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Citizen Science Through Technology

Technology is the answer to a lot of things, and it is certainly the answer to access to knowledge. Citizen scientists have access to information like never before through various sites and interactive apps.

Citizen Science Through Technology

Imagine walking into a clearing on a hike. You see a bird on the ground and hear it chirp but don’t know what it is. You pull out a phone, open an app and it listens. According to the app, not only is that an American Robin, but there are three other birds by you.

Merlin Bird ID by Cornell Labs allows the public to identify birds in their area through a phone’s microphone. This, however, is not the only contribution to citizen science learning. 

Technology Enhances People’s Hobbies

PhotoPills and Stellarium are letting the public have access to astronomy information. They show what constellations are visible based on their area and know the best time to take their photos. People with no prior astronomy knowledge have all the information they need right at their fingertips.

In many cases, these apps support hobbies and interests. They allow people to learn outside of a formal setting, but they also work to support self-advocacy. The public now have the tools to learn what would benefit them and what is harming them. iTree is a great example of this. 

iTree allows the public to see how they could benefit from planting trees, often in a monetary sense. This is particularly powerful in urban settings where heat islands could be partially mitigated by planting trees. iTree would allow people to see where they would have the greatest cooling effect when a tree is planted. iTree also shows the best place to plant trees to save money on their electric bill.

The public doesn’t have to wait for their government to make alterations to their environment. They have access to a tool that tells them what best suits their needs. If opposition occurs, they also have the information to back their claims. 

Scientists Benefit from Citizen Science Technology

The public are not the only ones who benefit from this knowledge gain. Scientists have the benefit of citizen scientists knowing what to look out for, and knowing how to find reliable information. At first glance Merlin Bird ID provides entertainment and assists bird watchers identify birds by sound. However, it could also be what identifies an endangered species in a habitat it wasn’t previously known to be in. 

The public spots these birds, and have the identification tool necessary to make connections allowing them to report to scientists. 

Why We Should Care  

The benefits of these resources help the general public, scientists, and everyone in-between. As technology progresses, hopefully more apps will be created putting knowledge and power into the hands of the people. At the very least, these tools enhance enjoyment in hobbies and promote learning.

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