Ordinary citizens collecting scientific data has become important to researchers

Public participation in gathering and analyzing large amounts of scientific data began as a major trend about 15 years ago in a movement called “citizen science.”

When asked if scientists could produce this same work without the help of citizen scientists, the general refrain was typically “absolutely not.”

The internet and the availability of powerful, yet simple tools such as a smartphones, created conditions in which almost anyone can participate in scientific research in ways that were impossible just a few years ago.

“Like many good ideas it takes a while to germinate and, all of a sudden, it has exploded,” said Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the University of Arizona College of Science, talking about ordinary citizens gathering data for scientific research.

Phenologists study the timing of seasonal events, such as when cactus bloom, insects hatch or birds migrate. The timing of certain biological events could shift as a result of climate change.

“There are consequences to this,” said Theresa Crimmins, assistant director of the National Phenology Network. “The biggest is that not all species respond in the same way and at the same time (to climate change)…we see phenological mismatches emerge.”

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