Happy Thanksgiving fellow Bucketeers!
The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group. It is a place to note of any observations you have made of the world around you. Rain, sun, wind...insects, birds, flowers...meteorites, rocks...seasonal changes...all are worthy additions to the bucket. Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment. Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.I thought I would go a short way to making good on my threat yesterday to diary about ways to think about doing Citizen Science. What I want to avoid is coming off like I'm telling other bucketeers (or anyone) what they should be doing. My colleagues and I spend quite a bit of time thinking about educating undergraduates about the process of science so I am perhaps overly inclined to think along these lines in the Daily Bucket. Take from this what you wish and disregard the rest.
I also want to state that I realize that a lot of what happens in Backyard Science and The Daily Bucket fall outside of the Citizen Science label as it is normally used. There are wonderful diaries providing detailed natural history of various plants, animals, ecological communities, and geological formations. There are also wonderful diaries that incorporate art and politics with nature themes. Not intending any criticism of any of these things - wonderful science education and entertainment.
I am writing this because I know a number of you are interested in and active in gathering data for citizen science projects. If you are interested in trying your hand at taking things a step further it is vaguely possible that these diaries might help a bit or at least not confuse you further. As a final caveat I will say that due to my training I'm going to emphasize ecological science. I'm certainly not implying that other areas are not worthy of investigation.
I'm going to start with a bit of an overview. If there is interest I'll flesh out topics in future diaries. The list is not comprehensive and other things might get added later.
I see the 'tools' as falling into two separate groups: conceptual tools and measurement tools. The conceptual tools are the ones you use before you start gathering data and the measurement tools are what you use to gather data.
Conceptual Tools - These are what we emphasize more and more in our training of future scientists and science literate graduates in general. It's less about - can you do PCR, sequence DNA, or any other technical skill and more about - can you come up with a hypothesis, design an experiment, figure out what variables to measure, draw a graph, (read a graph), and communicate your findings.
Questions and Hypotheses The heart of science is about asking questions and then framing them in a such a way that you can get an answer. How do you come up with questions? Can you do science without asking questions?
Questions You Might Want to Ask Global Change/Human Impact questions. Basic Ecology questions based your observations.
Variables How to pick what you are going to measure so that it actually addresses your question.
Measurement Avoiding bias in measuring your variables.
Study Organisms and Questions Are you picking a question to suit your organism or an organism to suit your question? Either is OK but you should be clear in your head about it in order to ask questions clearly.
Measurement Tools How do you get the data you decide that you want? Some types of data are (almost) impossible to get. There is very little known about the field biology of Drosophila fruit flies despite the great interest in such data. It would be great contextual information on the vast wealth of lab-based information on these guys. However keeping track of tiny, highly mobile insects in the field is virtually impossible. Here I can discuss some of the kinds of data you might want to gather on organisms in nature and then in what groups those kinds of data are most easily collected.
A list of things you might want to know in an ecological study - when, what, where (easier questions), how, how many, how often (harder questions), why (really hard question). Phenology is an obvious example (when things happen). Other things we might want to know is where individuals occur both on a large and small scale; population sizes, associations between species, what is being eaten, etc, etc, etc
Plants - I'm going to make the case that the best low tech field biology is going to be plant-based. And I'm saying this as an animal biologist.
Birds -The most obvious and popular group of animals for observation in nature. Lots of good science to be done with birds but lots of limitations as well.
Insects - The least known group of easily observable organisms. Basic natural history and even just identification are going to be enormously valuable.
Other organisms - the three groups above are the ones that come up the most but certainly mammals, reptiles, marine invertebrates, algae, are also ripe for discussion.
Do any of these images in this diary suggest questions to you?
"Green Diary Rescue" is Back!
After a hiatus of over 1 1/2 years, Meteor Blades has revived his excellent series. As MB explained, this weekly diary is a "round-up with excerpts and links... of the hard work so many Kossacks put into bringing matters of environmental concern to the community... I'll be starting out with some commentary of my own on an issue related to the environment, a word I take in its broadest meaning."
"Green Diary Rescue" will be posted every Saturday at 1:00 pm Pacific Time on the Daily Kos front page. Be sure to recommend and comment in the diary.