Willamette U Think features squirrels and citizen science

Willamette University’s U Think series will feature noted biologist and professor David Craig, who will present “Bright-eyed and Bushy-tailed about Citizen Science" on Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in Brown’s Towne Lounge. Craig, whose research was featured in the PBS documentary “A Murder of Crows,” will discuss the Western Gray Squirrel, a North American species now threatened across most of the West Coast by an introduced species. 

Craig will talk about squirrel behavior and why the Western Gray Squirrel population is declining. Also, he’ll discuss the development of citizen science and how you can participate.    

“Nature photographers and backyard wildlife enthusiasts can contribute to scientific efforts to preserve our native, declining squirrel species,” says Craig. “There’s a citizen science project for almost every passion. At U Think, I’ll talk about squirrel behavior and how people can participate in related work, but there are ways to contribute to research just by lending your gaming system’s processing power when you are not using it.” Craig refers to Stanford’s Folding@Home, software that addresses protein folding problems at the heart of many cancers and other diseases.  

From the University of Washington’s “foldit,” a puzzle-solving game that also furthers an understanding of how tiny proteins fold, to “Galaxy zoo,” a research project involving categorizing galaxies in Hubble space telescope images, the incredible breadth of citizen science projects empowers people without special training to deepen our collective pool of knowledge.

Willamette U Think features professors in an informal environment. The free presentations are geared for the public, and no background knowledge is needed. A question and answer session will follow the talk.

At 189 Liberty St. NE, between Court and State Streets in downtown Salem, Brown's Towne Lounge is open to adults over 21. Tables fill quickly, so arrive early to enjoy food and drink specials before the discussion.