Citizen science and healthy ageing

Millions of people are making valuable contributions to research by getting involved in citizen science projects

Citizen science projects involve scientists and members of the community working together. Millions of people are getting involved, making valuable contributions, and gaining new skills and knowledge along the way.

There is a huge range of citizen science projects that are open for public participation, and there are many different ways to be involved. Some projects involve outdoor activities while others can be done indoors. Some projects can be done individually, while others are great for groups. Some projects require technology, like smartphones, while others do not.

Participating in citizen science projects may assist with healthy ageing. Outdoor projects can promote physical health. You can go walking to record plants or wildlife, or head out into your garden to record your crop harvests. BioBlitz events are a fun way to get outdoors and discover new places with friends or family. Participation in citizen science can also provide excellent mental exercise. You can learn about the topic of the project, like local wildlife, astronomy, meteorology or medical research. The tasks involved should provide good exercise for your brain, too, like solving puzzles, identifying animals, classifying galaxies, or transcribing historical records.

Your participation can be valuable for the scientists, helping them to conduct research that would be difficult without the help of many “citizen scientists”. And while you are contributing to citizen science projects, you can gain skills, meet like-minded people, and learn new things. There are thousands of citizen science projects around the world, here are just a few examples:

  • Echidna CSIhelp conservation science by recording echidna sightings; you can even collect echidna scats (i.e. poo) – but only if you want to.
  • Folditmake a contribution to biomedical research by playing an online game to help design new proteins (training is provided, and you can work individually or as a team).
  • Edible Gardenshelp environmental scientists study the productivity of home gardens by monitoring your water usage and harvesting of fruits, vegetables, eggs and anything edible.
  • Galaxy Zooassist astronomers in their research about distant galaxies by reviewing and classifying photographs of space.
  • Cat Trackerhelp understand cat behaviour by using a GPS tracking device to record the movements of your pet cat.

There are now thousands of citizen science projects that you can join, with or without experience. It doesn’t matter who you are, there is likely to be a citizen science project that will interest you! One of the greatest barriers to participation in citizen science is that people have not yet heard about how to get involved. You’ve made an important first step into the world of citizen science by reading this article. To help you take the next step you can:

  1. Attend a workshop: if you live around Adelaide, Mt Gambier or Pt Lincoln, the Discovery Circle is presenting workshops for older people with the support of Office for the Ageing, SA Health; you can find out more and register online (click here).
  2. Watch videos: If you can’t make the workshops, later this year you’ll be able view the content online. With the support of Office for the Ageing, SA Health, we are creating a series of videos to introduce people to citizen science projects. You can sign-up for the Discovery Circle e-Newsletter to be informed when the videos are available.
  3. Read more: You can read more about citizen science and review a list of projects on our Resources webpage (click here).
Posted in Discovery Blog

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