HARRISONBURG, Va., Dec. 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- With the help of thousands of people who are not trained scientists, the Audubon Society is once again gathering important data on bird species across the country and around the world.
First held in 1900, the annual Christmas Bird Count's most recent three-week run began Tuesday, Dec. 14.
The need for massive amounts of data is one reason professional scientists are becoming more open to collaborating with curious citizens who are happy to help, said Carole Nash, a professor of geographic science at James Madison University.
"There are a lot of us who do work on resources that are threatened or that need to be watched by large numbers of people in order to understand them," Nash said. "It became really apparent that it was not going to be possible for scientists to do this by themselves."
One of Nash's projects involves recording important artifacts and historically important sites in danger of being washed into the Chesapeake Bay.
Nash developed a smartphone app so people who live in the endangered areas can snap photos of the sites. The app automatically records the date, time and location of the photos and the citizen scientists can add some other basic details.
"We're developing this database of information collected by citizen scientists," Nash said. "With the loss of archaeological resources due to sea level rise, there is no way that any archaeologist or group of archaeologists is going to be able to capture what's being lost."
Citizen scientists will also be called on to help researchers with a SandSnap initiative to collect beach sediment data. Shelley Whitmeyer, a professor of geology at JMU, helped develop a smartphone app where participants can take photos of the sand that are then uploaded to a database and analyzed by an algorithm.
But collaborating with citizen scientists has benefits beyond data collection, including increasing science literacy and a general interest in science.
"Citizen science is also important for improving our diversity," Whitmeyer said. "If we want to be more inclusive, then we need to open up. If we can get citizen science to be more pervasive, I think it's an opportunity for more communities to feel like they're part of this."
More information about James Madison University, including rankings and recognitions can be found at jmu.edu/about.
SOURCE James Madison University
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