Friday, March 27, 2020

Beat the Corona Blahs with Citizen Science by L. A. Kelley

If you're working through this corona mess, bless you. Whether the job is medical, stocking shelves, or driving a truck, you're my hero. If you're sheltering in place like the rest of us you're probably going bat nuts by now.  Don’t get me wrong. I love my family and my neighbors are terrific, but I’ve about had it with house arrest. I can only watch so many cheesy Hallmark movies on TV before my mind begins to ooze out my ears. If you’re in the same boat, there are ways to jumpstart the old braincells until this corona mess passes.

Did you know you can help librarians or scientists conduct important research? Lots of organization need a hand, so this is a perfect time to become a Citizen Scientist. Here’s a few things to do to get you through the next few weeks. If you’ve got kids a home, they can contribute to a lot of these projects, too.

Help a Library Transcribe Menus
The New York Public Library’s restaurant menu collection has over 45,000 menus dating from the 1840s to the present. It’s used by historians, chefs, novelists and everyday food enthusiasts. The librarians are working to transcribe the menus dish by dish so the collection can be researched and accessed, opening the door to new kinds of discoveries. They can use your help and it’s kind of fun to peruse a menu where a steak dinner was only 25 cents.

These are a few from the National Geographic website

Finding Stardust
Interstellar dust particles returned to Earth by the Stardust mission are the first ever collected in space. They are tiny-only about a micron (a millionth of a meter) in size and scientists need your help to scan sections of the aerogel collector. If selected for the project, a VM (virtual microscope) is downloaded to your computer to search for the little grains.

Classify Galaxies
Do what a computer can't! Join the Galaxy Zoo project to help scientists classify galaxies according to their shapes.

Watch the Birdie
EBird is an online checklist project created by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Ebird allows people to report real-time bird sightings and observations.

Appalachian Mountain Monitoring

Be a visibility volunteer for the Appalachian Mountain Club. If you live or hike in states from Maine to Virginia, you can take photographs from a mountain view to help scientists study air quality and haze pollution.

Frogs and Toads
Help scientists conserve amphibians as a volunteer for Frogwatch USA. Listen for the calls of frogs and toads for 20 minutes a week, and record and share your data.

Local Plants
Join the National Phenology Network's plant monitoring program. Learn about plant species in your area and record your observations about observable phases in the annual life cycle of plants.

The government maintains a catalog of Citizen Science and crowdsourcing projects by agency. Some are for a particular area, some are far-reaching. Check out the complete catalog at

The EPA has lists of Citizen Science projects at

So does Scientific American. Some are below.

Love and Romance
Researchers at Beloit College in Wisconsin invite citizen scientists to participate in a study to investigate the impact of sensory information—such as how people perceive some of their primary romantic partner’s physical characteristics—on romantic relationships.

The Small World of Words project is a large-scale scientific study that aims to build a map of the human lexicon in the major languages of the world and make this information widely available. In contrast to a thesaurus or dictionary, this lexicon provides insight into what words and what part of their meaning are central in the human mind. The results enable psychologists, linguists, neuroscientists and others to test new theories about how the human brain represents and processes language.

Last, but not least help NASA explore space without leaving home.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is providing a huge amount of data to look for planets outside of our Solar System. Over the next two years TESS will be busy surveying two-hundred-thousand bright nearby stars, measuring and recording their brightness every two minutes. With the help of Citizen Scientists, NASA hope to uncover scads of planetary systems. Findings may even bring us one step closer to answering the question that we all seek to answer: Are we alone in the Universe. Be the first person to discover a planet around a nearby star in the Milky Way.

Now, you have no excuse to be bored. Until things get back to normal shelter in place, wash your hands, mind your social distance and your p’s and q’s, and this, too, will pass. And don’t hoard toilet paper. That’s just stupid.

L. A. Kelley writes science fiction and fantasy adventures with humor, romance, and a touch of sass. Her preventative measure to thwart the corona virus involves eating chocolate cake. So far, it’s working.


Maureen said...

Wow - these are great! Thanks so much for sharing. I've worked in a remote job for over a year so nothing has changed for me so far as far as my work- except for working while the twins are also home doing virtual college classes and the hubs is home most of the time ;)

Diane Burton said...

Thanks for your shoutout to all those who are working--the nurses, doctors, hospital workers, grocery store workers, truck drivers, first responders, restaurant workers, and more. They are helping us so we can stay hunkered down, self-isolating. We need to do our part so others can do theirs. Not much has changed for me, though Hubs being here all the time (no trips to the hardware stores) is driving me a little nuts. But what's that inconvenience compared to those who are suffering physically and mentally. We will get through this.