During the first week of February, I had the privilege to attend the Australian Citizen Science Association (ACSA) conference in Adelaide. I will start this post, by expressing my sincere appreciation to the ACSA team and conference organizers. I know how difficult it can sometimes be, and yet, everything seemed to be so carefully planned with a calm, peaceful and respectful atmosphere.
My Impressions from the conference are intervened with my impression of Australia as large. Being in Australia for the first time was a wonderful and somewhat exotic experience. The beautiful scenes, the beaches, the mountains, the exotic animals (which for Australians may not even be considered exotic), all contributed to my overall excitement of citizen science in Australia. During my visit, I got the overall feeling that people in Australia care about the environment and the natural life around them. It seems that this love of nature is somewhat embedded in the Australian culture. Citizen science stems into this culture in a perfect way, like a glove to a hand, and that is beautiful to see.
Coming from such a small country like Israel, the size of Australia is overwhelming. Israel, which is just four hundred kilometers long and one hundred and fifteen kilometers wide, can be driven north to south in just eight hours. For such a small country, we have a lot going on. Unfortunately, we still do not have a large citizen science community. Seeing all the citizen science work that is being done in Australia, was therefore quite inspiring.
The ACSA conference brought together two hundred and fifty people from across Australia and the world, for three days to talk only about citizen science. All people who love science, who love the environment, who made this a purpose for their lives. People working in conservation, in policy, in academia, all working together for a greater good. I was especially inspired, seeing the chief scientist of Australia Dr. Alan Finkel, talking about the importance of citizen science. The entrance of citizen science to the public discussion, in such high official ranks, suggests that citizen science is becoming prolific and widespread in Australia. The connection between government and citizen science projects, seeing the many citizen science projects funded by government, to me, seems exceptional.
Back home, I lead a small but national citizen science project, for monitoring air quality in the local environment. This has been somewhat difficult at times, since many scientists believe citizens cannot really contribute to science, and officials in the Environmental Protection Agency believe they are the sole experts in environmental knowledge and decision making. I feel the government in Israel, in general, does not involve the citizen enough in decision making, and does not see the value in including non-exports in the process. Citizen science in the long run, may be able to change that. Seeing Dr. Finkel talking about the importance of citizen science gave me hope and challenged me to bring the chief scientist in Israel to talk about citizen science. To create a collaboration between citizen scientists and government officials.
Looking into this future, I cannot wait to see what the next years of citizen science will look like.
Presenting my research at ACSA