James Borell’s Year of Citizen Science

2013 is James Borrell’s year of citizen science. A whole year championing outstanding conservation projects powered by an army of volunteers.

“Science isn’t just for scientists and you don’t have to fly to an exotic rainforest to be part of something exciting and worthwhile, so get involved with a project today”

james borrellJames Borell is a writer, speaker and scientist, with a passion for fieldwork and expeditions. He is currently based in London, whilst studying rare species in the Scottish Highlands and promoting a Year of Citizen Science. James runs his website, with the aim of encouraging aspiring conservationists. He blogs about fieldwork, motivation, adventure and getting involved.

“I think the real power of citizen science is down to three things.

  • It allows ordinary people to take part in real, important, awesome science projects.
  • Research has shown that data quality from Citizen Scientists can be excellent.
  • It makes huge ambitious projects possible, thanks to an army of volunteers.

Every month, I’m going to champion a new Citizen Science project or theme, and give you everything you need to get involved. We’ll start small, in fact in January we’ll start from the comfort of your armchair or the security of your smart phone. We’ll grow, and by the end of the year you’ll be a veteran citizen scientist. Stay tuned.”

We are already on the sixth month of James Borrell’s year of citizen science so here is a roundup of the fantastic projects he has suggested so far.

Citizen Science Challenge #1 Armchair Conservation

Camera traps have to be one of the most exciting tools in a conservationists arsenal, allowing scientists to have dozens of pairs of eyes out in the field for days on end. But as any scientist who has used camera traps will tell you, making sense of all the footage with dozens of cameras taking hundreds of images can be a huge challenge.

Fortunately, now everyone can help. New projects like Snapshot Serengetti and Instant Wild make it possible for armchair conservationists to view the footage whilst sitting at home (or even via your smart phone on your daily commute). Ideas like this offer a fascinating insight into real conservation fieldwork, and they really do help scientists.

-more details on www.jamesborrell.com/#1armchairconservation

Citizen Science Challenge #2 Commit Yourself

For me, February is the month of making plans with Spring just around the corner. It’s only 8 weeks until British Summertime after all. With the Spring come a host of exciting projects. No matter what your interest is, I guarantee there will be something for you.

This month, we’ll go one step further by signing up to some of the exciting Citizen Science Projects coming up around the country. Signing up is easy, pick something that sounds interesting, head over to their website and join their mailing list. If you do that, you’ll be joining thousands of other volunteers up and down the country that are responsible for making these initiatives such a success. You’ll also be helpfully reminded as the surveying seasons approach.

It’s all part of the big plan too, because later in the year I’ll be featuring some of the awesome projects by BTO, Plantlife, OPAL and more.

-more details on www.jamesborrell.com/#2commityourself

Citizen Science Challenge #3 Seeking Species

Citizen Science and the millions of people now armed with smart phones have suddenly made it possible to crowd source conservation. That is, collect vast swathes of information quickly and easily from around the world – and that’s what is cool about it – ordinary folks like you and me contributing to a whole host of exciting conservation projects.

For example, this new species of fly was discovered by a scientist perusing Flickr!

As I’ve wittered on about, you don’t need to be a scientist to be scientist. So, this month as part of my Year of Citizen Science, I thought I’d draw your attention to a clever new project called iSpot. Have you got any pictures languishing on your hard drive? Why not upload them? Not only will you get to find out what they are, but you’ll be contributing to all the projects that rely on this kind of data.

So the challenge for March, as Spring emerges in all it’s glory is to head out in search of species. Enjoy!

-more details on www.jamesborrell.com/#3seekingspecies

Citizen Science Challenge #4 Reptiles and Amphibians

Here in the UK we have seven native species of amphibian (and a few cheeky non-natives) as well as three lizards and three snakes. Leatherbacks sometimes wander over too, but that’s a different story.

Unfortunately many species are in decline with habitats disappearing. This is a shame, because they have to be some of the most exciting species we have!

Most reptile and amphibian monitoring schemes depend on volunteers just like you. It’s wonderfully easy to get involved, why not help survey your local area. Hop over to James’s website for links to some great citizen science reptile and amphibian projects including NAARS, Toadsize, Add an Adder and Alien Encounters.

-more details on www.jamesborrell.com/#4reptilesandamphibians

Citizen Science Challenge #5 Wildflower Count

Now entering its fourth year, the annual Plantlife wildflowers count survey is carried out by volunteers across the country. The data they collect will become part of a hugely valuable long term data set helping to monitor the trends of our wild plants over the years to come.

Even the nerdy among you will have to admit that wildflowers don’t quite have the same charisma as the big megafauna, and I won’t resort to extolling the importance of them in our ecosystems (even though they are really really important: e.g. bees!).

The simple fact is that counting flowers sounds whimsical, but essentially boring. That is until you give it a go and start telling your Cow Parsley from your Hemlock; Great Willowherb from your Indian Balsam; discover the mouthful that is the Common Birds’-foot-trefoil or the elegant Lords-and-Ladies.

-more details on www.jamesborrell.com/#5wildflowercount

Citizen Science Challenge #6 Tree Health Survey

The publicity that Ash Dieback received has suddenly propelled Tree Health to the top of the environmental agenda.

To capitalist on the enthusiasm of the public to help, Open Air Laboratories (OPAL), have developed a Tree Health Survey to ”Help scientists monitor and protect our trees, forests and woodland”. It’s a brilliant initiative because it really values the help of the public. It simply would not be possible for scientists to keep a look out for disease across the whole country, and so they need your help!

-more details on www.jamesborrell.com/#treehealthsurvey

James Borrell and myself became good friends leading the science on the 2012 British Exploring Oman Expedition. We share a passion for wildlife conservation and adventure and will soon be heading out to northern Finland to carry out botanical research at the Kevo Subarctic Research Station. 

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