Citizen Scientists to Mark Earth Day by Crowdsourcing Ecological Data Collection
A new research initiative is allowing anyone in possession of a mobile device to become a scientific sleuth for the planet—collecting and submitting data on everything from plastic pollution to air quality to, eventually, climate change and food security.
On April 1, in honour of Earth Day’s 50th anniversary, the Earth Day Network, alongside the U.S Department of State’s Eco-Capitals Forum and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, launched Earth Challenge 2020, “the world’s most accessible and transparent citizen science database portal ever created,” the Network announced.
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Combining data from citizen science projects already up and running with data collected by the public via a new mobile app, Earth Challenge 2020 hopes to shed new light on critical environmental concerns while nurturing worldwide interest in citizen science.
The app currently supports data collection on plastics and air quality, and further widgets awaiting rollout will soon enable citizen scientists to collect data on insects, climate, food security, and water quality—the four additional metrics determined by Earth Day to be “the most important questions in human and environmental health” based on a seven-continent crowdsourcing call conducted in 2017. Beyond 2020, Earth Day Network will be working with “new partners to identify even more areas to explore”.
Data points submitted by citizen scientists—expected to eventually exceed one billion entries—will be validated by machine learning algorithms or expert reviewers, then “displayed on a public map and made available as open data for researchers to use,” Earth Day Network explains. “With our partners, we are working to not only integrate citizen science data sets but also create an open data catalogue for the community to find and access open and interoperable information.”
Budding citizen scientists can learn more about Earth Challenge 2020 and begin participating in the crowdsourced data collection by visiting the Earth Challenge website and downloading the app.