There are a lot of good ways to get things done without wasting people’s time….and to use the time people are already wasting!
I was captivated by two recent events: (1) a lecture by the people running Zooniverse , a citizen science telescope image id project and (2) a discussion with colleagues from the Department of Crop Sciences that a graduate student recently digitized all the urban gardens in Chicago from Google Earth (and I mean more than just the official ones posted here).
Recently funded research with partners at UC Davis could benefit from a similar mapping effort… but I would like to know about changes in garden activity on a more regular basis and I doubt that the NSF, NASA, or the USDA really wants to use tax dollars to fund University of Illinois students to point and click their way to an M.S. degree. (I’m also a little skeptical that all that pointing and clicking would be a good investment in the career skills of that student). However, it might be a relatively appealing volunteer activity that could displace a few minutes of Angry Bird time here or or there. It might also link to elementary school geography or earth science course activities. I wonder if I could set up a citizen science project? The big disadvantage seems to be that I don’t know how to write algorithms that judge the accuracy of individual coders…or develop apps…I need to entrepreneurial partners. They can apply for SBIR grants and I can put together a crack team to make the most of the data and develop the educational materials. Ideally Foxy Ninja Studios, or some similarly experienced app development start-up with an interest in building a client base among academic research projects looking for cool broader impacts will do this on the cheap as a proof of concept. That is my master plan. Applications from awesome potential collaborators are welcome.
Sweet links that get the ball rolling
Google maps in urban ecology.