Be a 'citizen scientist' and report sightings
A scientist is defined as a person who studies, or has expertise in, science. Scientists come in two kinds: those who work at it professionally, and those of us who dabble in it as a hobby or interest, the so-called 'citizen scientists'.
The term 'citizen scientist' was coined by the professionals to describe research collaborations between them and the general public. Say a professional scientist is studying avian influenza. He or she may issue an appeal to the public to report incidents of unusual mortality among wild birds.
The professional scientists may be desk-bound and reliant on volunteers from all over the country to feed information to them. It's a win-win situation; the professionals get data they could not otherwise access, and the volunteers or citizen scientists get satisfaction from taking part in and contributing to a national project or programme.
One such national project or programme that many people interested in nature and wildlife take part in is the collection of data about Ireland's biodiversity. Anyone can take part and there is a dedicated portal or website acting as the doorway through which the information is fed.
Say I'm driving home some evening and a Fox runs across the road in front of me. The chance occurrence gives me information that I can either keep to myself or share with others to contribute to the growing pool of data that exists about Ireland's biodiversity.
When I get home, I log onto www.biodiversityireland.ie the Waterford-based National Biodiversity Data Centre, Ireland's citizen science portal. I click on 'Submit Sightings' on the opening screen and that gives me a pictorial choice of whether I'm submitting a sighting of a bird, bee, plant, sea creature or whatever. I select 'Mammals'.
I'm now asked for six bits of information: my name, my email address, the date of my sighting, the name of the county, the location of my sighting and a 'spatial reference'. The spatial reference is easy. I'm presented with a map of Ireland. I zoom in to road level where I saw the Fox and I click on the precise place. When I click, the required spatial reference automatically jumps into the empty box.
All that's left is to say what I saw. There is a facility to attach an image if I have one. I click 'Save Record' and my contribution is saved for scrutiny and validation by the experts.
If you haven't used it yet do check it out.