A little something is happening on Monday this week (and it may have already happened, depending upon when you are reading this.) It's a total eclipse of the sun, crossing the continental US. The internet and media has been full of advice about how to experience this rare event in North America without also melting your eyes out of their sockets.
If you are like me and didn't plan ahead, you are likely searching Google for how to make a pinhole projector to safely view the event. Or maybe you also found your way over to Globe.gov to find out how you can participate in citizen science data collection using the GLOBE Observer app during the eclipse.
Sponsored by NASA, the Globe Observer program is asking citizen scientists to observe how the eclipse changes atmospheric conditions near you. People who want to participate can download a free app from the iOS or Google Play stores.
I'm a bit of a fan of these citizen data science collection projects. They are fun, and can serve as a way to getting kids and novices involved in data collection and science. Programs like the Globe.gov one, which also offers ways for people to submit observations about clouds and about mosquito populations, and other citizen science data collection programs offer a fun, hands-on way to introduce kids and other novices to the world of data collection and analytics. There are several similar programs for bird watching and migratory patterns, too, attracting more than novices to the effort. Mobile phones serve as data collection devices, letting people record their observations and even photograph conditions or specimens and submit them to the greater citizen scientist database.
By participating in these efforts, citizens become a part of the scientific community. Participants in the birding community who load birding apps on their phones not only input data, they get information about sightings in their immediate geographic area, too. For hard core birders, these apps can provide information about where they might find a rare bird to add to their lifetime list.
For scientists these apps and the data collected by regular people out in the field can add to the record about bird populations, migration patterns, and more.
Do you have a favorite app that you use to participate in citizen scientist data collection efforts? Let us know in the comments.