Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bees, Blogging, and Citizen Science

A few months ago, my friend and colleague, Dr. Joe Tadie, remarked that my beekeeping and blogging was a fine example of citizen science:

Citizen science is a term used for projects or ongoing program of scientific work in which individual volunteers or networks of volunteers, many of whom may have no specific scientific training, perform or manage research-related tasks such as observation, measurement or computation...

The longest-running citizen science project currently active is probably the Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count, which started in 1900. Other well-known examples of citizen science programs include World Water Monitoring Day[1], NASA's Stardust@home and Clickworkers, a variety of projects run by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology[2], such as Ebird, NestWatch, Project FeederWatch, and Celebrate Urban Birds and the Galaxy Zoo project. Another example of an effective citizen science project in the United States is the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), run by the Colorado Climate Center at the Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. Data from this citizen science project is used for weather forecasting and monitoring, severe weather alerts, and climate studies.

I don't know if what I do here qualifies yet as citizen science. I do collect and publish the observations I make of my hives, the biophysical area in which my bees forage and the social world of apiculture, but somethings are missing in my approach. While I do make my observations public, they are lone observations, in one area, at one time in a highly unsystematic and unfocused way. It seems to me that the citizen scientist is involved in a collaborative network of other citizen scientists who making precise observations. There should be a central locus in this network which collates, analyzes, and compares the observations made in particular places, and reports conclusions to the larger scientific world. As of yet, this is not happening.

Perhaps we beekeeper/bloggers in the world might begin developing this network, creating a research design, finding some way to bring all the observations together, and reporting the findings to the greater community.

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