James Borrell is a biodiversity scientist and science communicator researching how people and nature can adapt to environmental change.

How to… Have a citizen science microadventure

Science and adventure go hand in hand. In the same way that you don’t need to fly to the other side of the world, climb mountains or row oceans to have an adventure. You don’t need to lead an expedition to the depths of the unexplored amazon to do science.

The biggest problem is preconceptions. To many, science sounds boring, and it definitely can be if communicated badly. Citizen science is different, by it’s very nature it must be engaging and appeal to the masses. The variety of projects is vast, and growing all the time, and so are the number of people taking part. But the most important motivation is this; these projects really matter.

Take a look at some of the ideas below and why not consider mixing a little citizen science into your next microadventure.


What Is A Microadventure?

A microadventure is an adventure that is close to home, cheap, simple, short, and yet very effective.

http://www.jamesborrell.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/IMG_0464web.jpgMade popular and put simply by Al Humphreys – microadventures are a wonderful way for busy people with normal lives to get outside and experience the world.

Here are a few of my favourite microadventures for inspiration.

For everything you could want to know about planning and completing your own microadventure, check out www.microadventures.org

What is Citizen Science?

Citizen science are projects in which volunteer members of the public work together with researchers to collect data and improve scientific understanding

http://www.jamesborrell.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/IMG_2906edit1small-w960-h600.jpgThe main advantage is that citizen science can generate far larger amounts of data than either citizens or scientists would be able to achieve if operating alone. An added bonus is that it improves the scientific understanding of the public. A few of my favourite citizen science projects…

There’s lots of really great organisations too, like Zooniverse and the Citizen Science Alliance. I recently wrote about my 10 Favourite Citizen Science Projects and promoted the idea of a challenge every month through my Year of Citizen Science.

Ideas for Citizen Science Microadventures

Example #1: Discover Something New

All of us have cameras now. On phones, on ipads and even on actual cameras. I would hazard a guess that most people carry some sort of camera around, most of the time, and this extends especially to microadventures.

So here’s the idea…

  • Pack a camera (you probably do this already).
  • Find an animal or plant that you can’t put a name to and take a quick picture. (The stranger the better, I think!)
  • Complete microadventure.
  • Sit back with a cup of tea and upload it to Ispot.
  • Within a couple of hours your strange creature will have been identified and hey presto – you’re a citizen scientist!
  • Smile with satisfaction.


Why does this matter? Well, last year a new species was discovered by a scientist perusing flickr. More than that though, all of Ispot’s 250,000 observations (and counting!) get stored in huge National Biodiversity Network databases that help monitor patterns and trends in wildlife throughout the UK.

In short, this kind of information helps scientists monitor out wild places, keeping them beautiful and protected so that many more people will be able to set off on microadventures in the decades to come.

There’s a whole host of great citizen science challenges to help you plan your own adventure here.

Student Scientists in The Amazon

It doesn’t have to be confined to a microadventure either, although it is a good place to start. In 2011 I was part of an expedition involving around 60 students conducting biodiversity fieldwork in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon. With limited knowledge and experience, we collected a wealth of data to help protect the pacaya-samiria reserve, an adventure they can all be immensely proud of…Read More


“Far from being a ball and chain, science I think, goes hand in hand with adventure and returns an investment of passion and enthusiasm ten fold. Science can give you entry to some of the worlds most exciting and wild places from the equator to the poles that would otherwise be inaccessible. It can help you fund and gain support for your expeditions, and here in the Amazon for example, it goes a small way towards…” Read More

Resources: How to… Get Involved With Your First Expedition

So In Summary…

  • It’s the same brilliant microadventure.
  • It’s the same sense of excitement, adventure and escape.
  • But you get the chance to see the same places in a new way, from a new perspective, noticing things that you probably havn’t noticed before.
  • …and you’re doing your part to conserve your favorite wild places far into the future.

Some Useful Links: