Citizen science

What is it?
Citizen science is the practice of science by those who are not members of the professional scientific community. This can be done by members of the public in conjunction with a research group at a university, a non-profit, or by a completely self-organized group.

Who can get involved?
Anyone really. As long as someone has the interest and motivation they help contribute to the scientific community. Learning and expertise on a topic will grow out of this. Although different projects will require different skill sets, so some research work may not be feasible before someone is in high school or later.

Why do this?
For the reason anyone gets involved in science: the world is too interesting to not ask questions. For students it's also a great opportunity to learn science by actually doing science.

What has been done?
There are thousands of citizen science projects all over the world. Through the citizen science work I've been doing with high school students I've been involved in the following:

Offshore Mariculture Monitoring Program
Catalina Sea Ranch’s operations will be monitored by leading institutions specializing in marine ecology and spatial planning. This will provide science-based data for evaluating any environmental and social impacts from the 100-acre shellfish ranch.
Active - planning stages
Evolutionary and Computational Biology
In the broadest sense, the Dean Lab studies evolutionary biology. More specifically, we are interested in sexual selection, and how males and females adapt to increase their own reproductive fitness. We integrate three methodological approaches - molecular, computational, and experimental.
This is a project to use the cameras in Android cellphones as detectors for cosmic-rays. These events are then geotagged using the phone's GPS, with the event image and associated phone sensor data, uploaded to a central server for future queries and analysis.
First phase completed. Probably revamp at a later date.
An API (Application Programming Interface) to allow for any geotagged data set to be merged into a single database for access and analysis online. This will allow for different data sets, such as solar flare activity and magnetic field strength data recorded by by cellphones, to be compared and visualized.
First phase completed. Probably revamp at a later date.
A community radiation monitoring effort using devices, developed by the Safecast team, to record radiation levels at various locations with the associated GPS readings. This data is then uploaded to produce maps of radiation intensity. This project was started in response to the Fukushima meltdown, but has now expanded to global monitoring.
This project grew out of Caltech's Juice from Juice project, which allows for students to build solar cells using the pigment from blackberries as the active ingredient. The student project looked at other natural and synthetic pigments to explore potential types of dye-sensitized solar cells.
No longer active
An environmental monitoring project, conducted by a group of California high schools, to capture water chemistry and ecological data for the purposes of making environmental quality maps of river systems.
First phase completed. Second phase, involving the monitoring the LA River, now in initial stages.
A Caltech project to enable high school and college students to help in the development and testing of potential photocatalytic materials for using in cheap hydrogen production from sunlight and water.
Safecast Air
An offshoot of Safecast. This project seeks to develop internet-connected air quality monitors which would be cheap enough to distribute on a large scale. The goal is to enable citizen groups to do large-scale monitoring of various metrics of air quality in real time.
No longer active
In 2012, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County launched a new research initiative: NHM Biodiversity Science: City and Nature (NHM BioSCAN). This first-of-its-kind scientific investigation will discover and explore biodiversity in and around one of the world’s largest cities: Los Angeles. In three years of sampling from the urban core right out through less-urban surrounding areas, we will focus on the insects, the most diverse group of animals on our planet.
We will discover and document the diversity of insect species living with us in Los Angeles as well as test intriguing hypotheses about how natural areas around the city affect its biodiversity, and specifically, how light in the urban environment is affecting its inhabitants. NHM BioSCAN will take full advantage of our Museum base by directly engaging the public in the discovery and exploration of their home city. (Taken from the BioSCAN website)
This project involves the monitoring of the health of reef sites through repeated underwater visual scans of reef sites, as well as other sensor data such as temperature logging.

What's the goal?
To establish a network of research groups in Los Angeles, with at least one dedicated community lab space, for high school students to work on various research projects. This same space would also serve as a space for teachers to learn about how to connect current science to their teaching, and even get involved in the research work themselves.