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Friday, May 30, 2014

WIRED Columnist Welcomes the Weird, Wild World of Citizen Science

WIRED columnist, David Lang explored the "weird, wild world of citizen science" in a recent post on the site. In this article, Lang describes examples of citizen science projects that are helping to pinpoint the cause of a starfish disease, and rescue a vintage spacecraft for NASA. He points provocatively toward convergence of "maker" and "hobbyist" movements with scientists, who increasingly need access to larger datasets and human resources/expertise to address critical research questions. This combination, Lang suggests, will lead to a "weird, feral form of science." In his words: "How these trends ultimately play out will be our decision. The potential is for both faster and slower science. It won't work for every field of study. But for any research that also hopes to inform and educate humans to make better decisions, especially about our planet's ecology, it's a substantial improvement."

Just what is citizen science? Watch a brief video on the University of Minnesota Extension YouTube site to find out. American citizens have been contributing for centuries toward important scientific discoveries. Citizen science projects contribute toward our understanding of everything from galaxies to animals to sub-atomic particles.

Want to get involved in citizen science? The University of Minnesota Extension citizen science website is a great place to get started. The Minnesota Master Naturalist program helps to connect people who are interested in natural history with high quality volunteer opportunities like citizen science. The Monarch Larva Monitoring Program involves volunteers from across the United States and Canada in monarch research. Driven to Discover: Enabling Authentic Inquiry through Citizen Science uses citizen science as a springboard for engaging youth in the full process of authentic research. We look forward to welcoming you into these programs to dig into this "weird, wild world of citizen science".

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