San Diegans go on a bug hunt as 'citizen scientist'

Residents participate in worldwide science project
Posted at 5:36 PM, May 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-23 23:43:01-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Hundreds of San Diegans are walking around carrying test tubes while on the hunt for bugs. They’re working as “citizen scientists” in what could be the largest science project in world history.

“We don’t even know all the species that are on the planet so the first thing to do is try to find out what’s there,” said La Jolla Library Branch Manager Shaun Briley.

The San Diego Public Library is participating in the Catalog of Life. Library card holders can “check out” a LifeScanner species identification kit for free at any public library. The kit contains vials for the “citizen scientist” to collect insects around town. 

The kit is then returned to the library once it’s full to be sent to the Centre of Biodiversity Genomics in Ontario, Canada. They will test the bug’s DNA and add it, if necessary, to the International Barcode of Life.

Briley said the San Diego Public Library system is the only one in 100 countries participating.

“No library that we’re aware of has ever done anything remotely like this,” he said.

The library footed the bill for 1,000 LifeScanner kits but Briley hoped someone would step up to purchase more of the kits to continue the study locally.

“There’s never been a citizen science project on this scale been done anywhere in the world before,” he said.

So far, San Diegans have submitted more than 1,200 specimens. Of those, 33 were “new invertebrate species” added to the database, according to a news release from the City of San Diego.