April 2020 is Global Citizen Science Month. (Image credit: Citizen Science Association. CC-BY 4.0, Image Cropped)
What does citizen science mean to you? If you asked fifty people this question, you’d probably get fifty different answers. Citizen science—or, as it is sometimes called, community science—is increasingly common in scientific research, revolutionizing the way that many types of data are collected, but at the same time it can feel distinctly personal to those that participate in it.
Snapping a photo of a backyard tree each day to document the change in seasons … collecting a water quality sample from your neighborhood stream and sending it to a local lab for analysis … swiping through photos of outer space on your smartphone and identifying patterns among formations of stars—the experience of citizen science looks different for each person who participates in it.
Image Credit: Vinícius Mendonça/Ibama, Image Cropped, CC BY-SA 2.0
If you missed the furore about the fate of the Amazon rainforest earlier this year then you clearly do not have social media or a newspaper subscription. For a few weeks it became the call-to-arms for environmentalists everywhere (unless they were busy doing that whole “what about this other catastrophe” thing). And then the posts dried up, and public attention waned. But whilst the fires aren’t as bad now, they’re still burning, and still threatening both the vast numbers of different species and the indigenous groups that call the Amazon their home. So why has it disappeared from the public consciousness?
Whilst making people aware of the consequences of climate change and land fragmentation is important, choosing how to deliver that message is equally important (Image Credit: Backbone Campaign, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
Ok, first up, I want to apologise. I know that giving Fox News any attention when it comes to scientific progress is a bad start. I’m hoping that if you’re reading this, you already know that their stance on climate change and biological degradation is… let’s say flawed.
Image Credit: Sam Perrin, CC BY-SA 2.0
My number one go-to when visiting a new city is their Museum of Natural History. And whilst it may have stemmed from a love of massive dinosaur skeletons, it eventually developed into a appreciation of the concepts that drive the natural world. I now work at NTNU’s Natural History Museum, and getting a glimpse at what happens behind the scenes has deepened that appreciation further.
With that in mind, I sat down with Professor Carsten Rahbek of the Natural History Museum of Denmark to talk about the role of a Natural History Museum in today’s world. Carsten and I previously spoke about the relationship of ecology with the media (which you can read about here) but in this interview I wanted to talk about whether Natural history Museums needed to evolve, and the connection between a Museum’s research and its exhibitions.
Rasmus Hansson, former leader of the Norwegian Green Party and the Norwegian WWF (Image Credit: Miljøpartiet de Grønne, CC BY-SA 2.0, Image Cropped)
Environmental politics is a tricky business. We live in a world where environmental crises are at the forefront of the news cycle, and in which science is simultaneously becoming the subject of distrust. So it makes sense that at this point, politics should be adapting and evolving as science does.
So when Rasmus Hansson stopped by NTNU last month, Sam Perrin and I took the chance to sit down with him and see whether this was the case. Rasmus studied polar bears at NTNU in the 70s, before later becoming the leader of the World Wildlife Fund in Norway and then of the Norwegian Green party. We spoke with Rasmus about the transition from conservation to politics, the clash of ideologies and the future of environmental politics.
Anne-Sverdrup-Thygeson has made it her life’s mission to fascinate the world – with insects (Image Credit: Håkon Sparre, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
The Internet has been set abuzz (pun intended) lately by rumours of the Insect Apocalypse. And whilst the concept itself is depressing, it’s worth smiling at the fact that the public has finally started to take an interest in the ecological plight of a group of animals until recently ignored whenever possible. After all, insects include, wasps, cockroaches, bees and myriad other ‘nasties’.
Professor Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson is one academic/author who has made it her life’s mission to turn people around on insects, which includes her recent Brage Prize nominated book “Terra Insecta”. Sam Perrin and I sat down at the recent Norwegian Ecological Society Conference to ask Anne about why people have an aversion to creepy crawlies, how scientific communication helps in her mission, and whether or not the planet could survive the eradication of the mosquito.
Whilst pseudoscience is nothing new, it seems a lot more prevalent these days. So what can the scientific community, and the public in general, do about it? (Image Credit: Becker 1999, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
Fake science – or pseudoscience – has been around forever and somehow like that really annoying guy at the party just won’t go away. How is it in an age ruled by smart phones and CRISPR sci-fi level biotech are people still buying crystals and talking about super foods (don’t get me started on Goop). While I try to adopt a Californian “you do you” attitude to almost everything, people purporting even the most innocuous pseudoscience need to be stopped by both you and me.
Bill Sutherland was one of two keynote speakers in last week’s seminar on biodiversity and ecosystem services (Image Credit: Øystein Kielland, NTNU University Museum, CC BY 2.0)
I’ve been on a bit of a policy trip lately. The latest Norwegian Ecological Society conference was heavily policy based, so much so that it inspired me to get in touch and set up a meeting with local freshwater managers in a country in which I do not speak the local language. So when the CBD hosted a one-day seminar on the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (mercifully usually referred to only as IPBES) rolled into town, I was right on board.
Recent reports of collapses in insect populations were eagerly devoured online. But were the reports exaggerations, and if so, how did they make it into the headlines? (Image Credit: Barta IV, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
Two weeks ago, an article on the Insect Apocalypse hit my Facebook feed. It popped up everywhere. People seemed genuinely concerned about the plight of the world’s insects, which was a first for me.
An hour later I was sitting at a conference seminar in which the speaker bemoaned the poor data that had contributed to the key statistic in the article: that biomass of flying insects had decreased by 75% over the last 27 years. The methods used in the report apparently show huge bias towards large bodied species, which may have exaggerated the findings significantly. So here lies our quandary. Read more
Prue Addison, who spoke at the recent Norwegian Ecological Society Conference, is attempting to bring conservation science to ‘the dark side’ – the world of business (Image Credit: Synchronicity Earth, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
With the environmental movement having expanded so quickly over recent decades, it makes sense that many large corporations have started to incorporate sustainability and the environment into their business plans. But what are these business actions actually achieving? And who bridges the gap between the corporate world and the field of ecology?
At the recent Norwegian Ecological Society Conference, Tanja Petersen and I sat down with Doctor Prue Addison from the University of Oxford. Prue works with multinational corporations to aid them in integrating biodiversity considerations into their business operations. We asked her about the difference between business and academia, how she’s managed to transition between the two, and advice for others looking to make the same leap.