You’re cycling down the road and you see something ahead of you on the tarmac. It’s not moving and appears somewhat flattened. Rubbish? Horse shit? A hub cap? You get a little closer and discover it’s none of these… it’s a hedgehog. Or rather it was. As the car tyres repeatedly run over the decaying carcass it gradually disappears until there is nothing left except from, perhaps, a slight red stain. The poor creature has died in vain…
Or has it?
What if you knew that Cardiff University was running an academic exercise called Project Splatter, creating a UK map of wildlife roadkill and was looking for people across the country to help them with data collection? (If you want to find out more, here’s the link to the Project Splatter website.) You might feel inclined to give them a hand, no? Especially when you bear in mind that cyclists probably get up close and personal with roadkill to a far greater extent than other road users. Well now your chances of finding out about such citizen-science exercises have just been substantially improved by the creation of ScienceByBike.com. Here’s why, according to Sophie Esterer and Dominik Neller who have created the website, cyclists make the ideal scientific collaborators:
You already spend a lot of time exploring nature. Whether it’s cycling to work, going on an evening bike ride or a long-distance adventure, you spend a lot of time outside with your bike. This means you are in an excellent position to make observations about nature.
You go to remote places. To go to remote places as a citizen scientist you don‘t have to cycle to the steppes of Outer Mongolia. By “remote” we mean areas that are not well mapped in terms of scientific data. It might be the small woodland you cycle past on your daily commute or the hedge outside your favourite bike café. Any place where there isn‘t a scientist available to collect data, but where we urgently need data to be collected. Yes, even that hedge.
You meet the locals. Travelling by bicycle means travelling slowly. This gives you a great opportunity to engage with the local people and to discover the local flora and fauna. Documenting what you see and hear can be extremely valuable to scientists who often don’t have the resources to visit.
It makes sense, no? Sophie and Dominik launched the website at last weekend’s Cycle Touring Festival where I took the opportunity of interviewing Sophie for next month’s podcast. Here’s a short snippet from the chat that you’ll be able to hear in full next month in episode 006 of The Cycling Europe Podcast: