March 19, 2009

What are citizen scientists?

Posted by: Karin Hoffman, Communications

For over 50 years, citizen scientists from around the Northwest have been contributing a wealth of information that may help scientists better understand global climate change, and some of that information has been stored at the Burke Museum. In addition to housing over 70,000 bird specimens, the Burke is also a repository for 12,000 file cards gathered by staff and volunteers over many years that document ecological data of over 100 bird species. The study of plant and animal life cycle events in relation to climate change is known as phenology. Increasingly scientists are turning to volunteers to help identify and understand changing environmental trends, and the Burke Museum has a long history of working with such volunteers.

What can you do to help? Become a citizen scientist! Check out the National Phenology Network to volunteer. While they currently only monitor plants, they will soon expand their efforts to include animals and physical phenomena.

For more information about citizen scientists and the Burke’s role in recording their findings, read these recent articles: The Tacoma News Tribune, Seattle Times

Photo: Robert Faucett, Burke ornithology collections manager, with part of the museum's egg collection. Photograph by Ken Lambert, courtesy Seattle Times.