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Citizen scientists' contributions studied

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

On the menu for Thursday night's Science Cafe was the topic of "Citizen Science: Science of, By and For People." The underlying theme was you don't have to be a scientist to contribute to science.

The presentation at Gella's Diner & Lb. Brewing Co., 117 E. 11th, focused on ways the average person can get involved in three main areas: collection, classification and modeling.

If interested, there are opportunities to be involved in projects ranging from counting birds to counting stars. Or, see what's at the bottom of the ocean and report that data. There is something for everyone.

"I think the reason to be involved is because we all live on earth, the earth travels around the sun, but we're all part of the planet," said Paul Adams, professor of physics at Fort Hays State University and Thursday's moderator. Hays junior Megan Adams -- Paul Adams' daughter -- gave the presentation. She is an English major who thinks of herself as a citizen scientist.

"The underlying goal of citizen science is to better understand our world," Paul Adams said. "It's accessible to everybody."

The Science Cafe is in its fourth year.

"The purpose is to make people in general anywhere, aware of science," he said.

The evening is designed to be fun for everyone -- and interesting.

"It's something different," he said. "We've had topics from beekeeping, science fiction, the Large Hadron Collider, things like psychology.

"It's a lot of fun to see a lot of different ideas, as well as watching people asking questions, get engaged with what's happening. Last month, we talked about the Mayan calendar. That one was very popular; it was one of the first ones we did twice."

The next meeting's topic will be Kurt Vonnegut's views on citizen science, while in March the topic will be beer brewing, with perhaps a tour.

In April, it's firewalking, with a live demonstration in the works. Back in the day, Paul Adams tried it and was successful.

"People think it's magic, mystical. It's not," he said. "It's just basic science."