Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, a harbinger of individualism widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher, said long ago that the crowd is untruth. And, while that may be so most of the time, a crowd can also come together to discover the truth through endeavours that fall in the realm of citizen science. Citizen Science is defined as the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists. It is a fairly new term, but an old practice. Before the dominance of universities, government funded research laboratories and corporate R&D was cemented in the 20th century, most scientific endeavours were made by citizen scientists, either as a collective body or individually.
It is only in the last few decades that citizen science began its resurgence. For one, in the present economy, governments, universities, and corporations don’t have the surplus to spend on R&D. Second, the laboratories became too bureaucratized and impersonal due to the demands of efficiency made by the market. This repelled more than a few nature loving scientists.
One category of projects that is popular with citizen scientists across the world is bird watching. In India too, bird watching is quite popular. It is especially popular in Kerala, where armed with a microphone, and camera, people belonging to all ages, genders, classes, and castes are saving birds and contributing to science. On the most popular bird curation platforms in India, ebird, 22% of all the records made are from Kerala. The number of recorded birds in Kerala reached 1 million on 20 November 2016, when Tony Antony recorded two Scaly-breasted (Spotted) Munias in his list from Erayilkadavu Bypass Road, Kottayam.
To find out more about the power crowds have when it comes to bird watching and citizen science in India, listen to Padma and Samanth on the new episode of The Intersection.