I am listening to whale songs tonight. I read an interesting article on the Mother Nature Network recently, located here which asks for people to listen to the recorded whale songs to help scientists analyze and match up songs from Orcas and Pilot Whales in an attempt to determine the different dialects. Pretty cool, huh? It is part of a recent effort of scientists to use the help of the general public to analyze particular sets of data in a way that computers and the scientists themselves cannot. There is a good Wikipedia article on crowdsourcing and why it works quite well for different fields of study. An article over at ScienceDaily relays how a group of gamers recently solved a medical puzzle involving the structure of a retrovirus enzyme that stumped the researchers for over a decade. The gaming group solved the problem in about three weeks through a collaborative effort.
For me, helping out these different scientists helps me feel at least a little more connected to my own science background. I always intended to stay working in the Anthropological/Psychological/Arts fields, and this at least gives me a connection to helping with the research while still taking care of my family and teaching my children as well as the hundred other things I do in a day. Even if I never get back into the field of study I had started in, I can at least help science along in some fashion.
Right now you will find me listening to the chirps, burps, and screeches of various whales located here. I figure I am already listening to similar noises from my own mammalian offspring, so I might as well expand my range a little and help a group of researchers out. If you are interested in trying your hand at helping science along, try here at Zooniverse or here for a bird survey, or here for other crowdsourcing projects open to the public.
Why don't you give it a try too?