Date Night: Citizen Science


A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I found ourselves in a unique (to us) situation. It was a Friday night. We’d made it through another long week. The kids were in bed and it was Date Night. But what to do? There weren’t any shows or movies on our “must see” list. We were too exhausted for board games. And we couldn’t leave the house any further than the baby monitor would reach. Hmm…

Then we remembered. There WAS something on our “must see” list! We hadn’t yet watched The Crowd and the Cloud! Date night was saved! What is The Crowd and the Cloud you ask? Let me fill you in…

The Crowd and the Cloud

The Crowd and the Cloud is a 4-part series on PBS, that, in short, is about citizen science. But it’s much more than that. I had the fortune of watching a mashup of the series and talks with producer Geoff Haines-Stiles and show host Waleed Abdalati (of NASA fame) at the Citizen Science 2017 Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota back in May and it had me in tears (the soul touching kind). This series is about people. The people affected by citizen science, the people who’s lives are being changed by citizen science, and the people who’s lives are being saved by citizen science. It was AMAZING.

And we hadn’t yet watched the episodes.

Out came the popcorn bowl and two cups of hot tea. Out came a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. (And lest you get the wrong impression, I bought the dough pre-made – I’m not that ambitious on a Friday night!) We fired up our tablet and tuned in to Episode One. It delivered. Drama, intrigue, and inspiration. All in all, a great change of pace for date night.

date night with citizen science
Date Night watching Crowd and the Cloud (Coincidentally, I’m wearing the shirt of another great citizen science project, the Great World Wide Star Count, in this picture).

Date Night: Citizen Science Style

That got me thinking. There are lots of citizen science projects that would make great date night activities. Why hadn’t we thought of this sooner? So, I started brainstorming a list. Here are five citizen science date night activities that you can do from the comfort of your home or yard. I’m working on another list of date night citizen science projects you can do away from home too. Stay tuned for those in another post!

Idea #1: Watch The Crowd and the Cloud

You knew this one was coming, right? There are four episodes to The Crowd & the Cloud and they’re each about an hour long. You have four built-in date nights right there! The Crowd & the Cloud website contains links to the various projects featured in each episode too so you can check them out!

Idea #2: Stargaze together

There are lots of great citizen science projects based on astronomy. Loss of the Night is a citizen science project that “challenges citizen scientists to identify as many stars as they can in order to measure light pollution”. With a smartphone, you and your significant other can learn a few new constellations and contribute to science all while enjoying a romantic night under the stars. If you don’t own a smartphone, never fear, because you can…

Idea #3: Classify Galaxies with Galaxy Zoo

With a computer or smartphone, you can go where no couple has gone before! (Sorry, I really couldn’t help myself!) But seriously, you can. Classify galaxies from some of the worlds greatest sky surveys (images taken with super powerful telescopes) and contribute to a better understanding of our universe. The images you see in Galaxy Zoo are nothing short of spectacular. You may find yourself (as I did) with a new found appreciation for this universe in which we live.

Orca breaching. Photo courtesy of, CC0 Public Domain

Idea #4: Listen to Music with OrcaSound

If music is more your thing, you might enjoy any number of citizen science projects related to sounds, including OrcaSound. The human ear is much better at detecting differences between sounds than any computer. With OrcaSound, you can listen to the sounds of one of five hydrophones in the Salish Sea Hydraphone Network to listen for the calls of orca whales.

Idea #5: Contribute to Alzheimer’s Research with EyesOnALZ

Nothing says love more than sharing your time to try and find a cure for a terrible disease like Alzheimer’s. Eyes on ALZ is a citizen science project contributing to a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and ultimately searching for a cure. They’ve created an online game called Stall Catchers that you can play to help determine where and when blood vessels are “stalled” in the brain. Create a challenge between you and your partner to see who can contribute the most observations to Stall Catchers. Regardless of who wins, you can go to sleep knowing you’ve helped advance medical research.

Keep Date Night Fresh with Citizen Science

It’s easy to get caught in the same ‘ol, same ‘ol date night activities. Sometimes you need a little inspiration to keep things interesting. Citizen science projects provide a nearly endless set of ideas and projects you can participate in with your significant other.

Looking for other projects that suit your interests? Check out SciStarter*, an online database of citizen science projects from around the world, for more ideas.

What citizen science projects do you want to try for your next date night? Share your ideas in the comments section below!

*I recently started working with SciStarter in an official capacity – it’s a great place to find more citizen science date night ideas!

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