Breaking News: YOU Are the Scientist

Honeybee in Rochester
One of my favorite personal ‘sightings’ in Rochester!

This week I have discovered something so cool I can hardly contain myself, and so I must share it with all the other scientists I know and that includes YOU. You, yes. Every one of you reading this can go out into your backyard and take part in an awesome experiment as part of i See Change.

i See Change is a really cool project (partially in collaboration with NASA) that allows you to participate in investigating the impact of climate change in your area. There’s the online website and also an app version, for those of you more phone-friendly people. Their mission statement reads:

“iSeeChange is empowering communities to observe how weather and climate affect their environment. We strive to connect the public with national media & scientists to understand how climate change is impacting their daily lives.”

You can track climate and weather data using their journaling feature; you can add pictures of ‘extreme weather events’ in your area like tornadoes, hurricanes, and more (my suggestion – get inside!). They’ve just introduced a really cool “Investigations” feature where you can be a part of a more directed project, instead of simply uploading climate data endlessly into the ether.

Investigations seem to be about establishing baseline data across the country that will help the i See Change partners (researchers) to gather more data and faster and then understand larger trends. These ‘sightings’ (the information you upload) can help local communities become more involved in environmental decisions for their area – and more aware of their specific, local needs! Here are some examples of investigations:

  • Agriculture – How’s your crop doing? Share your growing season, and what’s changing.
  • Landlife: Birds, Bugs, and Other Critters – Make sightings of the animals you see each season. What’s different?
  • Smog and Air Pollution – Is it hazy? Hard to breathe? Tell us about air quality (and when you close your windows).
  • Coastal Erosion and Sea Level Rise – Shorelines are changing. Show us what’s different. Is the high water mark higher?
  • Landscapes, Fields, Backyards – Return to a stream, lake, river, forest, field, or backyard to take pictures throughout the year.

Not only does this seem to be an excellent way to help researchers collect data and get people involved in the science of climate change in their local area (as opposed to trying to conceptualize the whole globe!) but it strikes me as a really great educational tool. What better way to further scientific interest in kids than to show them they’re making valuable contributions to an ‘investigation’ by photographing and discussing with you all the changes in your backyard stream? You can help them make hypotheses, even test them, etc. all with an easy-to-use and free app. I’m always a fan of tools that make science and the scientific process accessible to a larger community – i See Change seems to do just that!

What do you think of the i See Change idea? Would you consider using the app – what investigation would you be most interested in following? Let me know in the comments!

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