In its remaining months, the Biodiversity Institute is gearing up for a regional conference on citizen science. In late July, the University of Wyoming announced plans to shut down the institute, which promotes the study of living organisms by learners of all ages, from pre-schoolers to Ph.D. students.
But before it closes in December, the Biodiversity Institute is putting on the Rocky Mountain Citizen Science Conference. This builds on the 2016 Wyoming Citizen Science Conference. This year scientists, volunteers, teachers, and those who want to learn more will gather at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody to discuss the challenges and rewards of citizen science across the rural west.
Zoe Nelson, the Biodiversity Institute's project coordinator, said citizen science is a powerful way for outdoor enthusiasts to help scientists make important discoveries.
"To get out there and explore kind with like a purpose," said Nelson. "If you enjoy being outdoors and hiking around, and you just so happen to want to learn more or contribute to science or this bigger understanding of a not very well understood species or population, it's a really cool way to interact."
Nelson said in Wyoming citizen science has helped researchers gather data on amphibians in remote places only accessible by foot. The conference will also feature projects from Idaho, Montana and Colorado. She said she hopes the event draws new people to the field as well.
"I had a conversation with a guy who works on an oil rig who has always wanted to be a biologist," Nelson said. "And I was like this is perfect for you. This is what citizen science is. You can be anyone and do anything."
Citizen science projects teach the skills needed for volunteers to gather reliable data for researchers answering scientific questions.
The Biodiversity Institute is still accepting presentation proposals for the conference, which is scheduled for November 29 - December 1 in Cody.