Calling all citizen scientists


There is room for everyone in science and researchers are harnessing the enthusiasm of everyday people (not to mention their free time) to work on projects.

Galaxy Zoo is perhaps the most famous example of citizen science, with over 200,000 volunteers classifying galaxy images taken from a robotic telescope. Citizens have always played an important role in astronomy but now anyone can contribute without buying expensive equipment. We humans are needed to describe the images but the task is too large for a researcher or group of researchers to take on. Thus far over 150 million galaxies have been classified by volunteer astronomers (zooites) and a few have gone on to make really neat discoveries.

A more local example is Phylo, a citizen science project from McGill. A lot of these projects are actually games that people can play (yes, science can be fun!) and this one uses your pattern recognition skills to solve DNA puzzles in order to learn more about gene mutations and genetic disorders.

I urge you to find a citizen science project that interests you. Take a look at this list from Scientific American. There are a lot of weather or nature watching options (Snowtweets, RinkWatch, ZomBee Watch, SubseaObservers). There is even an Open Dinosaur Project.

Happy exploring!

GeoGratis for maps and geospatial data

Digital_map_of_the_world_in_hemispheres_by_thomas_kitchin_(1777)The new GeoGratis website is up and running and it looks fantastic. Are you asking yourself, what is GeoGratis? From their FAQ section: “The new GeoGratis is a portal provided by the Earth Science Sector (ESS) of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). It combines the former GeoPub, Mirage and GeoGratis into a one-stop gateway to search, discover and access 1000’s of maps, map data, imagery and documents.” Sounds good, right? With a clean and functional search interface, search by geographic location, keyword or product type. Who are GeoGratis’s users? Again, from the FAQs: “The data will be useful whether you are a novice who needs a geographic map for a presentation, an expert who wants to overlay a vector layer of digital data on a classified multiband image, with a digital elevation model as a backdrop, or a student who needs the latest document about the geology of a specific region.”

If the data you are looking for cannot be found in GeoGratis, remember to visit the Maps & geospatial data section of the Library website for a comprehensive list of free and proprietary map and data products. As a McGill student, faculty member, or researcher, you can request licensed data using the online geospatial data request form. If you have questions about Geographic Information Systems and Remote Sensing or GIS software, visit McGill’s Geographic Information Centre (GIC).

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Surf’s up!

I just spent a week in PEI and Nova Scotia, enjoying the sun and the surf. It is a true pleasure to be seaside, relaxing in the warm sand, cooling off in the waves and afterwards, at a small seafood shack, getting your fingers greasy eating fried clams and lobster rolls. It’s fair to say that I am rather romantic when it comes to the ocean and the less I know about it, the better. If you’re not like me and you’re actually a budding or seasoned scientist or oceanographer, please visit Fisheries and Oceans Canada and explore their Scientific Data and Products page. This is an online portal to “[o]ceanographic information and data collected and aggregated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Data is collected through several national and international programs.” You can browse the different websites and databases by topic (Biology and Chemistry; Ocean Physics; Meterorology) or alphabetically by title. Bookmark it!

Image courtesy of Library of Congress