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CITIZEN SCIENCE

Have you always wanted to see what real, college-level, science research projects are like – and maybe even participate in one? Now is your chance!

University of Florida citizen science projects are a great way for people of any age to help researchers in Florida – and throughout the country – understand what is taking place in their own neighborhoods. The projects can involve bug or animal counts, capturing specimens or creating habitats and reporting what shows up.

“Citizen science is a win-win for everyone involved,” said Andrea Lucky, an evolutionary biologist and biodiversity scientist with UF’s Department of Entomology and Nematology. “Participants have the opportunity to get involved in ongoing research and learn about the process of science and, at the same time, scientists benefit from partnering with diverse audiences.”

UF operates many citizen science projects in various academic units. Though the projects continue for long periods of time, four that are based in the Department of Entomology and Nematology are being spotlighted now as part of Bug Week, the annual promotion for UF’s scientific efforts investigating insects and other arthropods. This year’s Bug Week citizen science projects include:

  • Backyard Beetles –is asking people to catch beetles and send them to our lab for scientific research to see which types of beetles live where. Scientists need to know what’s here, because some beetle species can be dangerous to forests and even to agricultural crops like avocados.
  • School of Ants – Learn how to create your own sampling kit, sample your backyard or schoolyard, and get the collection back to scientists so that they can identify the ants and add your species to the School of Ants map. Together we’ll map ant diversity and species ranges across North America.
  • Native Buzz – UF/IFAS researchers are asking people to become a Buzz-Watcher to create a habitat for bees and wasps (bugs that are really important to the environment), build a nest site with our free plans (and take pictures of it), and monitor the nest for new bees and wasps, pollen and eggs. You can also see the results of other people’s studies.
  • Project Butterfly Wings – “Winning Investigative Network for Great Science” is a partnership between 4-H youth (but you do not have to be in 4-H) and professional scientists at UF. Participating youth are “citizen scientists” who collect data on butterflies to help professional scientists determine the presence or absence of specific butterfly species and the abundance of butterfly species by state and county throughout the country.

“Citizen science builds interest and trust on both sides – the scientists get more interested in public outreach through projects that involve public participation, and non-scientists develop greater interest and trust in the science on which the projects are based,” Lucky said. “One of the most fun parts of participatory science is seeing how each person’s effort contributes to the big picture; you realize that advancing our understanding of the world happens one observation at a time.”

Don’t forget – if you are talking about BugWeek on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, use the official #UFBugs hashtag!