If you’re like the vast majority of Cal students who reward themselves for a tough semester by lounging about in a state of perpetual laziness, you’re probably seated in a reclined position with your left hand propping up your unwashed face. You’ve been in this semihibernation phase for almost a fortnight, and you feel no guilt in letting others carry the burden of innovation and advancement this summer. It’s not that you don’t want to, of course, but the mere thought of getting out of bed is too much to handle. Well, you and all your lazy friends are in luck — we’ve got just the way for you to help the world in your pajamas.
In an effort to usher the world of natural history into the 21st century, UC Berkeley’s Essig Museum of Entomology is leading a project to transcribe field notes and create a database for its entire collection. The museum has estimated that it has more than 2 billion volumes in its world archives — a load that was projected to take several generations to catalog if only scientists did the job. (And you thought getting your biology notes in order was tedious.) The main time commitment is poring over pages and pages of field notes that are often poorly handwritten and converting them into the easy-to-read text that your eyes are feasting upon now.
The good news is that scientists, like yourselves, are lazy and don’t want to spend the next couple of decades doing grunt work. That’s where all of you come in — anyone, regardless of background or experience, can contribute to this project. The only things you need are Internet access — which you presumably have, seeing as you’re reading this — and to complete a simple online training session. This new push has been aptly dubbed “citizen science” and branches out from the Zooniverse project, a Q&A science Wikipedia-type site.
The Museum has joined forces with other entities to add birds and plants to its insect data, so you can choose whichever jars, drawers and shelves you want to help out with. Not only does this involve the collection at UC Berkeley, but you can also works with sister collections at places like Davis, Riverside, Santa Cruz and other states and museums. The awesome part is that you’re privy to the coolest and most valuable specimens out there — you may even catch a fleeting glimpse of some of the 200-year-old bugs that Charles Darwin nabbed.
Of course, there must be a catch, but the only one we could find is that you may encounter a scary-looking beetle or two. And if you ever get bored of helping write the annals of science and history, you can just as easily log off and go back to doing nothing. We know you’ll make the right choice.
Image source: Caro Wallis under Creative Commons
Contact Uday at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @mehtakid.