Author Topic: An interesting way to contribute to ecological science  (Read 1651 times)

Offline I.L.W.

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An interesting way to contribute to ecological science
« on: September 29, 2016, 12:15:14 AM »
I detest academia as an institution, but love higher-learning and contributing to science. There are few opportunities for that outside of the classical academic institutions, but that is beginning to change. There's a lot more happening in the realm of home academics, self-study, independent research, and large volunteer research teams forming and funding their own projects.

Like many here, I like the study of the natural world.  It's impossible to do that academically these days. The field is dominated by politics. You can't get a seat in a respectable classroom unless you accept the notion that the world will soon be reduced to a smoldering ball of ash because rich, white Americas have SUVs (I know... academics bitching about vehicle emissions clearly don't visit India, Venezuela, China, or any of the non-tourist spots in Europe, lol). You have to buy into the politics (over science) to advance academically. That's one the primary reasons behind the success of pemaculture, it's free of academia and politics. It can acknowledge problems objectively and turn them into solutions, rather that seeking to blame, legislate, and control. But permaculture isn't alone, there are other areas of study which are only now being liberated.

I found this project online. It seeks to transcribe and database pressings and field samples from 18th-20th century herbalists. These are hand-written pressings from naturalist plant catalogs found in museums. Also included are some animal artifacts and fungi. They give a species name, date, are area the sample was found in. Your mission is simply to catalog these entries. Pretty simple, but very helpful.

This provides a reference for what species were native to an area in the given time period. This can be compared with observations today and see how regional changes to the environment have impacted native species.

If you go to Zooniverse, there are a lot of other projects of variable skill level. Other projects may have you identify animals spotted on trail cameras to determine their range and habits. You can help computer AI learn to identify objects (child-level contributions), or help analyze data from the Kepler Space telescope and identify new planets!

Alternatively, you can donate computer processing time from your PC to analyze climate data and build better weather models.

(There are many other distributed computing projects as well, and teams of volunteers often compete for scores in the bulk of data processed. If climate studies isn't your thing, you can look at protien folding, medically a very relevent area of study, or do SETI@Home and help look for extra terrestrials, lol)

MIT also has a great series on ecology in their open courseware project

This is full of politics, but it's free, you won't be graded, and you can take your lessons ala carte.

And of course, youtube is filled with millions of hours of content any any imaginable subject.

With projects like these, you can learn and contribute at the same time, without student loans, huge demands on your time etc. Work on what you want, when you want, and it's all free. The people can take back control of their education.