Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Citizen Science: What, Why, and How

This is a post I’ve been intending to write for a long, long time.  It’s a lot easier to write about my day to day life as an ecologist and PhD student.  In fact, any time I turn my computer on to write something that isn’t about me or about my personal research, I get this super intense surge of imposter syndrome.  I’ll stop the unnecessary preamble there for now.  It’s just my attempt to keep my writing in this space authentic, as I think it’s important to be honest about the struggles we face, even if they are mundane (Ermahgerd, writing a blog?  What if someone *gasp* reads it?!)
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Training citizen scientists out at Stebbins Cold Canyon UC NRS
 The term citizen science has been buzzing around in scientific circles for a number of years now.  When I first drafted this last week, the first annual conference of the Citizen Science Association was just wrapping up in San Jose, CA.  This conference showcased the amazing body of scholarly research concerning citizen science, which is telling us a larger and more coherent story about the practice every day.  I have had the pleasure of working with professional scientists and educators whose whole course of study revolves around the design and training of participants for these endeavors.  I will offer here the briefest of introductions based on my own reading and experience and a little anecdote about a citizen science group I help facilitate in my area.  For a peer-reviewed take on the matter, look to the fabulous overview by Bonney and colleagues’ from 2014 in Science (so it’s short and sweet) entitled, Next Steps for Citizen Science1.


What is Citizen Science anyway?


First things first, what is citizen science anyway?  Well, first of all, it is science.  That’s a major point to emphasize.  Data collected by these projects should answer scientific questions or test specific hypotheses.  Second, this is science being performed by individuals who are (in most cases) not formally trained as research scientists.  There is a huge variety within the citizen science genre, but, in my experience, most projects fall into three main categories:  atlas/survey, monitoring, and manipulative/experimental.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

Part 3 - And Now for Something Completely Different


How We Came to be Here - A Story in Three Parts

This week STS will be sharing stories of coming to careers in STEM fields.  We hope we can offer three different perspectives on finding your career path, navigating higher education, and deciding how and when your journey needs to change.  We’d love to hear any and all of your stories about finding your calling or your struggles/victories if you’re still trying to figure it out right now.  Please share!  It’s important for all of us (especially those in high school and undergrad) to know that there is no single, best way to approach this crazy adventure.  For Part 1, which is Rachel's story, click here. For Part 2, which is Chelsea’s story, click here.

Can I do it on my own? 
I have some impressive posts to follow! I am very lucky to have two wildly inspirational best friends that are both doing such amazing things with their lives. I suppose it’s time for my story. Unlike Rachel and Chelsea, after graduating from WKU in 2009 I took an academic year off to reconsider my options for moving forward. I’d had lots of wonderful experiences during my undergraduate years thanks to my mentor, Dr. Albert Meier. At that point I had done research, internships, studying abroad, an honors thesis, but even with all of this involvement, I still was terribly intimidated by the prospect of graduate school. Albert often reassured me that I could go straight into a PhD program, but to me that seemed like rushing the process. During the time I was working on applications to different programs I was living at home and working at a Red Robin to save money. A lot of my friends had already been accepted and moved onto graduate programs while I still had a giant pile of uncertainty in my future. This was a pretty bleak time for me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Part 2: Money isn’t Everything - or - Breaking up with Science

How We Came to be Here - A Story in Three Parts

This week STS will be sharing stories of coming to careers in STEM fields.  We hope we can offer three different perspectives on finding your career path, navigating higher education, and deciding how and when your journey needs to change.  We’d love to hear any and all of your stories about finding your calling or your struggles/victories if you’re still trying to figure it out right now.  Please share!  It’s important for all of us (especially those in high school and undergrad) to know that there is no single, best way to approach this crazy adventure. For Part 1, which is Rachel's story, click here.  
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My name is Chelsea. I have known Meridith since I moved to Kentucky in 1996. That was 19 year ago! Before anything else, I would like to use this guest post as a forum to show some funny pictures of us together, and then I will talk about science.
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Photographic evidence of Meridith and Chelsea’s especially long friendship. This was taken at Meridith’s house in 1997.
Part 2: Money isn’t Everything - or - Breaking up with Science

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