Published: March 20, 2017 By

Scott Eustis (left), Shannon Dosemagen and Jeff Warren were part of the Public Lab response to the “Deepwater Horizon” disaster, using low-cost cameras, kites and balloons to document the BP oil spill.

Scott Eustis (left), Shannon Dosemagen and Jeff Warren were part of the Public Lab response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, using low-cost cameras, kites and balloons to document the BP oil spill. Photo: Nathan Dappen/Crowd & Cloud.

Enabled by smartphones, computers and mobile technology, regular people are observing their environments, monitoring neighborhoods and collecting information about the world and the things they care about. These so-called “citizen scientists” are the focus of "The Crowd and the Cloud," a four-part public television series premiering in April hosted by Waleed Abdalati, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at CU Boulder. 

If you go

What: Sneak peek of "The Crowd and the Cloud," hosted by CU Boulder’s Waleed Abdalati, producer Geoff Haines-Stiles, executive producer Erna Akuginow and a panel of citizen science leaders from across Colorado.

Where: Old Main Chapel at 1600 Pleasant Street

When: Tuesday, March 21 at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets: Free, but required. Register at Eventbrite

Live webinar: Click here to watch live.

Families welcome. Non-alcoholic refreshments will follow in the CIRES Atrium. This free event is supported by the CU Boulder Research and Innovation Office.

Abdalati, the former Chief Scientist of NASA, traveled around the country during the past few years, to learn about SmartFin, which turns surfers into ocean scientists, to meet weather watchers who provide life-saving data to forecasters, and to bring the citizen science experience to life in this series.

“My background as a scientist has shown me the value of the big-picture perspective you get from looking at Earth from space,” said Abdalati. “By diving into the projects we’ve covered in 'The Crowd and the Cloud,' I’ve learned how the up-close-and-personal perspective, people collaborating and sharing data via the cloud, is an excellent way to gather the information we need to help solve the challenges we all face.”

The series has been more than three years in the making, funded by the National Science Foundation and written and produced by Geoff Haines-Stiles, the award-winning senior producer and series director of Carl Sagan’s classic COSMOS series. 

In "The Crowd and the Cloud," Haines-Stiles and Abdalati take viewers on a global tour of citizen science projects and people on the front lines of this disruptive transformation of how science is done. The series shows how citizen scientists are helping professional scientists advance knowledge, speeding up new discoveries and innovations in public health, environmental science, wildlife conservation and more. And it deals with emerging challenges, too, such as questions about data quality and privacy.

"The Crowd and the Cloud" also encourages viewers to become involved, engaging through social media and by offering a set of online resources to help viewers become doers.

“I loved talking with people about these projects, because they are so passionate and making such a difference,,” Abdalati said. “The fervor out there, the enthusiasm to better understand their world, from our brains to the health of our oceans…really impressed me.”

"The Crowd and the Cloud" will be distributed by American Public Television and premieres on the World Channel on Thursday, April 6, at 9 p.m. EDT. Live Facebook appearances after each show will let viewers continue the conversation with Haines-Stiles, Abdalati and other viewers.

For updated information about how to watch, visit the series website.