Citizen scientists can ask questions, volunteer to collect data, and analyse it. For researchers, citizen scientists are a boon: with their sheer numbers, they can contribute extensive data over vast geographical areas, something trained scientists could not dream of gathering either individually or in teams.
While it may appear to be a novel concept, the public has always participated in ecological science, said a team of American scientists in a 2012 study. Chinese citizens and officials, for instance, tracked locust attacks for at least 3,500 years although they did not know their observations would later be used for science.
But today, thanks to smartphones, the Internet and the endless possibilities of apps — with special help from Google Maps — citizen science has truly come of age around the world. And India is by no means lagging. Whether flowering patterns in trees, the mating habits of butterflies, or the arrival of migratory birds, the country’s citizen scientists are helping create a vast and valuable corpus of data.