Science for, with and by the people: Citizen Science

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Jared Sindt
ONLINE REPORTER

Dr. Andrea Grover explained the impact of citizen science and its reliability as a data source. Photo courtesy of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

The Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center continued their curious people series with a webinar presentation by Dr. Andrea Grover on citizen science.

The webinar took place Thursday, Oct. 27 and focused on citizen science, a growing science field entirely by the general public.

In her presentation, Grover explained the growth of the field and how many new topics and papers have been introduced.

“In 2000, you could count the number of (citizen science) papers on one hand, now there’s hundreds of thousands,” Grover said.

Along with new papers, Grover explained the discoveries that citizen science has produced.

Examples she provided included everything from gamers discovering issues in protein sources in drinks that scientists couldn’t for years, and new developments in monarch butterfly studies.

New pulsars and auroras have been discovered through citizen science as well. An entirely new aurora was discovered and named “STEVE” by the researchers.

Some papers that were made by citizen science include documenting range shifts, identifying vulnerable species, processing large image data sets and applying human computation skills.

This shows the large range of citizen science topics that have been done or are still being done. Grover explained that citizen science is entirely based on what the scientists want to do.

Some local citizen science includes NGPC, which does amphibian monitoring projects, eastern spotted skunk survey and monarch and regal fritillary survey.

Other projects include UNL’s research on ticks and water quality monitoring and city nature challenge. The Xerces Society is also doing a bumble bee atlas in Nebraska.

Grover made sure to address some of the complaints of citizen science as well, asa few people were questioning the legitimacy of the field.

“Most of the professionals that think citizen science will replace conventional science are insecure,” Grover said. “Citizen science achieves things professional science can’t.”

Grover also stated that citizen science is rarely used as outreach and since it’s all volunteer work, it’s not free labor.

The data has also been found to be reliable by many professional scientists and is often fact checked and found to be correct by credible sources, making citizen science a reliable source of data.

At the end of her presentation, Grover encouraged all people who had questions to email her at her designated UNO email address, andreagrover@unomaha.edu.

The curious people series will continue with Mark Gilbert, Ph.D. on Nov. 17 on the topic of patient and physician relationships.

All webinars for the series have been announced through March 21, with the last announced webinar covering nurturing the scientist and engineer in everyone.

The Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center’s curious people series hopes to encourage students to learn and explore a variety of topics based on faculty and staff personal experiences and areas of study.

Anyone interested in the events can visit the UNO Website at Curious People Series, Information and Speakers | Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center | University of Nebraska Omaha (unomaha.edu) to register for future events.

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