By Rebecca Ruehlmann
April 16th is National Citizen Science Day and we hope you'll come see Facetopo at the Cambridge Science Festival (next to the Science Cheerleaders) or the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington DC (we'll be at the Scistarter booth!) If you can't make it to the festivals, you can still get involved - just download the Facetopo App (free in the iTunes store) and join the Facetopo community!
Citizen science is all about engaging the public in scientific research. The idea is: anyone who wants to can contribute to scientific research without any special equipment. In large part, advances in communications and connectivity via the internet make Citizen Science possible. Of course while data samples may be collected and submitted by even a school-aged child, the design and implementation of a citizen science project is by scientists, often with the support of a research or educational institution such as a laboratory or a museum.
Citizen Science is a relatively new way of conducting scientific research. At the dawn of the internet era, UC Berkeley’s SETI@Home asked for volunteers to help in their Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The goal of SETI is to detect intelligent life outside Earth. SETI@home is a networked science experiment that uses internet-connected computers to download and analyze radio telescope data, in effect linking up personal home computers to serve as a virtual supercomputer. Anyone can participate by running a free downloadable program on their computer. Since May 1999, millions of participants, also known as ‘citizen scientists,’ have joined the SETI@home effort. Since this vanguard citizen science project, many scientific institutions have opened their laboratory doors as a way to increase their data pool and engage the general public in their research.
Across the nation, museums such as the Field Museum, the Natural History Museum Los Angeles County, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences have set up research projects to allow visitors to take part in the research they are funding.
With the help of the Internet, citizen science has global capabilities. Websites such as Zooniverse, Scistarter, and Socientize describe current citizen science projects and allow people to join on the spot. Check out several projects currently recruiting citizen scientists:
Photo Credit: Moon Zoo
Study the surface of the moon with NASA’s Moon Zoo. NASA’s Lunar Renaissance Orbiter (LRO) has taken millions of photos of the moon. Volunteers can identify different types of craters and boulders that appear in the photos to gain a better understanding of the surface of the moon. To date, 3,920,398 photos have been classified by volunteers.
Photo Source: Orchid Observers
Study the effects of climate change on plants with Orchid Observers. Orchid Observers asks that volunteers upload their photos of orchids, as well as identify and label photos that others have uploaded. By tracking changes in the photos from year to year, we gain a deeper understanding of how climate change is affecting not just orchids, but all plant life.
Photo Source: Snapshot Serengeti
Work with the University of Minnesota’s Lion Project with Snapshot Serengeti. With their hundreds of camera traps taking millions of images per day, they need your help to classify the animals in different pictures. Their software asks volunteers to look at their pictures and tag the animal species that appear.
Citizen scientists can take part in experiments on a variety of topics, including space, animals, plants, climate change, health & medicine, etc. The possibilities are endless!
Facetopo wants to bring citizen science to the field of facial morphology. We invite everyone over 14 years old to quantify and measure their faces by making a facemap and contributing it to our growing database. The more participants we have, the more data we have to analyze for similarities, differences and patterns in the information. Follow Facetopo on Twitter and Facebook to stay up on the latest news. We hope you'll contribute to our global face-mapping project!
Top: Photos by Gulnara Niaz Photographer. Special thanks to Harlan Bosmajian for lighting consultation