Citizen Science: How YOU can help the environment

17079728492_d1e2b90b3b_z.jpgWritten by: Vidya Balasubramanyam

Did you know that you too can be a scientist? It doesn’t matter if you are a business student, art major, or interested citizen; there is a lot that you can do for science. In fact, scientists are actively seeking your unique skills to help them answer complex questions about the amazing planet that we live in.

Earth Day is coming up on April 22, 2017. With proposed federal budget cuts threatening environmental and climate science, your involvement is needed more than ever for a brighter future. Here are some simple, fun ways you can contribute and advocate for science and the environment:

Did you see change?

climate-change-2063240_640.jpgHave you noticed that the winters are getting warmer, or that a tree in your backyard bloomed earlier than usual? Your simple observations are valuable to scientists! Head over to iSeeChange to document your observations. You can choose from several investigation themes—from birds to extreme weather events to your everyday life. The changes that you see around you are important to the narrative of planet Earth. Each post you make will be accompanied by a bigger picture visualization using satellites or other data.

Cloudy with a chance of… science?

man-person-clouds-apple.jpgEver been accused of always having your head in the clouds? NASA wants YOU! The Globe Observer is an interactive project meant to help scientists record sky observations through cloud photographs that you take. This information will be used to enhance their understanding of global climate change. All you have to do is download the app (available on the iOS App Store and Google Play), look through some training resources, and lose yourself in the clouds!

It’s time to get dirty!

soil-1795902_640We have food to eat because of soil. To maintain and improve soil quality, scientists need to have a better understanding of soil health. This is where you come in. The MO Dirt project is looking for volunteers (working as individuals or teams) to conduct soil health surveys in a study site of your choice. Several resources are available to get you started; the first step would be to create an account on their website.

A similar project is seeking to develop new life-saving drugs by learning about diverse genetic information in soil bacteria. They’re interested in samples from the Midwest, and you can even earn an Amazon gift card in return for your help! Fill out this form to request a soil sampling kit, and head over here to read more.

Take a selfie!

SaracaStreamThis one is really easy. Next time you’re out hiking, or you come across a stream during a scenic drive, stop and take a selfie with it! It’s that simple. Your selfie will help in creating a national map of streams that need to be monitored because there is currently a lack of information about water quality. This is especially important because the Clean Water Act is currently being reconsidered through an executive order, which could eliminate protection for our water bodies. This handy infographic should help you take and upload your selfie in support of clean water.

Are you ready for an renewable future?

Renewable_energyWhy not spend some time working in an energy lab? Our fossil fuel resources are dwindling out, and scientists need your help in designing a renewable future. Head over to NOVA Labs, and take the challenge. You’ll be given all the data you need to perform a cost-benefit analysis of energy sources, and you’ll eventually end up designing a renewable energy system for an entire city!

None of the above?

If none of these appeal to you, worry not! There is a vast repository of citizen science projects on SciStarter. You can use their customized filters to find the one that is perfect for you. They have more than 1600 formal and informal projects so you can easily find one tailored to your interests.

Want to do more? How about marching for science?

On Earth Day (April 22, 2017), scientists and science enthusiasts are coming together to March for Science. The goal of the march is to affirm science as a democratic value, support scientists, and advocate for open, inclusive, and accessible science. The march takes place in Washington, D.C. but if you can’t make it all the way to D.C., no worries, we’ve got one right here in Missouri! The rally starts at 2 p.m. at the Boone County Courthouse Amphitheater and goes down 8th street to the columns, ending with a science festival at Peace Park. So invite your friends, confirm your attendance on their Facebook page, and last but not least #StandUpForScience in any way you can!

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