Citizen Science in America’s DNA

Keynote by NOAA Chief Scientist, Dr. Richard Spinrad at the forum  entitled, Tracking a Changing Climate: “Citizen science is part of America’s DNA.  For centuries, citizens not trained in science have helped shaped our understanding of Earth.
Thomas Jefferson turned Lewis and Clark into citizen scientists when he asked them to explore the landscape, wildlife and weather during their journeys of the West.They investigated plants, animals and geography, and came back with maps, sketches and journals.  These new data were some of the first pieces of environmental intelligence defining our young nation.  President Jefferson instilled citizen science in my own agency’s DNA by creating the Survey of the Coast, a NOAA legacy agency focused on charting  and protecting the entire coast of our Nation.
The National Weather Service’s Cooperative Observer Program, begun in 1890, is an outstanding example of citizen science.  Last year, NOAA honored an observer who has provided weather observations every day for 80 years. Volunteer citizen scientists have transcribed more than 68,000 pages of Arctic ship logs, adding to the long-term climate record by populating a database with historic weather and sea ice observations. Also, citizen scientists are providing new estimates of cyclone intensity by interpreting satellite images.
There is tremendous value in the capability of citizen scientists to feed local data into their own communities’ forecasts. In September 2013, for example, formal observation systems and tracking instruments were washed out when extreme floods struck Colorado and New Mexico. By ensuring that real-time forecasts were still integrated into the National Weather Service Flood Warning System, the reports of about 200 citizen scientists contributed to what has been called the best mapped extreme rain event in Colorado history and possibly nationwide.
The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) Network played a pivotal role in this mapping. CoCoRaHS also shows how citizen science can help make data collection straightforward and inexpensive. To measure the impact and size of hail, for example, it uses a Styrofoam sheet covered with tin foil, creating a “hail pad” that has proven to be quite accurate.
The recognized value of citizen science is growing rapidly.  NOAA has an app to crowdsource real-time precipitation data. If you feel a raindrop, or spot a snowflake, report it through NOAA’s mPING app. Precipitation reports have already topped 600,000, and the National Weather Service uses them to fine-tune forecasts…(More).”