Citizen Science While Traveling

Participating in citizen science while traveling can be a fun way to add meaning to a trip.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Participating in citizen science while traveling can be a fun way to add meaning to a trip. Image: Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Participating in citizen science while traveling can be a fun way to add meaning to a trip.

As environmental concerns escalate and impact everyone across the globe, everyday travelers are stepping up as environmental champions, thanks to citizen science programs facilitated by adventure travel companies. These programs provide a unique opportunity for individuals to fuse their love for exploration with a genuine commitment to environmental preservation.

Citizen science is a collaborative approach in which volunteers, often lacking formal scientific training, assist researchers in data collection, analysis, and public engagement. Depending on the project, citizen science can be done in your city and even in your backyard. However, participating in citizen science while traveling can be a fun way to add meaning to a trip while exploring another area of the world.

When travelers engage in citizen science while on their journeys, they become active participants in data collection and analysis. Depending on the specific project and its objectives, this can take many forms. For example, travelers might collect water samples, observe wildlife behavior, document plant species, or record environmental conditions like temperature and air quality. These observations and data points are then shared with scientists and researchers, who use them to further their understanding of various ecological processes and phenomena.

One key advantage of citizen science while traveling is its accessibility. Participants typically do not need specialized training or equipment to get involved, making it inclusive and suitable for individuals of all backgrounds and experience levels. Additionally, citizen science projects often offer opportunities for hands-on learning and engagement with local ecosystems, enhancing the travelers’ understanding and appreciation of the environments they visit.

Participating in citizen science while traveling embodies the spirit of responsible tourism by encouraging travelers to engage with and give back to the places they visit. The type of involvement a traveler may have will also vary from minimal to high participation.

Exodus Adventure Travels, a travel company that has been around for over 45 years, offers tours focused on exploration and cultural immersion. As a part of their commitment to sustainable travel, the company integrates citizen science while traveling into many of their expeditions. Recently, the company teamed up with NatureMetrics and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to create the eBioAtlas project.

Adventurers on specifically designed citizen science while traveling tours can become citizen scientists by contributing to the revolutionary eBioAtlas project. During these unique trips, travelers are guided to collect water samples from pristine lakes, rivers, or other freshwater sources following the provided protocols. These seemingly ordinary water samples hold a treasure trove of genetic material – environmental DNA, or eDNA.

Tiny traces of skin, scales, or other organic matter shed by creatures living in the water become suspended in the environment. By employing cutting-edge eDNA analysis techniques in laboratories, scientists can unlock this hidden story within the samples. This analysis reveals the species in that particular ecosystem, even those that are elusive or difficult to detect visually.

The data collected from countless citizen scientists worldwide is then meticulously compiled, painting a global picture of species distribution. This information becomes a powerful tool for conservation efforts. It contributes directly to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a critically important resource that guides conservation priorities by highlighting species facing the greatest risk of extinction.

Furthermore, the data empowers researchers and organizations working on various conservation initiatives. By understanding where species are found and their potential threats, targeted strategies can be developed to protect these irreplaceable creatures and their habitats.

Exodus has 20 citizen science while traveling trips dedicated to collecting water samples. Participants are given eDNA kits to collect the samples, and by simply dipping a test tube into a stream or pond, travelers are making a tangible impact on biodiversity research. When the samples are given back to the company, they are sent back to laboratories for analysis, and then the participants will be told which animals they discovered in their sample and which animals were present during the time of their visit.

Without the help of citizen scientists collecting the samples, the information acquired would not be possible on such a large scale. It is a small contribution to be able to visit a new location and have new experiences. The best part about this citizen science project and others is that any person of any age and educational background can participate. Their samples will have a direct impact on science.

Participating in citizen science while traveling is a great way to see the world while giving back. Next time you plan a trip, consider participating in a citizen science project and actively contribute to protecting our planet.

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