Here’s one for hockey fans. In 2012, scientists in Montreal warned there will be fewer outdoor skating days in the future. Their predictions are based on the results of data taken from weather stations across Canada over the last 50 years. In some regions, they warn there may one day be no more backyard rinks at all. Remember the story of how Wayne Gretzky learned to play hockey on the backyard rink his father made for him in Brantford, Ontario? The scientists’ report says some day that will no longer be possible – at least, not in Brantford.

This prompted a group of geographers at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, to create RinkWatch. They want outdoor rink lovers across North America and elsewhere to tell report on their rinks. Pin the location of your rink on the researchers’ map, and then each winter record every day that you are able to skate on it. The researchers will gather up all the information from all the backyard rinks and use it to track the changes in climate.

Project Details

  • PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Colin Robertson, Assistant Professor
  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: The Spatial Lab, Wilfrid Laurier University
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Observation
  • COST: Free
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages

    Visit the Rinkwatch site and create login credentials. The first thing to do once you enter the site is to put a pin on the Google map to show us where your backyard rink is. If you don’t have a backyard rink, you can instead tell Rinkwatch where your neighbourhood outdoor rink is. You can also upload a photo of your rink–Rinkwatch will start a photo gallery of rinks once there are enough.

See more projects in FreeObservationAll Ages.

What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

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