An August 25, 2022 news item on phys.org suggests that citizen science is becoming a more important component in scientific endeavours, Note: Links have been removed,
Citizen science is increasingly recognized as an important vehicle for democratizing science and promoting the goal of universal and equitable access to scientific data and information. IIASA [International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis] researchers actively contribute to the development of this scientific approach and have recently published a primer aimed at both established and aspiring practitioners of citizen science to highlight key issues and how to address them.
Citizen science has a long history and interested volunteers have participated in scientific inquiry for centuries, leading to some of the most extensive datasets and sources of information on among others, public health, pollution monitoring, and ecology and biodiversity tracking. Today, it offers unique opportunities to join science and research across the globe, empowering people to participate in the scientific process, to gather and share data and information, and to be equipped to contribute to collective action to address important challenges that we face locally and globally today.
IIASA is well known for developing innovative research methods to address global problems and citizen science is no exception. A new IIASA-led article just published in Nature Methods Reviews Primers, highlights how citizens can contribute meaningfully to scientific research, thereby becoming an integral part of integrated and evidence-based knowledge creation needed to address some of today’s most pressing challenges, including environmental pollution, food security, biodiversity loss, or the climate crisis. The authors also call attention to the impacts and great potential of citizen science for monitoring progress on ambitious global efforts like the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), large-scale data collection, and as a viable means to close data gaps and support inclusive decision-making.
“Nature Methods Reviews Primers articles are high-quality, introductory review articles describing the current state-of-the-art for applying a specific scientific method. Being invited to write a primer on citizen science is important in two main ways. First, it underlines that the field is earning recognition within the scientific establishment as a valid and valuable approach. Secondly, it offers the opportunity to showcase the breadth and depth of citizen science possibilities to a wide range of scientists and researchers who are not yet familiar with it,” explains co-lead author Gerid Hager, a researcher in the Novel Data Ecosystems for Sustainability Research Group of the IIASA Advancing Systems Analysis Program.
One of the big advantages of citizen science is the fact that it promotes open data practices. In this way, the approach contributes to science innovation by opening science up to society and advancing collaborations between various actors, including citizens, which helps to make science more participatory and inclusive.
“When designed optimally, beyond addressing the data gaps to create effective policies and achieve sustainable development, citizen science can help establish more inclusive data ecosystems that empower individuals and communities, especially those that are hard-to-reach and marginalized,” notes co-lead author Dilek Fraisl, a researcher in the same group at IIASA.
In conclusion, the authors point out that the fields of application for citizen science methods and approaches continue to broaden in terms of subject matter and deepen in terms of the advancement of methodologies as more examples of citizen science research enter the mainstream scientific literature. The principles described in their primer have been successfully applied to a wide range of research domains, particularly in biodiversity research, earth observation and geography, climate change research, or environmental monitoring, which in turn contribute further to the development of both best practice and novel approaches within the ecological and environmental sciences.
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,
Citizen science in environmental and ecological sciences by Dilek Fraisl, Gerid Hager, Baptiste Bedessem, Margaret Gold, Pen-Yuan Hsing, Finn Danielsen, Colleen B. Hitchcock, Joseph M. Hulbert, Jaume Piera, Helen Spiers, Martin Thiel & Mordechai Haklay. Nature Reviews Methods Primers volume 2, Article number: 64 (2022) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s43586-022-00144-4 Published: 25 August 2022
This paper appears to be open access.
I don’t usually include the Abstract here but I particularly like the way this one is written,
Citizen science is an increasingly acknowledged approach applied in many scientific domains, and particularly within the environmental and ecological sciences, in which non-professional participants contribute to data collection to advance scientific research. We present contributory citizen science as a valuable method to scientists and practitioners within the environmental and ecological sciences, focusing on the full life cycle of citizen science practice, from design to implementation, evaluation and data management. We highlight key issues in citizen science and how to address them, such as participant engagement and retention, data quality assurance and bias correction, as well as ethical considerations regarding data sharing. We also provide a range of examples to illustrate the diversity of applications, from biodiversity research and land cover assessment to forest health monitoring and marine pollution. The aspects of reproducibility and data sharing are considered, placing citizen science within an encompassing open science perspective. Finally, we discuss its limitations and challenges and present an outlook for the application of citizen science in multiple science domains.
Apparently, the answer is yes but why did the folks at Backyard Brains ask the question in the first place? From a June 30, 2020 Backyard Brains announcement (received via email),
Do fish play? The group over at Backyard Brains published a new study in the journal Animals titled “Gills Just Want to Have Fun: Can Fish Play Games, Just like Us?” which investigates play behaviours in our ancient ancestors. It’s not just cats and dogs that have all the fun, see for yourself in this video of fish chasing lasers. You can try the experiment yourself using a standard laser pointer and a fish tank.
Here are the fish at play,
For the curious, here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,
And, because I cannot resist a Cyndi Lauper moment,
For anyone curious about Backyard Brains, there’s this from their About page,
The brain is our soul… our consciousness… it contains all of our hopes, dreams, and desires. It is our most important organ, yet how it works is still a mystery for most people–even though they use it every day! Sure, your brain helps you decide what pants to wear or which muscle to move when walking down a street, but how does it do that? Neuroscientists actually know quite a bit about how the brain functions, but the tools to understand the brain have been relegated to only large university laboratories, inaccessible to the layperson. Backyard Brains is the effort to democratize neuroscience.
As neuroscience Ph.D. students at the University of Michigan, co-founders Tim and Greg experimented with discussing neuroscience with middle school children. They quickly realized that there was no way to demonstrate compelling experiments like the ones from their research lab to the kids they were working with. The equipment was too big and too expensive. So they endeavored to fix that. Founding Backyard Brains (BYB) in 2009, Tim and Greg used off-the-shelf electronics and readily-available products to create kits that would let kids learn about neuroscience at an earlier age. The first Spikerbox was born, a hand-held device able to provide insight into the inner workings of the nervous system and record living “spikes” … the messages of neurons in the brain.
Our products all have a focus on neuroscience, but have expanded into multiple STEM research fields. Our Neuron SpikerBox kits record directly from neurons in invertebrates. Our Human Physiology kits enable you to record from the brain’s electrical activity from motor units an muscular contractions (EMG), from the heart (EKG), and even from the whole brain (EEG). Our neuroengineering devices let you use your nervous system to control computers and robotics. We even have kits that reveal the secrets of plant signalling and behavior, proving that the action potential isn’t unique to nervous systems! All of our products are accompanied with Lesson Plans and Experiments to make learning (and teaching) neuroscience a breeze.
Since then, our commmunity has grown enormously. We now have a jaw-dropping 9 TED Talks, including a new series called “DIY Neuroscience which follows our student research team using our gear to expose the wonders of the brain. We have been awarded 4 grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health to develop our tools and to research their effectiveness. And our work has not gone unnoticed: we were awarded the “Champion of Change for Citizen Science” award by President Barack Obama at the White House, we won the Next Generation Award from the Society of Neuroscience, the Director’s award from the NIMH, we received nominations at the Imagine Science Film and the Viten Film Festival, and most importantly, we’ve been recognized with the prestigious “Unit Of The Year” by the 7th grade class at Seitz Middle School! We have worked hard for over a decade to bring neuroscience to you directly, and we’re not slowing down any time soon!
Thank you for your interest in Backyard Brains. We hope our products will help you bring neuroscience to life! What will you discover?
A June 21, 2022 news item on phys.org highlights a ‘citizen science’ project involving photography and frogs (Note: Links have been removed),
UNSW [University of New South Wales] Science and the Australian Museum want your photos of frogs, specifically those being bitten by flies, for a new (and inventive) technique to detect and protect our threatened frog species.
You might not guess it, but biting flies—such as midges and mosquitoes—are excellent tools for science. The blood “sampled” by these parasites contains precious genetic data about the animals they feed on (such as frogs), but first, researchers need to know which parasitic flies are biting which frogs. And this is why they need you, via the Australian Museum, to submit your photos.
A June 21, 2022 UNSW press release, which originated the news item, gives more details about the research and about the photographs the scientists would like to received,
Rare frogs can be very hard to find during traditional scientific expeditions,” says Ph.D. student Timothy Cutajar, leading the project. “Species that are rare or cryptic [inconspicuous] can be easily missed, so it turns out the best way to detect some species might be through their parasites.”
The technique is called “iDNA,” short for invertebrate-derived DNA, and researchers Mr. Cutajar and Dr. Jodi Rowley from UNSW Science and the Australian Museum were the first to harness its potential for detecting cryptic or threatened species of frogs.
The team first deployed this technique in 2018 by capturing frog-biting flies in habitats shared with frogs. Not unlike the premise of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, where the DNA of blood-meals past is contained in the bellies of the flies, Mr. Cutajar was able to extract the drawn blood (and therefore DNA) and identify the species of amphibian the flies had recently fed on.
These initial trials uncovered the presence of rare frogs that traditional searching methods had missed.
“iDNA has the potential to become a standard frog survey technique,” says Mr. Cutajar. “[It could help] in the discovery of new species or even the rediscovery of species thought to be extinct, so I want to continue developing techniques for frog iDNA surveys. However, there is still so much we don’t yet know about how frogs and flies interact.”
In a bid to understand the varieties of parasites that feed on frogs—so the team might lure and catch those most informative and prolific species—Mr. Cutajar and colleagues are looking to the public for their frog photos.
“If you’ve photographed frogs in Australia, I’d love for you to closely examine your pictures, looking for any frogs that have flies, midges or mosquitoes sitting on them. If you find flies, midges or mosquitoes in direct contact with frogs in any of your photos, please share them.”
“We’ll be combing through photographs of frogs submitted through our survey,” says Mr. Cutajar, “homing in on the characteristics that make a frog species a likely target for frog-biting flies.”
“It’s unlikely that all frogs are equally parasitized. Some frogs have natural insect repellents, while others can swat flies away. The flies themselves can be choosy about the types of sounds they’re attracted to, and probably aren’t evenly abundant everywhere.”
Already the new iDNA technique, championed in herpetology by Mr. Cutajar, has shown great promise, and by refining its methodology with data submitted by the public—citizen scientists—our understanding of frog ecology and biodiversity can be broadened yet further.
“The power of collective action can be amazing for science,” says Mr. Cutajar, “and with your help, we can kickstart a new era of improved detection, and therefore conservation, of our amazing amphibian diversity.”
The Cornell University Lab of Ornithology’s sound recognition feature in its Merlin birding app(lication) can answer that question for you according to a July 14, 2021 article by Steven Melendez for Fast Company (Note: Links have been removed),
The lab recently upgraded its Merlin smartphone app, designed for both new and experienced birdwatchers. It now features an AI-infused “Sound ID” feature that can capture bird sounds and compare them to crowdsourced samples to figure out just what bird is making that sound. … people have used it to identify more than 1 million birds. New user counts are also up 58% since the two weeks before launch, and up 44% over the same period last year, according to Drew Weber, Merlin’s project coordinator.
Even when it’s listening to bird sounds, the app still relies on recent advances in image recognition, says project research engineer Grant Van Horn. …, it actually transforms the sound into a visual graph called a spectrogram, similar to what you might see in an audio editing program. Then, it analyzes that spectrogram to look for similarities to known bird calls, which come from the Cornell Lab’s eBird citizen science project.
… Merlin can recognize the sounds of more than 400 species from the U.S. and Canada, with that number set to expand rapidly in future updates.
As Merlin listens, it uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to identify each species, displaying in real time a list and photos of the birds that are singing or calling.
Automatic song ID has been a dream for decades, but analyzing sound has always been extremely difficult. The breakthrough came when researchers, including Merlin lead researcher Grant Van Horn, began treating the sounds as images and applying new and powerful image classification algorithms like the ones that already power Merlin’s Photo ID feature.
“Each sound recording a user makes gets converted from a waveform to a spectrogram – a way to visualize the amplitude [volume], frequency [pitch] and duration of the sound,” Van Horn said. “So just like Merlin can identify a picture of a bird, it can now use this picture of a bird’s sound to make an ID.”
Merlin’s pioneering approach to sound identification is powered by tens of thousands of citizen scientists who contributed their bird observations and sound recordings to eBird, the Cornell Lab’s global database.
“Thousands of sound recordings train Merlin to recognize each bird species, and more than a billion bird observations in eBird tell Merlin which birds are likely to be present at a particular place and time,” said Drew Weber, Merlin project coordinator. “Having this incredibly robust bird dataset – and feeding that into faster and more powerful machine-learning tools – enables Merlin to identify birds by sound now, when doing so seemed like a daunting challenge just a few years ago.”
The Merlin Bird ID app with the new Sound ID feature is available for free on iOS and Android devices. Click here to download the Merlin Bird ID app and follow the prompts. If you already have Merlin installed on your phone, tap “Get Sound ID.”
Do take a look at Devokaitis’ June 23, 2021 article for more about how the Merlin app provides four ways to identify birds.
For anyone who likes to listen to the news, there’s an August 26, 2021 podcast (The Warblers by Birds Canada) featuring Drew Weber, Merlin project coordinator, and Jody Allair, Birds Canada Director of Community Engagement, discussing Merlin,
It’s a dream come true – there’s finally an app for identifying bird sounds. In the next episode of The Warblers podcast, we’ll explore the Merlin Bird ID app’s new Sound ID feature and how artificial intelligence is redefining birding. We talk with Drew Weber and Jody Allair and go deep into the implications and opportunities that this technology will bring for birds, and new as well as experienced birders.
The Warblers is hosted by Andrea Gress and Andrés Jiménez.
Scientists from the University of Newcastle [Australia], Australian Museum, South Australian Museum, and Queensland National Parks and Wildlife have found and described two new, very loud frog species from eastern Australia: the Slender Bleating Tree Frog, Litoria balatus, and Screaming Tree Frog, Litoria quiritatus.
Published today [November 22, 2021] in Zootaxa, the newly described Slender Bleating Tree Frog is present in Queensland, while the Screaming Tree Frog occurs from around Taree in NSW [new South Wales] to just over the border in Victoria.
Scientifically described with the help of citizen scientists and their recordings through the Australian Museum’s FrogID app, the new frog species were once thought to be one species [emphasis mine], the Bleating Tree Frog, Litoria dentata.
Screaming for attention: Surprise discovery of two new – and very loud – frog species
Australian Museum herpetologist and lead scientist on the groundbreaking FrogID project, Dr Jodi Rowley, said that the Bleating Tree Frog is well known to residents along the east coast of Australia for its extremely loud, piercing, almost painful call.
“These noisy frog bachelors are super loud when they are trying to woo their mates,” Rowley said.
The scientists analysed many calls submitted to the FrogID project from across Queensland and NSW to differentiate between the calls.
“Our examination revealed that their calls differ slightly in how long, how high-pitched and how rapid-fire they are. The Slender Bleating Tree Frog has the shortest, most rapid-fire and highest pitched calls,” Rowley explained.
Chief Research Scientist of Evolutionary Biology, South Australian Museum, Professor Steven Donnellan said that genetic work was the first clue that there are actually three species.
“Although similar in appearance, and in their piercing calls, the frogs are genetically very different. I’m still amazed that it’s taken us so long to discover that the loudest frog in Australia is not one but three species,” Professor Donnellan said.
“How many more undescribed species in the ‘quiet achiever’ category are awaiting their scientific debut?”
The three species vary subtly in appearance. The Slender Bleating Tree Frog, as its name suggests, is slender in appearance, and has a white line extending down its side, and males have a distinctly black vocal sac.
The Screaming Tree Frog isn’t nearly as slender, doesn’t have the white line extending down its side, and males have a bright yellow vocal sac. In the breeding season, the entire body of males of the Screaming Tree Frog also tend to turn a lemon yellow.
The Robust Bleating Tree Frog is most similar in appearance to the Screaming Tree Frog, but males have a brownish vocal sac that turns a dull yellow or yellowish brown when fully inflated.
Professor Michael Mahony of the University of Newcastle’s School of Environmental and Life Sciences – who over his long career has developed a cryopreservation method, the first genome bank for Australian frogs – said the three closely-related species are relatively common and widespread.
“They are also all at least somewhat tolerant of modified environments, being recorded as part of the FrogID project relatively often in backyards and paddocks, as well as more natural habitats,” Professor Mahony said.
Dr Rowley noted that these new frog species brings the total number of native frog species known from Australia to 246, including the recently recognised Gurrumul’s Toadlet and the Wollumbin Pouched Frog.
“The research and help from our citizen scientists highlights the valuable contribution that everyone can make to better understand and conserve our frogs,” Rowley said.
Yesterday (October 14, 2021), the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) announced their Walrus from Space project in a press release,
WWF and British Antarctic Survey (BAS) are seeking the public’s help to search for walrus in thousands of satellite images taken from space, with the aim of learning more about how walrus will be impacted by the climate crisis. It’s hoped half a million people worldwide will join the new ‘Walrus from Space’ research project, a census of Atlantic walrus and walrus from the Laptev Sea, using satellite images provided by space and intelligence company Maxar Technologies’ DigitalGlobe.
Walrus are facing the reality of the climate crisis: their Arctic home is warming almost three times faster than the rest of the world and roughly 13% of summer sea ice is disappearing per decade.
From the comfort of their own homes, aspiring conservationists around the world can study the satellite pictures online, spot areas where walrus haul out onto land, and then count them. The data collected in this census of Atlantic and Laptev walrus will give scientists a clearer picture of how each population is doing—without disturbing the animals. The data will also help inform management decisions aimed at conservation efforts for the species.
Walrus use sea ice for resting and to give birth to their young. As sea ice diminishes, more walrus are forced to seek refuge on land, congregating for the chance to rest. Overcrowded beaches can have fatal consequences; walrus are easily frightened, and when spooked they stampede towards the water, trampling one another in their panic. Resting on land (as opposed to sea ice) may also force walrus to swim further and expand more energy to reach their food—food which in turn is being negatively impacted by the warming and acidification of the ocean.
In addition walrus can also be disturbed by shipping traffic and industrial development as the loss of sea ice makes the Arctic more accessible. Walrus are almost certainly going to be impacted by the climate crisis, which could result in significant population declines.
Rod Downie, chief polar adviser at WWF, said:
“Walrus are an iconic species of great cultural significance to the people of the Arctic, but climate change is melting their icy home. It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of the climate and nature emergency, but this project enables individuals to take action to understand a species threatened by the climate crisis, and to help to safeguard their future. “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay there; the climate crisis is a global problem, bigger than any person, species or region. Ahead of hosting this year’s global climate summit, the UK must raise its ambition and keep all of its climate promises—for the sake of the walrus, and the world.”
Previous population estimates are based upon the best data and knowledge available, but there are challenges associated with working with marine mammals in such a vast, remote and largely inaccessible place. This project will build upon the knowledge of Indigenous communities, using satellite technology to provide an up-to-date count of Atlantic and Laptev walrus populations.
Hannah Cubaynes, wildlife from space research associate at British Antarctic Survey, said:
“Assessing walrus populations by traditional methods is very difficult as they live in extremely remote areas, spend much of their time on the sea ice and move around a lot, Satellite images can solve this problem as they can survey huge tracts of coastline to assess where walrus are and help us count the ones that we find. “However, doing that for all the Atlantic and Laptev walrus will take huge amounts of imagery, too much for a single scientist or small team, so we need help from thousands of citizen scientists to help us learn more about this iconic animal.”
Earlier this year Cub Scouts from across the UK became walrus spotters to test the platform ahead of its public release. The Scouts have been a partner of WWF since the early 1970s, and over 57 million scouts globally are engaged in environmental projects.
Cub Scout Imogen Scullard, age 9, said:
“I love learning about the planet and how it works. We need to protect it from climate change. We are helping the planet by doing the walrus count with space satellites, which is really cool. It was a hard thing to do but we stuck at it”
The ‘Walrus From Space’ project, which is supported by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, as well as RBC Tech For Nature and WWF supporters, aims to recruit more than 500,000 citizen scientists over the next five years. Over the course of the project counting methods will be continually refined and improved as data is gathered.
Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said:
“We’re delighted that players’ support is bringing this fantastic project to life. We encourage everyone to get involved in finding walrus so they can play a part in helping us better understand the effects of climate change on this species and their ecosystem. “Players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting this project as part of our Postcode Climate Challenge initiative, which is providing 12 charities with an additional £24 million for projects tackling climate change this year.”
Aspiring conservationists can help protect the species by going to wwf.org.uk/walrusfromspace where they can register to participate, and then be guided through a training module before joining the walrus census.
Nonetheless and leaving aside that the Arctic and the Antarctic are literally polar opposites, I gather that the British Government in the form of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), is quite interested in the Arctic, viz.: the Walrus from Space project.
If you keep digging you’ll find a chain of UK government agencies, from the BAS About page (at the bottom), Note: Links have been removed,,
British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is a component of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is a non-departmental public body of the Government of the United Kingdom that directs research and innovation funding, funded through the science budget of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy [emphases mine].
There doesn’t have to be a sinister connection between a government agency devoted to supporting business and industry and a climate change project. If we are to grapple with climate change in a significant way, we will need cooperation from many groups and coutnries (some of which may have been adversaries in the past).
Of course, the problem with the business community is that efforts aimed at the public good are often publicity stunts.
For anyone curious about the businesses mentioned in the press release, Maxar Technologies can be found here, Maxar’s DigitalGlobe here, and RBC (Royal of Bank of Canada) Tech for Nature here.
BTW, I love that walrus picture at the beginning of this posting.
Australian scientists are calling on citizen scientists to help them understand why frogs in eastern Australia are dying in what seems to be record numbers.
Here’s more from a July 28, 2021 essay by Jodi Rowley (curator, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biology, Australian Museum at the University of New South Wales [UNSW]), and Karrie Rose (Australian Registry of Wildlife Health – Taronga Conservation Society, University of Sydney) for The Conversation (can also be found as a July 28, 2021 news item on phys.org), Note: Links have been removed,
Over the past few weeks, we’ve received a flurry of emails from concerned people who’ve seen sick and dead frogs across eastern Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
One person wrote:
“About a month ago, I noticed the Green Tree Frogs living around our home showing signs of lethargy & ill health. I was devastated to find about 7 of them dead.”
In most circumstances, it’s rare to see a dead frog. Most frogs are secretive in nature and, when they die, they decompose rapidly. So the growing reports of dead and dying frogs from across eastern Australia over the last few months are surprising, to say the least.
While the first cold snap of each year can be accompanied by a few localised frog deaths, this outbreak has affected more animals over a greater range than previously encountered.
This is truly an unusual amphibian mass mortality event.
In this outbreak, frogs appear to be either darker or lighter than normal, slow, out in the daytime (they’re usually nocturnal), and are thin. Some frogs have red bellies, red feet, and excessive sloughed skin.
The iconic green tree frog (Litoria caeulea) seems hardest hit in this event, with the often apple-green and plump frogs turning brown and shrivelled.
This frog is widespread and generally rather common. [emphasis mine] In fact, it’s the ninth most commonly recorded frog in the national citizen science project, FrogID. But it has disappeared from parts of its former range. [emphasis mine]
We simply don’t know the true impacts of this event on Australia’s frog species, particularly those that are rare, cryptic or living in remote places. Well over 100 species of frog live within the geographic range of this outbreak. Dozens of these are considered threatened, including the booroolong Frog (Litoria booroolongensis) and the giant barred frog (Mixophyes iteratus).
Here’s more about the Australian agencies investigating the mass mortality event and some information about how you can help, from the July 28, 2021 essay by Rowley and Rose,
… the Australian Registry of Wildlife Health is working with the Australian Museum, government biosecurity and environment agencies as part of the investigation.
While we suspect a combination of the amphibian chytrid fungus and the chilly temperatures, we simply don’t know what factors may be contributing to the outbreak.
We also aren’t sure how widespread it is, what impact it will have on our frog populations, or how long it will last.
While the temperatures stay low, we suspect our frogs will continue to succumb. If we don’t investigate quickly, we will lose the opportunity to achieve a diagnosis and understand what has transpired.
We need your help to solve this mystery.
Please send any reports of sick or dead frogs (and if possible, photos) to us, via the national citizen science project FrogID, or email email@example.com.
You can find FrogID here. At this writing (Monday, Aug. 2, 2021), there doesn’t seem to be a specific link to the current investigation on the FrogID homepage, which is devoted to reporting frog sounds. However, at the bottom of the homepage there is a ‘Contact us’ section with a ‘Research Enquiries’ option.
For any Canadians who are reading this and are unable to participate but would still like to contribute to frog welfare, there’s a Canadian effort, frogwatch. For anyone in the UK, there’s Froglife. Both of which, like FrogID, are citizen science projects.
A March 1, 2021 news item on phys.org announced a call for volunteers from University of Saskatchewan (USask) polar bear researcher Doug Clark (the response was tremendous),
University of Saskatchewan (USask) researcher Doug Clark is launching a first-of-its-kind research project that will engage citizen volunteers to help advance knowledge about polar bear behavior by analyzing a decade’s worth of images captured by trail cameras at Wapusk National Park in northern Manitoba.
“This is a totally different way to do polar bear research,” said Clark, an associate professor at USask’s School of Environment and Sustainability. “It’s non-invasive, it involves the public for the first time, and it’s being done in a way that can carry on through the pandemic without endangering anyone in northern communities.”
Clark is collaborating with Oxford University penguinologist Tom Hart on the project, which will be run on Zooniverse—a “people-powered” online platform that has more than two million volunteers worldwide who assist researchers in almost every discipline to sort and organize data.
Hart has been using Zooniverse to help with his Antarctic Penguin Watch and Seabird Watch projects. He’s helping Clark and his students to set up the polar bear project by aggregating and uploading data, and will work with Clark on the analysis. (The platform gets institutional support from Oxford University and the Adler Planetarium, and receives grants from a variety of sources.)
“This allows people, who might otherwise just passively consume images on TV and social media, to participate in polar bear research and understand how these bears are interacting with people and other wildlife in what we know is a rapidly changing environment,” said Clark.
The volunteers are supplied with a field guide and asked to count the number of bears in photos, their gender, cubs, body condition and other factors, choosing from provided options. Beta testing with more than 60 volunteers showed the process works well. The photos will be uploaded in tranches over the coming months, allowing volunteers to work through one batch before moving on to the next.
“Volunteers can help us process data in ways that are incredibly labour-intensive, which otherwise would take us and our students years to do. Frankly, Zooniverse produces more robust data and more robust analyses than if we were tiredly flipping through photos on our own.”
The project … launched Feb. 27 [2021\, on International Polar Bear Day.
The research project began in 2011 when Clark was asked by Parks Canada to find out if the field camps it established in Wapusk attracted or repelled polar bears—a question that still hasn’t been conclusively answered.
Other questions his team is trying to answer are:
What are the drivers of polar bear visits to human infrastructure/activity? (i.e. is it environmental, is it a result of a lack of sea ice/nutritional stress, or is it a response to human activity?)
Are there changes over time in where/when polar bears, and all the other Arctic and boreal species seen in the photos, are observed?
Researchers have installed five non-invasive trail cameras at each of three field camp sites, and eight more at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre that operate year round, and have captured more than 600 discrete polar bear observations over 10 years, along with images of other species such as wolf, caribou, grizzly bears, moose, Arctic and red foxes, and even occasional wolverines.
The four sites are along the Hudson Bay coast and are separated by almost 200 kilometres, across the ecological boundary between boreal forest and tundra providing invaluable data on multiple species in a changing environment.
Ryan Brook, an associate professor in USask’s College of Agriculture and Bioresources, is taking advantage of the lucky “by-catch” of Clark’s project—the images of caribou and wolves—to conduct research on these species, especially caribou populations, at a time of Arctic warming and changing weather patterns.
Work with us to understand how polar, grizzly, and black bears behave in a changing environment
About The Arctic Bears Project
We’re learning how polar, grizzly, and black bears behave in the changing Arctic environment, with special attention to how they interact with people. The images you’ll see come from remote cameras set up on the fences of field camps in Wapusk National Park, on the west coast of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada. Wapusk means “white bear” in the Cree language, and the park was established in 1996. At the time the park was established the area was well-known for its importance as polar bear denning habitat, and local people knew black bears lived in the forests there, but the appearance of grizzly bears in the late 1990s was a surprise. Read more about our research findings here.
When we say “we”, that includes a whole lot of people who all contribute to making this project happen: and not just the researchers! Wapusk National Park’s staff in Churchill, Manitoba, got the ball rolling in 2010 and since then community members in Churchill and elsewhere have helped us shape this project. Their enthusiasm for non-invasive wildlife research tools, and for the unexpected things we see on the cameras, motivates our team. In the early days of this work we were just excited that our cameras survived over the winter, but pretty soon we were realizing just how many photos we were collecting. This is where you come in: Zooniverse volunteers. Your help processing a decade’s worth of pictures from a changing sub-Arctic landscape is a critical task, and we’re so grateful to have your assistance with this research. These photos are downloaded once a year from most cameras, and the days when we finally see those images are special treats that every one of our team enjoys. We hope you experience the same feeling.
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (or Wilson Center; located in Washington, DC) has a new initiative, the ‘Thing Tank’ (am enjoying the word play). It’s all about low cost science tools and their possible impact on the practice of science. Here’s more from a May 27, 2020 email notice,
From a foldable microscope made primarily from paper, to low cost and open microprocessors supporting research from cognitive neuroscience to oceanography, to low cost sensors measuring air quality in communities around the world, the things of science — that is, the physical tools that generate data or contribute to scientific processes — are changing the way that science happens.
The nature of tool design is changing, as more and more people share designs openly, create do-it-yourself (DIY) tools as a substitute for expensive, proprietary equipment, or design for mass production. The nature of tool access and use is changing too, as more tools become available at a price point that is do-able for non-professionals. This may be breaking down our reliance on expensive, proprietary designs traditionally needed to make scientific progress. This may also be building new audiences for tools, and making science more accessible to those traditionally limited by cost, geography, or infrastructure. But questions remain: will low cost and/or open tools become ubiquitous, replacing expensive, proprietary designs? Will the use of these tools fundamentally change how we generate data and knowledge, and apply it to global problems? Will the result be more, and better, science? And if so, what is standing in the way of widespread adoption and use?
In the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Wilson Center, we often consider how new approaches to science are changing the way that science happens. Over the last five years, we’ve investigated how emerging enthusiasm in citizen science — the involvement of the public in scientific research — has changed the way that the public sees science, and contributes to data-driven decision-making. We have explored crowdsourcing and citizen science as two important paradigms of interest within and beyond US federal agencies, and investigated associated legal issues. We’ve documented how innovations in open science, especially open and FAIR data, can make information more shareable and impactful. Across our efforts, we explore and evaluate emerging technology and governance models with the goal of understanding how to maximize benefit and minimize risk. In the process, we convene scientists, practitioners, and policy makers to maximize the value of new approaches to science.
Now, we are expanding our attention to explore how innovation in the physical tools of science accelerate science, support decision-making, and broaden participation. We want to understand the current and potential value of these tools and approaches, and how they are changing the way we do science — now, and in the future.
THING Tank, our new initiative, fits well within the overall mission of the Wilson Center. As a think tank associated with the United States federal government, the Wilson Center is a boundary organization linking academia and the public policy community to create actionable research while bringing stakeholders together. Innovative and accessible tools for science are important to academia and policy alike. We hope to also bridge these perspectives with critical, on the ground activities, and understand and elevate the individuals, non-profits, community groups, and others working in this space.
The notice was in fact an excerpt from a May 19, 2020 article by Alison Parker and Anne Bowser on the Wilson Center website, I believe Bowser and Parker are the organizers behind the Think Tank initiative.
There are big plans for future activities such as workshops, a member directory and other outreach efforts. There’s also this,
We want to hear from you!
This space touches many communities, networks and stakeholders, from those advancing science, those working together to promote ideals of openness, to those developing solutions in a commercial context. No matter your interest, we want to hear from you! We’re looking for contributions to this effort, that can take a variety of forms:
Help us catch up to speed. We recognize that there are decades of foundational work and ongoing activities, and are eager to learn more.
Help us connect to broader communities, networks, and stakeholders. What is the best way to get broad input? Who isn’t in our network, that should be?
Introduce your communities and stakeholders to public policy audiences by contributing blog posts and social media messaging – more information on this coming soon!
Explore converging communities and accelerators and barriers by participating in workshops and events – definitely virtually, and hopefully in person as well.
Contribute and review content about case studies, definitions, and accelerators and barriers.
Share our products with your networks if you think they are useful.
To start, we will host a series of virtual happy hours exploring the role of openness, authority, and community in open science and innovation for crisis and disaster response. How have tools for science impacted the response to COVID-19, and how is the governance of those devices, and their data, evolving in emergency use?
How one is to contact the organizers is not immediately clear to me. They’ve not included any contact details on that webpage but you can subscribe to the newsletter,
I was hoping this would be the concluding part of this series but there was much more than I dreamed. (I know that’s repetitive but I’m truly gobsmacked.)
Astronomy and bird watching (ornithology) are probably the only two scientific endeavours that have consistently engaged nonexperts/amateurs/citizen scientists right from the earliest days through the 21st century. Medical research, physics, chemistry, and others have, until recently and despite their origins in ‘amateur’ (or citizen) science, become the exclusive domain of professional experts.
This situation seems to be changing both here in Canada and elsewhere. One of the earliest postings about citizen science on this blog was in 2010 and, one of the most amusing to me personally, was this March 21, 2013 posting titled: Comparing techniques, citizen science to expert science. It’s about a study by scientists at the University of East Anglia (UK) comparing data collection by citizen scientists with experts. In this particular project where undersea data was being collected and people with diving skills needed, the citizen scientists did a better job than the expert scientists of collecting data. (I’m not trying to suggest that experts can be replaced by amateurs but do suggest that there are advantages to working together.)
Take a look at your car. The bus you take to work. The smart phone you tap on during your commute. They all have one thing in common: science. Science is all around us. It shapes the way we live, the meals we grab on the go and the commute that takes us to school and work.
That is why the Government of Canada is encouraging young Canadians’ interest in science. Research and innovation lead to breakthroughs in agriculture, transit, medicine, green technology and service delivery, improving the quality of life for all Canadians. The outcomes of research also create jobs, strengthen the economy and support a growing middle class.
The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, carried that message to an audience of young students during her first citizen science Google Hangout today. The Hangout, run by Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants, a not-for-profit organization, featured frog exhibits from the Toronto Zoo and a demonstration of the FrogWatch citizen science project by Dr. Nancy Kingsbury of Environment and Climate Change Canada. Toronto Zoo frog expert Katherine Wright joined Minister Duncan at the zoo to share information about frogs that are local to Ontario.
Minister Duncan, Dr. Kingsbury and Ms. Wright then engaged with elementary school children across Canada in a live Q&A session about the frogs in their own backyards. The Minister highlighted the importance of getting young Canadians interested in science fields and talked about ways they can take part in citizen science projects in their communities. Citizen scientists can share their observations on social media using the hashtag #ScienceAroundMe.
“Science is for everyone, and it is important that we encourage today’s youth to be curious. Young Canadians who engage in citizen science today will become the highly skilled workers—engineers, scientists, mathematicians, technology experts and entrepreneurs—of tomorrow. Through citizen science, children can nurture an interest in the natural world. These young people will then go on to discover, to innovate and to find solutions that will help us build a better Canada.” – The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities
“The Toronto Zoo is proud to participate in and encourage citizen science programs, such as FrogWatch, within the community. The Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-A-Pond Wetland Conservation Programme works to engage citizen scientists and deliver impactful conservation-focused research, restoration and outreach that highlight the importance of saving Canada’s sensitive wetland species and their habitats.” – Robin Hale, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Zoo
NatureWatch, of which FrogWatch is a component, is a community program that engages all Canadians in collecting scientific information on nature to understand our changing environment.
Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants aims to inspire the next generation of scientists, explorers and conservationists by bringing science, exploration, adventure and conservation into classrooms through virtual field trips run by programs like Google Hangout.
The Government of Canada’s Citizen Science Portal is a one-stop shop for science in the community. It showcases science programs, including NatureWatch programs, across the country.
The portal is not nearly as Ontario-centric as the projects mentioned in the news release (in case you were wondering).
Aside: In part 2 of this series, Jesse Hildebrand, founder of Science Literacy Week was mentioned as also being the founder of Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants.
Going to the birds
While bird watching and ornithological studies are not new to the Canadian science culture scene, there were some interesting developments in the 2010-19 period.
Canadian Geographic (magazine) sponsored a contest in 2015, the National Bird Project, where almost 50,000 people submitted suggestions for a national bird. Voting online ensued and on August 31, 2016 popular voting was closed. Five birds attracted the top votes and in September 2016, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society put together an expert panel to debate and decide which would be Canada’s national bird. The choice was announced in November 2016 (Canadian Geographic National Bird Project).
The gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis in Latin, Mésangeai du Canada in French) lives in all 13 provinces and territories — the friendly spirit in Canada’s wild northern boreal and mountain forests. It remains in Canada year-round, is neither hunted nor endangered, and from the Atlantic provinces to the West is an indicator of the health of the boreal and mountain forests and climate change, inspiring a conservation philosophy for all kinds of northern land uses. The gray jay has long been important to Indigenous Peoples, and will draw all Canadians to their national and provincial/territorial parks, yet unlike the loon and snowy owl, it is not already a provincial or territorial bird.
Gray jay is a passerine bird belonging to the family Corvidae. It is mostly found in the boreal forest of North America. The bird is fairly large and has pale gray underparts and dark grey upperpart. Gray jay is a friendly bird and often approach human for food. It is also popularly known as the camp robber, whisky jack, and venison-hawk. Gray jay is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN [International Union for Conservation of Nature]. However, the anthropogenic climate change in the southern range may adversely affect its population. In some Fist Nation cultures, the bird is associated with mythological figures including Wisakedjak who was anglicized to Whiskyjack.
For approximately 200 years, the gray jay was known as “Canadian Jay” to the English speakers. The bird was renamed the “gray jay” in 1957 by the American Ornithologists’ Union. However, scientifically the bird is referred to as Perisoreus Canadensis. The bird is found in almost all the provinces of territories of Canada. the preferred habitat for the species is Canada’s boreal and mountain forests. Gray jay is also one of the smartest birds in the world and has almost the same body-to-brain ratio as human beings.
Canadian Georgraphic offers more depth (and a map) in a November 16, 2016 article, by Nick Walker, titled, Canada, meet your national bird (Note: Links have been removed),
With 450 species in the country to choose from, Canadian Geographic’s decision was made neither lightly nor quickly.
This national debate has been running since January 2015, in fact. But after weighing the opinions and preferences of tens of thousands of Canadians, as well as the expertise of our National Conservation Partners at Bird Studies Canada and other ornithologists and conservationists, as well as cultural experts and Indigenous Peoples, that list was narrowed to five birds. And one finalist best met all reasonable criteria.
We give you the gray jay. …
Not only has the gray jay never been recorded outside of North America, the vast majority of its range is in Canada, with only a small percentage crossing into Alaska and the western mountains of the United States. The species’ preferred habitat is Canada’s boreal and mountain forests — ecozones that stretch from coast to coast and into the North, blanketing nearly two-thirds of the country.
Like the Canadian flag when it was selected in 1965, the gray jay is fresh and new and fitting. To quote David Bird, ornithologist and professor emeritus of wildlife biology at Montreal’s McGill University, we cannot think of a more Canadian bird.
Three sets of bird stamps were issued by Canada Post from 2016-2018 saluting “Canada’s avian citizens.” Here’s more from a July 12, 2016 Birds of Canada blog post on the Canada Post website announcing the first series of bird stamps,
Hatched by designer Kosta Tsetsekas and illustrator Keith Martin, these stamps are the first in a three-year series celebrating Canada’s avian citizens. Our first flock includes five official birds: the Atlantic puffin (Newfoundland and Labrador), the great horned owl (Alberta), the common raven (Yukon), the rock ptarmigan (Nunavut) and the sharp-tailed grouse (Saskatchewan).
On behalf of the International Ornithologists’ Union, Vancouver is delighted to welcome ornithologists from around the world to the 27th International Ornithological Congress (IOCongress2018)! Considered the oldest and most prestigious of meetings for bird scientists, the Congress occurs every four years since first being held in Vienna, Austria, in 1884.
Canada has hosted only once previously, Ottawa in 1986, and Vancouver will be the first time the Congress has been on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. The Congress has broad national endorsement, including from the City of Vancouver, the province of British Columbia, Environment Canada, Simon Fraser University, Artists for Conservation, Tourism Vancouver plus an array of scientific societies and conservation organizations.
The convention centre’s webpage features an impressive list of events which were open to the public,
Stars of the Bird World Presentation (August 19): Dr. Rob Butler, chair of the Vancouver International Bird Festival, presents Flyways to Culture: How birds give rise to a cultural awakening, at look at how the growing interest in birds in particular and nature in general, is a foundation for a new Nature Culture in which nature becomes embedded into a west coast culture. 8:30-10 a.m. at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Admission by donation ($10 suggested).
Festival Opening Ceremony – Parade of Birds and a fanfare by Vancouver Symphony Brass Quintet (August 20): The festival begins with a Parade of Birds and a fanfare by the Vancouver Symphony Brass Quintet. The fanfare “Gathering Flock” was composed by Frederick Schipizky. 3:20 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Artists for Conservation Show (August 22): Artists for Conservation is the official visual arts partner for the festival and congress, showcasing some of the world’s best nature art through its annual juried exhibit, a collaborative mural, artist demo and lecture series and an artist booth expo. Official opening 6-10 p.m. at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Nature & Bird Expo (until August 25): The three-day Bird Expo is the showcase of birds and nature in Canada, including exhibitors, speakers, yoga, poetry, art and more. Runs until Aug. 25 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Check out a full event listing at www.vanbirdfest.com/calendar/nature-bird-expo.
Migration Songs – Poetry and Ornithology (August 23): Migration Songs brings together 11 contemporary poets to consider an array of bird species. Each poet was put in conversation with a particular ornithologist or scientist to consider their chosen species collaboratively. The poets involved include well-known west-coast authors, amongst them Governor General’s Award and Griffin Poetry Prize winners. A short book of these collaborations, Migration Songs, with cover art by poet, painter, and weaver Annie Ross, will be available. 6 p.m. at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Unveiling of the Silent Skies Mural (August 23): A signature event of the week-long Artists for Conservation show is the unveiling of the Silent Skies mural made up of illustrations of the endangered birds of the world — 678 pieces, each depicting a different endangered bird, will make up the 100-foot-long installation that will form the artistic centrepiece for the 8th annual Artists for Conservation Festival, the 27th International Ornithological Congress and Vancouver International Bird Festival. The unveiling takes place at 6:30 p.m. at the Vancouver Convention Centre.
Stewardship Roundtable 2018 (August 24): A forum and showcase of innovative practices championed in B.C. province and beyond, presented by the Stewardship Centre for BC and Bird Studies Canada, in collaboration with the 27th International Ornithological Congress and Vancouver International Bird Festival. 8:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. at the Vancouver Convention Centre. For more information or to register, visit stewardshipcentrebc.ca/programs/wildife-species-risk/stewardship-roundtable.
Closing Ceremony (August 26): The closing ceremony will include remarks from officials and First Nations representatives, and a Heron Dance by the New Dance Centre from Saskatchewan. 5-6:30 p.m. at Vancouver Convention Centre.
I attended the opening ceremony where they announced the final set of stamps in the Birds of Canada series by introducing people who’d dressed for the parade as the birds in question.
The Canadian birding community has continued to create interesting new projects for science outreach. A December 19, 2019 posting by Natasha Barlow for Birds Canada (also known as Bird Studies Canada) announces a new interactive story map,
The Boreal Region is a massive expanse of forests, wetlands, and waterways covering much of the Northern Hemisphere. In Canada, this vast region stretches for 5000 kilometres from Newfoundland and Labrador through the country’s central regions and northwest to the Yukon.
Over 300 bird species regularly breed here, from tiny songbirds like kinglets and warblers to comparatively giant swans and cranes. The Boreal is home to literally billions of birds, and serves as the continent’s bird “nursery” since it is such an important breeding ground.
While extensive tracts of Canada’s northern Boreal still remain largely undisturbed from major industrial development, the human footprint is expanding and much of the southern Boreal is already being exploited for its resources.
Birds Canada, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, has created an interactive story map that details the importance of the Boreal region for birds.
Climate change, ecology, and Indigenous knowledge (science)
There is more focus on climate change everywhere in the world and much of the latest energy and focus internationally can be traced to Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg who turned 17 in January 2020. Her influence has galvanized a number of youth climate strikes in Canada and around the world.
There is a category of science fiction or speculative fiction known as Climate Fiction (cli-fi or clifi). Margaret Atwood (of course) has produced a trilogy in that subgenre of speculative fiction, from the Climate Fiction Wikipedia entry, Note: Links have been removed,
Margaret Atwood explored the subject in her dystopian trilogy Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood (2009) and MaddAddam (2013). In Oryx and Crake Atwood presents a world where “social inequality, genetic technology and catastrophic climate change, has finally culminated in some apocalyptic event”. The novel’s protagonist, Jimmy, lives in a “world split between corporate compounds”, gated communities that have grown into city-states and pleeblands, which are “unsafe, populous and polluted” urban areas where the working classes live.
There is some other cli-fi literature by Canadians, notably an anthology of Canadian short stories edited by Bruce Meyer, from a March 9, 2018 review by Emilie Moorhouse published in Canada’s National Observer (review originally published in Prism magazine on March 8, 2018), Note: A link has been removed,
A woman waits in line to get her water ration. She hasn’t had a sip of water in nearly three days. Her mouth is parched; she stumbles as she waits her turn for over an hour in the hot sun. When she he finally gets to the iTap and inserts her card into the machine that controls the water flow, the light turns red and her card is rejected. Her water credits have run out.
This scenario from “The Way of Water” by Nina Munteanu is one of many contained in the recently published anthology of short stories, Cli-Fi: Canadian Tales of Climate Change. The seventeen stories in this book edited by Bruce Meyer examine how humankind might struggle with the potential devastation of climate change in the near or distant future. Soon after I finished reading the book, Cape Town—known in precolonial times as “the place where clouds gather”—announced that it was only a few months away from what it called “Day Zero,” the day the city would officially run out of water, making the similarities between fiction and reality more than unsettling. Munteanu’s story is set in a futuristic Canada that has been mined of all its water by thirsty corporations who have taken over control of the resource. Rain has not fallen on Canadian soil in years due to advances in geoengineering and weather manipulation preventing rain clouds from going anywhere north of the Canada-US border.
Indigenous knowledge (science)
The majority of Canada’s coastline is in the Arctic and climate change in that region is progressing at a disturbing pace. Weather, Climate Change, and Inuit Communities in the Western Canadian Arctic, a September 30, 2017 blog posting, by Dr. Laura Eerkes-Medrano at the University of Victoria (British Columbia) for Historical Climatology describes it this way (Note: A link has been removed),
Global climate change brings with it local weather that communities and cultures have difficulty anticipating. Unpredictable and socially impactful weather is having negative effects on the subsistence, cultural activities, and safety of indigenous peoples in Arctic communities. Since 2013, Professor David Atkinson and his team at the University of Victoria have been working with Inuvialuit communities in Tuktoyaktuk, Ulukhaktok, and Sachs Harbour. The main goal is to understand how impactful weather is affecting residents’ subsistence activities, particularly when they are on the water. The project involves site visits, interviews, and regular phone calls with residents.
Inuvialuit residents regularly observe the waves, winds, snow, and ice conditions that interfere with their hunting, fishing, camping, and other subsistence and cultural activities. In this project, communities identify specific weather events that impact their activities. These events are then linked to the broader atmospheric patterns that cause them. Summaries of the events will be provided to Environment Canada to hopefully assist with the forecasting process.
By taking this approach, the project links Western scientific knowledge and traditional knowledge to generate insights [emphasis mine] into how climate change is affecting Inuvialuit activities in the Canadian Arctic. An oversight committee has been established in each community to give direction to the project. This oversight committee includes representatives from each of the main community organizations, which ensures that the respective organizations provide direction to the project and advise on how to engage residents and communities.
Western science learning from and taking from traditional knowledge is not new. For example, many modern medicines are still derived from traditional remedies. Unfortunately, traditional practitioners have not benefited from sharing their knowledge.
It is to be hoped things are changing with projects like Atkinson’s and another one I mentioned in a December 2, 2019 posting featuring a discovery about ochre (a red dye used for rock art). The dye being examined was produced (in a manner that appears to be unique) in the Babine Lake region of British Columbia and the research may have applications for industrial use leading to economic benefits for the indigenous folks of that region. As important as the benefits, the science team worked closely with the indigenous communities in that area.
Canada will finally have its first Arctic university.
This past week [of December 1, 2019], the Yukon legislature passed a bill to make Yukon College a university. It will be an institution with an Indigenous flavour that will make it as unique as the region it is to serve.
“Everybody knows we’re moving toward something big and something special,” said Tom Ullyett, chairman of the board of governors.
The idea of a northern university has been kicked around since at least 2007 when a survey in all three territories found residents wanted more influence over Arctic research. Northern First Nations have been asking for one for 50 years.
Research is to centre on issues around environmental conservation and sustainable resource development. It will be conducted in a new, $26-million science building funded by Ottawa and currently being designed.
Indigenous content will be baked in.
“It’s about teaching with northern examples,” said Tosh Southwick, in charge of Indigenous engagement. “Every program will have a northern component.”
Science programs will have traditional knowledge embedded in them and talk about ravens and moose instead of, say, flamingos and giraffes. Anthropology classes will teach creation stories alongside archeological evidence.
The institution will report to Yukon’s 14 First Nations as well as to the territorial legislature. More than one-quarter of its current students are Indigenous.
“Our vision is to be that first northern university that focuses on Indigenous governance, that focuses on sustainable natural resources, that focuses on northern climate, and everything that flows from that.”
Climate adaptation and/or choices
While we have participated in a number of initiatives and projects concerned with climate change, I believe there is general agreement we should have done more. That said I would prefer to remain hopeful.
A newly launched institute for climate policy research will have a Yukon connection. Brian Horton, Manager of Northern Climate ExChange at the Yukon Research Centre, has been named to the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices expert advisory panel for Climate Adaptation.
The Institute, launched Tuesday morning, aims to bring clarity to Canada’s climate policy choices. The Institute’s initial report, Charting our Course, describes the current climate landscape in Canada and provides recommendations for policy makers and governments seeking to implement more effective policy.
In order to remain grounded in issues of importance to Canadians, the Institute has appointed three Expert Advisory Panels (Adaptation, Mitigation and Clean Growth) to provide evidence-based research, analysis and engagement advice to support integrative policy decisions.
“It is exciting to have a role to play in this dynamic new network,” said Horton. “The climate is rapidly changing in the North and affecting our landscapes and lives daily. I look forward to contributing a Northern voice to this impactful pan-Canadian expert collaboration.”
At Yukon College, Horton’s research team focusses on applied research of climate impacts and adaptation in Yukon and Northwest Territories. Northern Climate ExChange works with communities, governments, and the private sector to answer questions about permafrost, hydrology, and social factors to facilitate adaptation to climate change.
January 21, 2020 | OTTAWA — Dozens of academics and policy experts today launched the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices, a new independent national research body. The Institute aims to bring clarity to the transformative challenges, opportunities and choices ahead for Canada as governments at all levels work to address climate change.
Experimental Lakes Area
This is a very special research effort originally funded and managed by the Canadian federal government. Rather controversially, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government defunded the research but that may not have been the tragedy many believed (from the Experimental Lakes Area Wikipedia entry),
IISD Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA, known as ELA before 2014) is an internationally unique research station encompassing 58 formerly pristine freshwater lakes in Kenora District Ontario, Canada. Previously run by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, after being de-funded by the Canadian Federal Government, the facility is now managed and operated by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and has a mandate to investigate the aquatic effects of a wide variety of stresses on lakes and their catchments. IISD-ELA uses the whole ecosystem approach and makes long-term, whole-lake investigations of freshwater focusing on eutrophication.
In an article published in AAAS’s well-known scientific journal Science, Eric Stokstad described ELA’s “extreme science” as the manipulation of whole lake ecosystem with ELA researchers collecting long-term records for climatology, hydrology, and limnology that address key issues in water management. The site has influenced public policy in water management in Canada, the USA, and around the world.
Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear, argued that “our government has been working hard to ensure that the Experimental Lakes Area facility is transferred to a non-governmental operator better suited to conducting the type of world-class research that can be undertaken at this facility” and that “[t]he federal government has been leading negotiations in order to secure an operator with an international track record.” On April 1, 2014, the International Institute for Sustainable Development announced that it had signed three agreements to ensure that it will be the long-term operator of the research facility and that the facility would henceforth be called IISD Experimental Lakes Area. Since taking over the facility, IISD has expanded the function of the site to include educational and outreach opportunities and a broader research portfolio.
Part 5 is to a large extent a grab bag for everything I didn’t fit into parts 1 -4. As for what you can expect to find in Part 5: some science podcasting, eco art, a Saskatchewan lab with an artist-in-residence, and more.