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By Erin Roger 3 February 2021 3 min read

The recent State of the Climate report shows that extreme events are set to increase as our climate warms. As this happens, it's more important than ever for you, as citizen scientists, to play a role in preparing and responding to these events.

We've got a three-part series showing you how to become a citizen scientist. Over the series, we'll show you ways you can help before and after an extreme event. We’ll also cover how you can develop your own projects to help out as a citizen scientist.

But first, what is a citizen scientist?

Citizen science is when the public participate and collaborate in scientific research to increase our scientific knowledge.  So, a citizen scientist is you helping out with science and research.

Citizen scientists have already had a massive impact on helping with extreme event research. In the past, they've provided early warnings of hazards and contributed to the monitoring and reporting of impacts.

Citizen science contributes to traditional science and emergency management. It also has flow-on effects like building community networks and developing skills. And, participation in citizen science can help communities gain knowledge and capacity, act and better respond and prepare for disasters. This ultimately increases community resilience.

Now, where can you start...

It’s all about the base(line)

An important part of being prepared for an extreme event is ensuring researchers have a good baseline. The purpose of a baseline is to provide an information base that we can monitor and assess an activity’s progress and effectiveness against. So, it's really important to have information about what something was like before an event.

Baseline monitoring before an event is useful for scientists and land managers to understand what is different after the event. Also, being able to monitor during an event helps us understand the impact on both humans and the environment.

Get involved in strengthening baseline measurements today. We've got some options for you...

Monitoring our waters

Water colour provides a lot of information about what is happening in marine and fresh waters. Eye on Water Australia uses citizen sourced data to paint the big picture of water quality at any given time. How can you help? Simply, snap a photo of the water, upload to the mobile app and compare it to a colour chart.

Also, regular use of the Eye on Water app can help researchers understand how things like bushfires, drought and extreme flood events impact local water quality.

Check on the health of our air quality

The AirRater app, run by the University of Tasmania, looks at the quality of our air. The app lets you contribute data and helps protect your health from heat and bushfire smoke.

It also provides information about air quality and heat. This helps you understand when these elements might affect your health.

You can support researchers by reporting your health symptoms. This measures the impact of smoke and heatwave events which helps experts and governments provide the best health advice possible. And, the data can even produce information about bushfire smoke that helps firefighters and government.

Take a photo at the beach

Have you seen a picture of a beach or coastline on Instagram? CoastSnap can take that information and make it valuable. It is a beach monitoring technology that turns your smartphone into a powerful coastal monitoring device.

CoastSnap aims to understand how coastlines are changing through time – whether it be due to rising sea levels, extreme storms, or other factors. Ultimately, this information is used to improve the way coastlines are managed into the future. By monitoring coastal conditions, coastal managers can prepare for extreme events and understand likely impacts.

Download the free app and visit CoastSnap stations around Australia to be part of it.

Citizen Science Bushfire Project Finder

After the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires, we launched our Citizen Science Bushfire Project Finder. Here you’ll find citizen science projects that help monitor the environment. The data you collect provides bushfire researchers with information they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.

Next up in the series we’ll cover how you can help in the aftermath of an extreme event. Stay tuned!

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