OPINION

Citizen science is a great way to get involved

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say "you must be so smart", I wouldn't be any smarter. But I sure would be quite a lot richer!

There seems to be an impression that scientists are all geniuses.

The truth is we're really just regular people who know quite a bit about one particular thing.

I can talk to you all day about DNA and genetics. But I know almost nothing about chemistry, physics blows my mind, and I can barely add two and two without a calculator.

I'm certainly not a genius. And neither are most scientists.

Being a scientist isn't about being the best student and having the best grades. It's about being curious, it's about answering questions and solving problems, it's about figuring out why things happen.

And I'm a pretty big believer that anyone can be a scientist if they have the inclination.

"Citizen science" is something that's becoming increasingly popular.

It's a movement that aims to get anyone and everyone involved in scientific research. It's all about public participation.

Basically, the idea is that anyone in the community can contribute to scientific research by collecting information and data for specific projects.

OK, I just realised that I possibly made that sound awfully dull.

But it's pretty simple and can be lots of fun. Not to mention a great way to keep the kids entertained during the school holidays.

For example, there are a bunch of projects that collect data information about the types of animals or plants seen in different areas.

If you're out for a bushwalk, for example, you record what you see, and then log this online.

There are projects where you can record sighting of koalas, echidnas, flying foxes, butterflies, whales, or turtles, just to name a few. This data can help scientists to figure out what sort of impact humans might be having on wildlife in different areas, and help make informed decisions about management of those areas.

These are just a few examples of the type of thing you can get involved in - there are tons of projects out there.

Try a search online for "citizen science project" and see what you can find.

If you've got an interest in science then getting involved in a citizen science program can be a great way to start.

You don't need to be a genius - but you can be a scientist.

Dr Mary McMillan is a lecturer at the School of Science and Technology, University of New England