Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Museums Support Citizen Science...Will You Support Them?

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Photo Courtesy:
September is Citizen Science Supports the Smithsonian month.  It's our chance to show appreciation for everything museums do to help us, and to show that we can return the favor too.  On the right-hand side of this blog is a large "Donate" button provided by  I'm not asking for much, but if you could donate any small amount you can afford they'd greatly appreciate it.  And I'll even match $5 for every person who donates through the web site.  My goal is to demonstrating the power of our numbers so it's just a little incentive for every person that helps.

One of the best reasons to donate is to support the many projects that museums have previously put together as citizen scientists.  They are free for us to join but they do cost money.  Money to digitize collections so amateurs can classify images, money to pay researchers to organize and publish the data, and money to develop the computer programs used to collect the data.  Below are examples of some museum-sponsored projects we've highlighted in the past.  Won't you give back in return?

  • Project Firefly: Project from the Museum of Science in Boston to track the fate of these amazing insects. With your help, they hope to learn about the geographic distribution of fireflies and their activity during the summer season. Fireflies also may be affected by human-made light and pesticides in lawns, so they hope to also learn more about those effects.
  • Frogwatch: As the flagship citizen science program of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, this project allows individuals and families to learn about the wetlands in their communities and help conserve amphibians by reporting the calls of local frogs and toads.  They also organize volunteers into self-supporting chapters that provide a community of like-minded citizen scientists you can interact with.
  • LifeMapper: Tool for mapping animal habitats and testing how those habitats may be altered due to global climate change. Users can tap the database of geographic data for over 900,000 species and 20,000 environmental species models to graphically display where animals have recently been observed, how their habitat may change as the environment changes, and how that environment may change based on various economic development models.  All species observation data comes from the Geographic Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), a repository for data from governments and museums representing over 50 countries that have pooled their collections data in this one central facility. It also includes data from many museum-sponsored bio-observation projects. In other words, the citizen science projects you've been reading about on this very website! So now that you've worked on all these projects and diligently added your data to the collection, it's finally time to use it.
Of course this list just scratches the surface.  Museums everywhere need your help...both as citizen scientist participats and as financial donors.  It only costs a little bit to help but can make a world of difference to supporting our common cause.


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