You’re probably familiar with celebrity selfies, or those posted on Facebook by your friends, but soon the internet will be flooded with nothing less than … animal selfies.
Of course, these animals don’t know they’re being filmed by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage’s remote-sensing cameras placed in state nature reserves.
Some of these candid moments are sure to go viral now that the office has partnered with the Australian Museum to put the footage online in August so the public can help identify the animal striking a pose.
Projects like WildCount increasingly rely on interested citizens to gather information about their local surroundings. The observations, when collated, can be used to monitor the condition of ecosystems, the movements and behaviour of species and to predict how they might adapt or succumb to climate change.
“One of the features of climate change is that you start to see animals or plants in locations that you wouldn’t have expected previously. By having citizen scientists you’ve got a much better geographic dispersal,” said Kate Wilson, the executive director of science at OEH.
Citizen science initiatives that involve the public in science aren’t new. But the invention of smart phones, with their inbuilt GPS and surprising amount of processing power, means just about anyone can record valuable information about changes they notice in their environment.
One ambitious citizen science project, ClimateWatch, is trying to understand how changes in temperature and rainfall are affecting the seasonal behaviour of Australia’s plants and animals. The initiative, developed by Earthwatch with the Bureau of Meteorology and the University of Melbourne, asks members to chose an animal or plant they’re interested in and record any sightings online. They hope the information will inform Australia’s scientific response to climate change.
“People want to be involved in science beyond liking something on Facebook,” said Kim McKay, the head of the Australian Museum, which recently opened a citizen science centre.
“It’s certainly a great way to raise awareness of science and a good way to influence people’s behaviours,” she said.
If getting amongst nature isn’t your thing, you can always use the idle processing power of your home computer to run climate models. One such project,[email protected] ANZ, is running simulations to determine if climate change played a role in extreme weather events in Australia and New Zealand in 2013 and 2014.
More than 10,000 people around the world have joined up to this online climate experience, a collaboration between multiple Australian, British and New Zealand climate research groups.
David Karoly from the University of Melbourne said the project has been “amazingly successful”, producing important scientific results that will be published in peer-reviewed science journals.
Read the article at The Age.