Today I’m shaking things up a bit. Let’s take a detour from plants, plankton and publications. I came across some interesting citizen science initiatives through the U.S. Geological Survey that I would like to pass along to you. Collecting geological data? Sounds boring, right? Think again. We’re not talking about pens and leather-bound journals, Milicent. We’re talking on-line reporting and tweets.
Help the U.S.G.S. collect earthquake data through their program ‘Did you feel it?’ Providing information through their website about the location and intensity of seismic activity will help their scientists create maps and study the effects of these earthquakes. The Tweet Earthquake Dispatch has two twitter accounts offering earthquake alerts if you are interested in following them (if the shaking wasn’t alert enough for you). Also, the U.S.G.S. surveys tweets for the word for earthquake in a number of different languages to detect earthquakes. It turns out that this kind of survey is able to detect seismic activity ~30s – 2min faster than official recorders in some areas. This was true of the 5.8 magnitude 2011 quake in Virginia where seismic activity is rare and official recorders are few and far between. Now, that is government surveillance I can get behind!
If earthquakes aren’t your thing, there are also programs for reporting landslides (Did you see it?) and volcanic activity (Is ash falling?). You can also add data to The National Map to create a more complete picture of the U.S. with buildings and other features. The U.S.G.S. is also a partner of the National Phenology Network, which collect a wide range of data from nature to benefit scientific studies. If you enjoy spending time in nature, which could include your own backyard, then consider contributing to their Nature’s Notebook on-line reporting program. You can submit your observation location and keep track of certain species of plants and animals for scientists that use their data to track seasonal information. For my Baton Rouge area friends, this can be as simple as letting them know when your magnolia tree is blooming or when your pecans are falling off your trees. (Hey, I guess there is a plant connection after all.) I think someone somewhere would also like to know that there were no blueberries and the figs are late this year.
These can be great hobbies, family activities or group volunteer projects for school classes, scout troops, 4-H clubs, senior centers etc. So get involved!
*I also came across this post if you are looking for a more complete description of citizen science.