Citizen science really makes an impact

Inspiring Australia Team

SmartPhone Survey_datesABC Science has produced an annual citizen science or national project for National Science Week for over 15 years.

We have enjoyed participating in a diverse range of projects exploring all sorts of aspects of science, and in the process providing much valuable data that is helping researchers to improve our understanding of our world.

Each project partners with research organisations so it can gather the right information that will really make a difference to our scientists’ studies.

Don’t forget this year’s project, Australia’s Biggest Smartphone Survey, is now open.

You can help researchers from Griffith University, Murdoch University and Western Sydney University to help us understand how smartphones are changing our lives — in both good and bad ways.

Make sure you get involved soon – it closes August 25.

Projects from previous years include:

Wildlife Spotter – 2016

Millions of photographs snapped by automatic cameras set up in all sorts of landscapes across the country need someone to look at them – to help scientists identify which species are roaming both in the wild and in urban areas.

6 different research groups contributed images and in the last 12 months there have been 49,618 citizen scientists participating, with 2 529 000 images processed and 3 151 000 animals identified! There are still more to do so please jump in and have a go.

Galaxy Explorer – 2015

This project aimed to help astronomers classify galaxies up to 3-4 billion light years away. And it sure did – so far there have been 21 162 galactic explorers and 214 600 galaxies completely classified.

These classifications are being used by researchers to build a more accurate picture of how galaxies have changed, what happens when they collide and to add to an atlas of the known universe. Researchers have estimated the contribution of this initiative to science is equivalent to about 40 Masters projects-worth of work!

Weather Detective – 2014

This citizen science project invited participants to explore historical weather observations made by ship captains in the 1890s and 1900s. These records add to the global database of weather over the centuries and help researchers, including the World Meteorological Society, to model our future weather.

It is a fascinating journey into historical meteorological and exploration accounts as demonstrated by participation so far – 545 035 observations have already been made by 11 171 citizen scientists!

Explore the Seafloor – 2013

This year we saw volunteer citizen scientists help map the location of kelp and sea urchin populations and track how these organisms are responding to changes in the oceans. It was a great success with 9400 people registering and processing more than 300 000 images for marine scientists.

Sound Check Australia – 2012

Researchers from the National Acoustic Laboratories have been utilising information from citizen scientists to have a better understanding of the risks our lifestyles are giving to our hearing. 8000 people participated in Sound Check Australia – the equivalent of one person working 40 hour weeks for 2 years!

Are you a good multi-tasker? – 2011

This project explored what characteristics make you a successful multi-tasker – because we all know juggling tasks doesn’t always work so well. Scientists from the University of Queensland’s School of Psychology and Queensland Brain Institute gathered citizen science data to explore whether it might be related to characteristics like memory, ability to focus or age.

Big Sleep Survey – 2010

10 000 participants monitored their sleeping habits for one week for the Woolcock Institute and Sydney University. Research has since been published using the data that was collected.

One of the biggest surprise findings was that almost a quarter of survey respondents shared their bed with a pet, either every night or occasionally. These findings will have direct impacts on scientist’s work with people suffering from sleep apnoea.

So go on, get involved and contribute to our greater scientific understanding!