Citizen Science: Going Beyond the App

Citizen Science: Going Beyond the App

+ If you’ve just uploaded your latest picture of an unusual plant or an odd-looking insect to iNaturalist or just sent last-night’s sky observation to Globe at Night, you may be thinking, well, that was great, but now what? What happens to my data?  

Today’s blog post was written by Dr. Georgia Bracey, research assistant professor of the SIUE STEM Center.

A lot goes on in citizen science after you contribute your data. Often, as with iNaturalist, your observation is examined by a community of observers like you! These community members will identify and verify what you’ve shared so that it can be confidently and correctly added to a huge repository, or database, like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Then, scientists all over the world can access this research grade data–thanks to your contribution! Each year, Globe at Night creates its own datasets from all the observations sent in by participants world-wide. Anyone can access these data on the Globe at Night website.

And what do the scientists do with all this data? They look at patterns and trends to see what’s going on with climate change, invasive species, and pollution, and then share their findings in research publications and policy papers (https://www.gbif.org/resource/search?contentType=literature). Often, patterns and trends in these data are compared with patterns and trends in other databases. For example, one group of scientists found a possible (and complex!) connection between plant diversity and adult asthma (Donovan, Landry, & Gatziolis, 2021). Many groups of scientists have found that light pollution has a negative effect on humans and wildlife, not to mention the existence of a beautiful dark starry sky (Pothukuchi, 2021)! Additionally, new discoveries may be made! Examining these data, scientists have found a new species of chorus frog in the southeastern United States (Ospina, Tieu, Apodaca, & Lemmon, 2020.) 

But beyond gaining new knowledge, the findings from using these databases can guide people in taking action. People can watch for and control invasive species, choose better outdoor lighting, and create outdoor landscapes that support a diversity of animals and plants. Good things to learn and good things to do–all thanks to you contributing to research through citizen science!

References

Donovan, G. H., Landry, S. M., & Gatziolis, D. (2021). The natural environment, plant diversity, and adult asthma: A retrospective observational study using the CDC’s 500 Cities Project Data. Health & Place, 67, 102494.

Ospina, O. E., Tieu, L., Apodaca, J. J., & Lemmon, E. M. (2020). Hidden Diversity in the Mountain Chorus Frog (Pseudacris brachyphona) and the Diagnosis of a New Species of Chorus Frog in the Southeastern United States. Copeia, 108(4), 778-795.

Pothukuchi, K. (2021). City Light or Star Bright: A Review of Urban Light Pollution, Impacts, and Planning Implications. Journal of Planning Literature, 36(2), 155-169.

Photo Credits

Featured image of Maps for Globe at Night captured  by Alexander Kalna from Globe at Night

Photo of GBIF Observation Map captured by Alexander Kalna from GBIF on June 29th, 2021.

Photo of computer programming by Luis Gomes from Pexels.