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Do your bit for scientific research
Science in the Pub Friday night is coming up again and if you've a mind to exercise your brain cells at the end of week and perhaps get the brain into training for next month, head for the next session of SciPub, as it's known to devotees.
If you're not familiar with SciPub, take a look at this scenario: a Friday evening, a cosy pub, some leading science researchers and some hot topics in science. Bring on an audience that's keen to hear the latest and mix it all with some beers.
The result is lively discussion based on the information around the night's chosen topic and delivered by a panel of experts.
For more details on the philosophy behind this innovation, which aims to 'promote understanding of and enthusiasm for science, technology, education and mathematics (STEM) in the general public', check out the website.
SciPub is rapidly growing in popularity, with audiences expanding each month. A death-knell change of venue last month seemed to have little or no impact on audience numbers, so the word is out – SciPub is a not-to-be-missed event on the Adelaide science calendar.
This month, SciPub looks at Citizen Science: Using the power of the public to discover and document the natural world.
Scientists have been engaging the wider public – hobbyists, enthusiasts and interested amateurs – to discover and document the natural world for centuries – it's only relatively recently that the term Citizen Science has emerged.
NASA for example, recognises the power of citizen science and uses 'crowd-sourcing' to comb the skies. Citizen Science initiatives have been employed to observe and monitor everything from migrating bird species and fossils, to weather patterns and water quality. Advances in technology have also helped – the digital tools employed have made data much more accessible and useful in scientific research.
The Atlas of Living Australia, for example, provides tools for users to upload photos and sightings of animals, plants, insects and other organisms that they observe in their backyard, on a bush walk, or as they travel across the country. It also provides tools to support organised volunteer groups to conduct surveys and contribute their data to the 57 million records delivered online through the Atlas. These people form a vast network of eyes and ears far greater than any professional environmental or scientific survey could cover.
This month's SciPub panel will showcase some of the great Citizen Science research being conducted right here in Adelaide. The panellists will outline how you can get involved in local Citizen Science projects like recording goanna sightings and digitising museum collections.
The panel features three Adelaide experts and leading exponents of citizen science: Alexis Tindall, Project Manager at the South Australian Museum, Dr Philip Roetman, research leader of the Discovery Circle, University of South Australia and Dr. Andrew Tokmakoff, Technical Director at BASEM3NT Enterprises and the University of Adelaide.
At the South Australian Museum, Alexis Tindall co-ordinates a team of volunteers to digitise the museum's invertebrate collections (by photographing them). She has been very involved with the Atlas of Living Australia and she will explain how advances in technology have provided great opportunities for the museum (and other organisations that recruit citizen scientists).
One of the under-appreciated roles of the South Australian Museum is to care for more than six million specimens collected over more than 200 years. They form an irreplaceable record of the biodiversity of our region and have huge potential for research, should the information be digitised and accessible on-line.
The sheer volume makes it impossible for the museum to complete this task in the normal course of events and using regular staff – enter the volunteers and citizen science.
Fly from the SAM terrestrial and marine invertebrates collection
Dr Philip Roetman has been involved in a range of citizen science initiatives, engaging thousands of citizen scientists to collect information on South Australian wildlife. His projects have included koalas, possums and spiders, among other animals. He has also co-authored two books, The Possum-Tail Tree and The Fearsome Flute Players: Australian Magpies in our Lives, to share these research findings (distribution, management, human interaction and public perception of these animals) with the wider community.
Phil has more recently led a series of BioBlitzes to survey and record biodiversity within South Australian parks. These BioBlitzes involve teaming up scientists with the general public to conduct biological surveys of everything from orchids and ants to frogs and bats.
You can find more information about his current and past projects at the Discovery Circle website.
Spotted pardalote - a Citizen Science observation at Willinga (photo by J Coghill)
Software engineer, Dr Andrew Tokmakoff gives a great insight into the role of technology in citizen science.
Advances in technology have increased the way in which the public can interact and contribute to scientific studies (online databases, GPS functionality of smartphones to log observations, platforms to share satellite images for analysis and so on).
Andrew will reveal how some of these technologies are developed and what they are capable of doing.
He has, for instance, developed an app called 'TREND' (Transects for Environmental Monitoring and Decision Making). The app enables users to collect information about ecosystems in South Australia. It allows long-term monitoring of species distributions, life-cycles, overall species health and the like in a diverse range of habitats, from farmland to marine environments. One benefit of the TREND program is that through long-term monitoring, it can identify ecosystem and species that are under threat (through environmental or climatic change, for example). It also provides a great platform for engaging the public in decision-making and policy change. Check out the app here.
To bring yourself right up-to-date with the concept of citizen science, join the panel and like-minded enthusiasts at 6:00pm on Friday 2 October at The Avenues Café and Bar – and the advice is to arrive early to enjoy some of the free nibbles and to ensure a good seat!
Patiriella Calcarfrom te SAM terrestrial and marine invertebrates collection
A little more info for you - see how you go with this.
There used to be something very similar (also called Science in the Pub) in Sydney years ago but I am not sure if it is still running. Back in May we teamed up with an international event called Pint of Science. There were a few events in Sydney as part of that festival and I expect it would run again next year if they want to keep an eye out 😊