Citizen Science at LA Makerspace - BioSCAN and the great insect map of Los Angeles

Bugs, bugs everywhere!

One of the great things about having a makerspace in central Los Angeles is that we can act as a community lab for students from a number of different high schools to work together with various research partners to carry out actual science.  One such partner, the Natural History Museum, has started working with a number of our students on a project to collect insects at thirty sites across Los Angeles for the next three years in order to study the biodiversity of insects in one of the largest urban environments in United States.

This project, known as BioSCAN, consists of two efforts.  First is the long-term monitoring of insect populations a local climate data at a number of fixed sites in a swath going north from the Natural History Museum into the San Fernando valley.  The second effort is the creation of over a hundred low-cost insect traps, given to volunteers, which will be deployed for one night and get a snapshot of the insect populations over a much larger portion of the LA area.  While we will be helping with the analysis of insect and climate data from BioSCAN over the coming years the second effort is the focus of our work here at LA Makerspace this Summer for our citizen science program.

With the support of our colleagues over at the Natural History Museum we got down the basics of trap design, such as using light to attract insects and then capturing them with soapy water.  From there we've gone into the process of designing, building, deploying, and evaluating our designs to try and create a trap which we can easily mass-produce at our space while also maximizing the the amount of insects captured.  It's been a lot of fun watching everyone brainstorm and tinker, going from vague ideas to hard data in under a week.  We'll keep at our bugworks through July and then do a mass build to distribute all of the traps to the NightWatch volunteers in August.

How do changes in the urban environment effect biodiversity?  Can we track insect evolution in response to environmental changes  What species, known and unknown, are even out in Los Angeles?  These are the sort of questions our students are going to begin to tackle here this Summer.

Step 1:Design sketch

Step 2: Prototype built.

Step 3: Deploy the traps at night.  This shot was taken from the Natural History Museum grounds.

Step 4: Sorting the catch and figuring out what works.

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Showing 3 reactions

commented 2013-12-21 23:17:16 -0800 · Flag
Thank you
commented 2013-07-04 08:13:15 -0700 · Flag

Thanks for the paper. I feel that what citizen science, in lowering the cost of connecting to the research community. Which, in turn, widens out the ‘long tail’ profil of who is actively participating in the scientific community.
commented 2013-07-04 00:36:54 -0700 · Flag
Really interesting Levi, thanks​!​

I think that you would be really interested in some recent research that I have come across about crowds and citizen science.​ ​

It’s called “The Theory of Crowd Capital” and you can download it here if you’re interested:

Really powerful stuff!
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