Netizen science

Moth Noctuidae? 4057

Digital technology has made good science accessible to amateurs again, as both learners and contributors, 150 years after a gap opened up between scientists and the lay population in the nineteenth century. In entomology, for instance, authoritative online sources of information are plentiful. Amateurs can learn from them and – almost immediately – contribute to them. Encyclopedia of Life is a good example.

I took up insect photography when I bought my first DSLR camera, late in 2008, and opened a Flickr account – http://www.flickr.com/photos/malcolm_nq/ – as a way of sharing the results. Flickr ‘Groups’ bring together people fascinated by any topic you can think of – as broad as ‘Animals’ and as narrow as ‘Naked Mole Rats’ (okay, I made that one up – but you can start one yourself if you’re interested and there isn’t one already). That is the source of the moth above, and clicking on the image takes you to its original location.

I can also put my content on my own website – here, for instance – and search engines will find it for anyone who needs it.

My photos in Bugblog will normally be linked to a larger version of the image, either on Flickr or on this site.

Afterword, 25.4.11: Another benefit of this way of doing science – people will help out with expert advice when they see a gap. In this case, Graeme Cocks saw that I hadn’t identified the moth at the top of this post and emailed me to say it is “Noctuidae, Catocalinae,” (that’s family and sub-family, for those still finding their way around classifications) and tell me they are, “just about to become abundant.”