Today’s blog post is brought to you by Lisa Drennen.
My initial interest in science was sparked as a child. I loved exploring new things and discovering new organisms in my environment. I spent long summer days outside playing with bugs and worms in the dirt and climbing trees. It was not until my early adult years (around 24), that I realized I wanted to find a career in the science world. I had no idea what I wanted to do with this science path but knew it was the path I wanted to follow. I began completing my associate’s degree and thought I wanted to be an occupational therapist helping others enjoy life again. In two short years, I changed my mind. From there, I obtained my associates degree and transferred to a university to obtain my bachelor degree and become a physician assistant. I changed my mind again, and found myself unsure of what I wanted to do with my career. I knew I wanted to work in a science field, but I did not know where or what I would like to do with a science degree. After numerous observation hours at hospitals and researching different career paths, I finally stumbled upon what I love to do with science! I signed up for 2 research credit hours and became a citizen science coordinator at Webster University. It was like plugging in a lightbulb. I realized I love to conduct scientific research. It took me until I was 29 years old to find what I am passionate about and want to spend the rest of my life doing.
During my educational journey, I discovered my passion for citizen science through my undergraduate studies at Webster University. I completed my undergraduate degree in May 2020 and joined the STEM Center at SIUE this fall. Before diving into my thesis, I did not even know what citizen science was. My experience teaching community volunteers how to take photo surveys of bees in Forest Park was very rewarding. The project’s goals were to determine if the data collected by the citizens could be used in the same way as the data collected by trained professionals. We conducted this study in June-September each summer for three summers in a row. The data from the first season and the third season were compared to see if the bee pictures got better over time and with more training. Citizens took photos of bees that landed on flowers in their assigned plot. Scientists captured and released bees in same area the citizens took photos. The results concluded that the photos of the bees could be used to identify bees the same way as the netting surveys. The extensive work I contributed to this two-year project made me realize the potential of citizen science as a research tool. I was able to teach volunteers from the St. Louis area about ways to help pollinators in our community and how to contribute quality data to a citizen science project. My interest about citizen science bloomed immensely from this one project. The citizens taught me just as much as I taught them. It was such a wonderful experience working on a project with people from many backgrounds working together in the name of science!
My love for citizen science has led me to continue educating others about the scientific process here at SIUE. My interests are largely focused on improving the public’s understanding of data collection and analysis. There are thousands of datasets contributed by citizen scientists each year. Some projects involve structured methods while others do not. The diversity of projects and level of structure make it hard to determine if the data are reliable. Communities all over the world are showing an increased interest and concern for scientific topics. It is the science community’s responsibility to educate and enhance the understanding of data collection methods and procedures needed to gather valid data for these magnificent projects.
I will end with some key points to think about to ensure you are collecting reliable data as a citizen scientist:
- Think about what methods are used to collect the data. Ex: poll, interview, observation, survey, etc.
- Provide detailed instructions on how to properly collect data for the specified project to avoid bias and errors.
- Always record details of data collected, such as time, location, species, notes, weather, etc.
- Be honest and responsible with all data
As I continue to learn and grow in this exciting field of science, I look forward to learning and growing together as a community and a society with you all.
Photo by Luz Rooney.