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Community science: hitting three targets with one stone

Sharing milkweed and monarch photos on the Mission Monarch website helps scientists map monarch breeding sites.
Credit: Sundry Photography
Partager des photos d’asclépiade et de monarque sur le site web de Mission monarque aide les scientifiques à cartographier les sites de reproduction du monarque.
  • Partager des photos d’asclépiade et de monarque sur le site web de Mission monarque aide les scientifiques à cartographier les sites de reproduction du monarque.
  • Chenille de monarque observée lors d’une activité organisée par Mission monarque.
  • L’équipe de Mission monarque invite les citoyens et citoyennes à noter leurs observations et à les transmettre sur leur site web.
Community science: hitting three targets with one stone

Community science is gaining in popularity! The number of scientific projects allowing anyone at all to get involved has exploded in the last few years. Those projects can take different forms. One of the most widespread is the sharing of sightings of living organisms like birds and butterflies. That popularity no doubt has to do with the fact that everyone gains from it, both the people taking part and scientists. Here’s an overview of the benefits of community science.

Contributing to science

First, community science helps in the study of biodiversity. The thousands of observations shared through different programs make it easier to monitor the distribution of species in time and space. That data are useful for scientists, but also for administrators and anyone curious about nature. They can be used for exploring the biodiversity of a given region, or to study an introduced or protected species. For example, the Mission Monarch program allows for a better sense of the distribution of the monarch and its host plant, milkweed, across North America.

Exchange of knowledge

Next, taking part in a community science project is an excellent way of discovering the biodiversity that surrounds us for ourselves. Besides, there’s no need to possess expertise to share your observations. Programs like iNaturalist and eButterfly use artificial intelligence to help identify a shared image. Identifications are then validated by the community. This feedback allows us to quickly learn the names of species we come across from day to day or those we encounter when we travel. Humans have a natural propensity to categorize the objects in their environment. Observation is a sense that grows sharper with use!

Reconnecting with nature

Finally, on a more philosophical note, community science is a good way to reconnect with nature. Nature is present, even in the city, but it’s easy to forget it. The most common species of flowers, butterflies and birds can disappear from our notice. When we take the time to photograph them or simply to observe them, that’s an opportunity to get to know them and to make a connection with them.

This spring, hit three targets with one stone with community science! Alone, with friends or as a family, choose a project that interests you and keep your eyes open. When you stop to observe what’s going on around you, it’s amazing how much you can discover.

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