Citizen Science remains to be right here, and you may make an enormous contribution whilst you watch for the pandemic

This isn’t the first time I’ve been encouraging Daily Kos readers to check out the Citizen Science site on Zooniverse. That’s because not only does the website suggest a number of projects where ordinary interested citizens can make real contributions, but it has done an excellent job of configuring those projects so that scientific discovery is fun.

Personally, I’ve spent hours identifying individual chimpanzees (including watching some of them teach their children to open nuts with stones) and identifying hundreds of potential planets orbiting distant stars. I also transcribed old ship logs, sifted through data exchanged between naturalists, recreated an 18th century city, and restored a collection of anti-slavery documents.

Transcription of ancient Hebrew by the scribes of the Cairo Geniza project

When data sets are completed, projects come and go, but there are always fascinating projects in which volunteers not only work a lot, but make a real contribution.

For those with the determination, there is an ongoing project to extract the names of those killed by the Nazis from a number of ancient records. If that sounds too bleak for a sunny spring day, switch to transcribing the notebooks from “computers” – like the women who did the math behind some of astronomy’s greatest discoveries. And if that puts you in a space-ready mood, you can try to figure out what’s beyond Neptune by searching the data on Planet 9.

Over the past year everyone seems to have picked up a hobby. Probably more bread has been baked and more sweaters have been crocheted since 1960 than ever before. But just as people are terribly fed up with the pandemic, some of these new obsessions turn into mere … sessions (personally, I’m in between harvests of fresh rosemary, and without him the hour-long focaccia just isn’t the same).

Identify underwater sounds in the Dolphin Chat project
Identify underwater sounds in the Dolphin Chat project

If you wait and see what will hopefully take a few more months for things to return to normal (normal? Normalesque? Normal-adjacent?) This would be a good time to step in and learn to translate fragments of the ancient script. or identify pollinators high up in the canopy of African forests or help with the search for dark energy. If you have a good ear, you can help identify frogs by their song or crack the code for the dolphins’ language.

And when you find a project you like, let others know. Not only is this more fun and satisfying than the app you played on your phone, it’s also a lot lower in calories than most of the hobbies from the COVID era.

Comments are closed.