Photo credit: Mount Rainier National Park via Flickr
For a number of years now I have identified myself (at least one aspect of my self!) as a citizen scientist. I had formal undergraduate training in science, with a major in Parks and Recreation Administration and a focus on Environmental Interpretation. My initial career intention was to work as a naturalist or something related. After a time I took a leap from nature outside into the study of nature inside the human psyche, which led to a career change as well.
My life-long interest in other species and natural systems (of which humans are a part) continued, though, as serious hobbies like bird watching, nature photography, and writing about my relationship with the world around me. Eventually I discovered the concept of citizen science and realized that my love of science couldn't be erased by a career change.
So, I really resonated with David Suzuki's article on citizen science this week:
We're on the cusp of a major revolution in the way we approach environmental science. In February, a water sample showed that the first trace amounts of ocean-borne radioactive contamination from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster reached North American shores. The sample wasn't taken from an oceanographic vessel. It was collected in a 20-litre sample bottle from the public dock in Ucluelet, B.C., by a class of Grade 5 and 6 girls participating in a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution project that connects concerned citizens from North American communities around the Pacific shores. A decade ago, this type of organizing and sample-taking by engaged citizens would have been inconceivable.
Check out the whole article at the Suzuki Foundation blog -- and if you are not already working as a citizen scientist, please consider doing so! The article has some good links to visit for ideas.
Or, you can become an observer with the USA-National Phenology Network/Nature's Notebook. Just this morning I got an email from USA-NPN about a new online course that will help you get started as an observer. This Nature's Notebook How To provides background information, instructional videos and interactive quizzes, and takes about 45 minutes to complete.
I think citizen science is really more fun than work, but the service to fellow humans, other species, and the whole planet can be priceless!