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  • Writer's pictureSteven Hansen

Track Birds, Bees, Babies as an Online Citizen Scientist

Playing online games and puzzles like Wordle and Sudoku are great ways to zone out while on a commuter train, say, or in the waiting room at the dentist’s office. And apps like Marine Tracker and Sounds of the Forest are entertaining ways to interact with the world around us while curled up on the couch on a rainy Sunday.

But if you have a free weekend or a sleepless night to while away, you can help solve real history and science mysteries on Zooniverse, the world’s largest crowd-sourced research platform.

As a participating citizen scientist, you’ll join hundreds of other volunteers around the world cracking data puzzles on scientific research projects in real time, from the convenience of your laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. The projects involve deciphering visual and audio clues in a way that humans are good at, and computers haven’t been able to master.

Current projects include tagging Australian tree frog sounds, identifying critters caught on camera in Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks, transcribing medieval London property deeds, looking for brown dwarfs and planets in NASA images taken beyond Neptune, describing pre-verbal babies’ babbles from around the world, and examining burrowing owl habitats in San Diego, among scores of other fascinating research projects.

There is no minimum time requirement for volunteering as a citizen scientist – you can do as much or as little as you'd like. Just sign up on the Zooniverse site (it’s free) then go to the Projects page and find one that intrigues you. Read the brief instructions and jump right in.

You can also chat with other volunteers working on the project and compare notes.

Zooniverse is a citizen science web portal owned and operated by the Citizen Science Alliance and Oxford University. It is home to some of the Internet's largest, most popular, and most successful citizen science projects. It was launched in 2007 and since then, more than 2 million online volunteers have helped the organization decrypt thousands of historical records, and discover new planets, galaxies, and species. Completed project findings have contributed to many peer-reviewed publications.

Photos (from top): Envato Elements; Mark Seton/Flickr; Zooniverse; NASA.

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