6 Sep 2014

Drift Cards for Citizen Science

Science is done not only in labs by people with white coats and clipboards, but also in the field. And "in the field" can mean on the water, and on the beach. So paddlers and beach-walkers can keep your eyes open this month for some citizen science opportunities on the Salish Sea!

These opportunities aren't as high-tech as the Neptune and Venus projects off-shore on the continental shelf. I've written about those before on the Sci/Why blog. Nor are they as specialized as the clam gardens research done on Quadra Island that was noted on the Kayak Yak blog, too. Nope, these current opportunities for ordinary citizens to participate in a science project involve picking up cards.
This photo is from the Raincoast Conservation Federation website.
 That doesn't sound very science-y at first. It doesn't sound like it has anything to do with kayaks, either. But hang on. These yellow cards are biodegradable plywood cards with detailed labelling, and they're being released at particular locations on the Salish Sea. If you find one while you're out in a boat or on a beach, pick it up and contact the scientists, who are part of a team involving the City of Vancouver, the Raincoast Conservation Federation, and the Georgia Strait Alliance. You will have helped track the way that floating items drift in real-life, real-time conditions.
There's an article about this drift card release on the CBC website at this link, and another more detailed article on the Vancouver Observer website at this link. You can also go to the website for the Salish Sea Spill Map, where the locations of card releases and recoveries are being tagged on a map. Is your home base on this map? Maybe you're planning a paddling trip and want to look up that location. Maybe you're thinking about what could happen if, instead of cards, there were other things released such as fossil fuels from a tanker? And now, this project makes a little more sense.
A close-up of one of the cards, from the Vancouver Observer article.
 Citizen science is not only about allowing ordinary untrained people to participate in projects by real scientists. It can be about seeing real science in use in the lives of ordinary citizens. We citizens interact with the environment when we're out on the water in our small boats or walking along shorelines. We can gather data in many more places than a scientist could ever get funding to cover. We get to be part of the community of learning.

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