The WildLab

The WildLab

There are about 9,000 species of birds in the world, which, in spite of being a very diverse group of animals, all share certain traits. Beaks, wings, flight, eggs, hollow bones and, especially, feathers are all adaptations that help birds survive. Citizen scientists participating in The WildLab will search for birds in their local areas, view these birds through binoculars and, using an iPhone app, record observations about its shape, size, color, pattern and behavior.

The WildLab iPhone app enables citizen scientists to select which bird they are observing. If the citizen scientists are in doubt, they can select from a number of bird silhouettes and colors and even listen to bird songs to be sure they identify the correct bird. Once they are sure of their identification, they count the number of that species seen and enter the sighting in the WildLab database. The phones use GPS to log sightings with accuracy to within a few meters. These observations can be viewed online and submitted to databases such as Cornell's eBird Database, and then used by scientists to track bird numbers and distribution.

Project Details

  • PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Jared Lamenzo, Director, The WildLab
  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: Mediated Spaces interactive design studio (with help from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Observation
  • COST: Less than $20
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages

    Contact The WildLab team via their Web site. Most importantly, participants need binoculars and an iPhone or iPod Touch with The WildLab app.

See more projects in Less than $20ObservationAll 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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