Over the last week, Year 11 Biology students have been participating in ‘Citizen Science’ projects as a real-world extension to their GCSE syllabus work. Ruby and Aimee give us the lowdown on the projects:
‘The task began with us choosing the project we wanted to volunteer for. The website Zooniverse posts active research projects that anyone can take part in. A lot of the tasks are simple and quick and easy to build into a routine. It’s amazing to think what an invaluable contribution you could make to the global scientific community on your daily commute. With so many projects to choose from, there was something for everyone and we were all able to support a project we really believed in. The types of research that our class participated in varied from transcribing handwritten specimen labels of plants as a part of ‘Notes From Nature’, to identifying types of white blood cells in the ‘Monkey Health Explorer’ project, to observing mouse behaviour in ‘The Secret Life of Mice’ project. While many of us were initially attracted by a picture of a cute animal, relevance to a favourite book, or issues we were already passionate about such as climate change, the experience ended up enhancing our GCSE how science works skills and giving us real insight into novel approaches to data collection.
Although every research project is unique, they are all interactive and the data collection methods are very accessible and easy to pick up through simple keys and instructions. For example the ‘Chimp & See’ project provides the volunteer with a set of videos where they spot and categorise visible chimpanzees using a key in order to understand primate behaviour. In the ‘Jungle Weather Project’, the volunteer transcribes weather observations written in the 1950s in the rainforest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While this may seem far too simple to be significant, the data provides researchers with crucial information and has also improved our understanding of species’ responses to climate change, which is an ever pressing issue. In ‘Project Plumage’, the volunteer is given an image of a bird and asked to label its various features to help build a deeper understanding of how birds have evolved. All of these projects, as well as collecting valuable scientific data, raise the public’s awareness of the importance of protecting and conserving these ecosystems and the species that rely on them, which could ultimately make a tangible difference to the environment.
This week each and every one of us has had a different experience but one thing we can all agree on is that citizen science projects are a fun and rewarding way to contribute to science outside of the classroom. Many of us are keen to continue volunteering in this way. It was incredible to know that all our hard work would really be used and valued by upcoming scientists and we’d definitely recommend the experience to all students at Godolphin.’