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Exploring the Intersectionality between Computer Science and Ecological Research: Guest Scientist Blog by Prachi I, 2020 NASA SEES Intern


To draw statistically valid conclusions about ecological trends, such as the relationship between land cover and mosquito population dynamics, land areas of interest must be sampled in a consistent manner. Numerous ground observations of local areas can help scientists gain insight of the landscape, especially in regions where remote sensing techniques fail to measure certain land characteristics.

However, sending scientists to sample areas across the globe is not always viable. That’s why tools like GLOBE Observer App are so helpful. By recruiting citizen volunteers to conduct ground observations in their local areas, the research team no longer spends as much time or resources obtaining samples. These tools also ensure that incoming raw data is formatted correctly in a public space, making it easier for researchers to filter and download relevant data.

Specific features of the GLOBE Observer App that make it so successful at leveraging citizen scientists for data collection  include:

1)     GLOBE Observer is User-Friendly -- With a colorful, attractive interface and built-in informational modules, GLOBE allows people to easily make guided observations of mosquitoes, land cover features, trees, and clouds. No background knowledge is required to help make significant data contributions to research in tracking mosquito populations.

2)     GLOBE Observer is Convenient -- As an easy-to-download app, GLOBE Observer is portable allowing  participants to rapidly and conveniently  make ground observations of their area. No additional equipment or tools are required to work this app.

3)     GLOBE Observer Observations are Verified -- After someone makes an observation using the GLOBE Observer App, a team of GLOBE researchers ensure there are no problems with the images taken, such as blurriness or containing identifying information. This quality control step adds more credibility to the citizen observations, making their collected data more reliable in statistical analysis.

Prachi I. is a high school student from Texas who is working on a research project this summer using the GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper and Land Cover tools. Her virtual internship is part of a collaboration between the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and the NASA  Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) to extend the TSGC Summer Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) internship for U.S. high school (http://www.tsgc.utexas.edu/sees-internship/). She shares her experience this summer in this guest blog post.

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