Citizen Science: Next Steps
We are back in the US now after 3 weeks traveling throughout Western Australia. Traveling from Perth up to Cygnet Bay, we discovered an incredible ecosystem unlike anything we had seen before. And what made it incredible was not the mantas, turtles, whale sharks or pigmy spinner dolphin: it was the people we met and their openness to talking about their ecosystem, one comprised not only of their environment but of their community and their heritage, something that seems to get lost here in the US. In all the coastal communities – Perth, Coral Bay, Exmouth, Broome and Cygnet Bay – we found people with stories about their lives on the water – the fish, the whales, the family time. Seems everyone drives a 4-wheel drive with a snorkel up there (and we hear the snorkels come in handy during the Wet, the rainy season from January-March). And with those lives so focused on their environment the opportunity to engage them to collect data for citizen science becomes apparent.
The task before the BlueCloud team is now to get to work to create the citizen science app that will enable citizens to capture and share environmental data through their social community and social networks and pass that data on to scientists who can analyze it, understand it and provide detailed insight about the impact on the marine ecosystem from major industrialization projects along the coast. We saw in Port Hedland the impact of iron ore extraction and shipping. It is hard to imagine any marine creature surviving that onslaught of port excavation, ship traffic and dumping of industrial pollutants into the water.
We are both excited and challenged by the opportunity to have a positive community impact in Western Australia, and we have much work to do quickly. Hard to ask for much more than a chance like this.