SeasonWatch: A new citizen science initiative from NCBS

Inputs from the SeasonWatch team
Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Encouraging networks of volunteers to participate in research projects serves two purposes: to do research that is not possible otherwise, and to engage the larger community in the process of science. Citizen science programs have taken these ideas to new heights by partnering with the general public to contribute through their computers, brain power or observations. These contributions are used to explore for extra-terrestrial life, understand protein folding and collect ecological data. In some countries, massive datasets of high quality have resulted from the efforts of volunteers who make the time to contribute to these projects. In India, organized citizen science is now picking up steam.

In 2007, a new citizen science programme, MigrantWatch, was started by NCBS (in collaboration with Indian Birds journal). This project collates data on the migration times of the hundreds of species of birds that visit India seasonally. Wide publicity and a web interface for participation have brought in  nearly 10,000 records since the start of the project. The results so far have been summarized in bird journals and on Migrant Watch's blog page. For example, a summary of MigrantWatch's Pied Cuckoo campaign is here.

SeasonWatch - SEED programme in Kerala

SeasonWatch - SEED programme in Kerala

On the heels of MigrantWatch comes a new idea brought together by the Citizen Science Team at NCBS in collaboration with Wipro's Applying Thought in Schools initiative. This program, called SeasonWatch is an effort to understand how climate affects the seasonal activity of plants, and enlists citizens of all ages to observe and monitor trees. More information is available at SeasonWatch.

In SeasonWatch, anyone who can spare a few minutes every week to look at a tree can participate. All one needs to do is choose a tree from a list of easily identifiable species, and watch for changes such as flowering, fruiting and leaf flush. With some additional information, including tree measurements and habitat, everyone can contribute to understanding how these seasonal changes (called "phenology") might be affected by the changing climate. Such information is scarce from the tropics in general and from India in particular, and SeasonWatch is notable for its geographic and temporal extent. Starting off with a list of 100 common species and a sub-list of just 15 'focal species', SeasonWatch encourages participation by young enthusiasts including school children. Through partnerships like that with the Mathrubhumi SEED programme, SeasonWatch is being taken across schools in Kerala. This partnership currently monitors over 300 trees by students of 41 schools (and this number is likely to go up significantly in the coming months). More partnerships are in the pipeline, and MigrantWatch and SeasonWatch demonstrate that these are exciting times for public participation in science!


Excellent innovative work by

Excellent innovative work by NCBS. I think this project can provoke many nature lovers to share their observations.There are many people like me who observes many things about tress and nature but ignores immediately as there is no need of any interpretation. But projects like this makes such people to think and observe more keenly so that the observed data can be more useful when shared with people like season watch.

i too agree with ravi. it was

i too agree with ravi. it was a great oppurtunity providing to the nature lovers by ncbs me too...

you are correct Ravi

you are correct Ravi

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