Social media and citizen scientists — North Forty News #CitizenScience

From the North Forty News (R. Gary Raham):

Social media can be intimidating for many of us in the white-haired set, but I was reminded recently that online platforms like Facebook and Twitter command a virtual army of potential citizen scientists armed with tools that were once only available to a handful of professionals. Nancy Averett reported in the November 2019 issue of Discover magazine that an amateur Colorado photographer named Sue Dickerson recently discovered a previously unknown example of tool use by an animal: a skunk was caught in the act of using a stone to poke a hole in the ice covering the surface of water in a dish to get a late night drink. Dickerson, a Colorado Springs resident, posted her photos on Twitter. A scientist ran across the post, and nine months later Dickerson became a co-author of a scientific paper that appeared in the journal Ecosphere.

Averett quoted an animal behaviorist named Christian Rutz who said, “We’re starting to see some of the first examples of people doing this, but I think there is much more to come.”


Being at the right place at the right time—or having a motion-activated camera that you check regularly like Dickerson—can result in important scientific discoveries…

Other opportunities abound at the national level. A program called Nature’s Notebook enlists citizens to track changes in the seasonal appearances of various plants and animals. This provides valuable information about animal and plant distribution during a time of shifting climate. (See

Also check out a citizen science home page at The U.S. government also provides links to various projects nationwide that need citizen input:

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