25 February 2014 by Phil Pickin
The term 'citizen scientist' was coined some time ago and in many ways reflects the value of the data provided by the general public. Whatever your environment, and almost whatever your interest, you can be assured that there is someone who is keen to find out what you have seen and where you’ve seen it.
Don't go running off with the idea that recording a sighting of something is a chore. Using modern technology you can detail what you've seen using nothing more than your phone. Some organisations have latched on to this and have launched apps to help with identification and the submission of data. With smartphones having the ability to include location information and to take supporting photos, the data can be quickly recorded, easily submitted and accurate.
So who wants what? Well, I've included a link to a list of organisations who would be very interested in your observations and it’s shown at the end of this blog post, but this is far from an exhaustive list. A search online will provide even more results I've no doubt. It's really down to what interests you. Trees, birds, animals, reptiles – you name it! Despite many people being keen on the idea they are put off as they seem to feel that they need to be some kind of expert to correctly identify what they are looking at. This isn't the case. If you have your doubts the organisation in question will always help you out.
Of course, there are still going to be those who feel they want to enjoy the countryside they are walking through and don't want to 'work as well as walk', and that's quite understandable. But don't forget that you too can gain much for this. If you are looking for particular species you will become more aware of what's around you. If you think your identification skills are lacking the practice you get will improve your skills. Add to that the knowledge that you are making a significant contribution to research and science and you have a great incentive to give it a go.
Unless you are motivated to join whatever organisation you are submitting to there shouldn't be a cost involved, and as you are out there already why not give it a try in 2014?
The BBC’s Nature website links to a large number of organisations that look for report data from the general public. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the table of information – there are plenty to choose from.
Image: Citizen science project by Albert Herring