  6. Cyclone Center - help climatologists better estimate the intensity of future cyclones by interpreting satellite images of tropical cyclones. Be sure to check out the tutorial to learn more about cyclones.

In addition to the above projects, we really like these websites that enable you to search for Citizen Science projects that best meet your own criteria and needs:

  1. National Geographic
  2. Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Catalog
  3. SciStarter
  4. Zooniverse  

Have you participated in Citizen Science projects with your students? If so, what were the benefits and challenges? If you have one that worked particularly well, we would love to hear more about it via email at info@couragion.com.

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