A new way to pay for science and help save the bay

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 9:44am


Chesapeake Bay

In the 1970s, the Chesapeake Bay was discovered to contain one of the planet's first identified

marine dead zones, where hypoxic waters were so depleted of oxygen

that they were unable to support life, resulting in massive fish kills.

Today the bay's dead zones are estimated to kill 75,000 tons of bottom-dwelling

clams and worms each year, weakening the base of the estuary's food chain.


Claire Regan wants to find the most significant sources for sediments, nitrogen, and phosphorus that get into the Chesapeake Bay. “The hotspots for these three stressors have been researched individually,” she explains, “but investigations into hotspots for all three stressors are needed. I would like to identify these triple-threat hotspots in order to target them for management. What makes one place a major source of all three of these stressors? How can we link the ecological communities to these hotspots?” And how is she going to pay for this research? Like an entrepreneur would: by crowdsourcing.


“I found out about the SciFund Challenge from Dr. Jennifer Balch while taking her Global Change Ecology class last fall,” Regan explained. “She consistently encouraged us to find ways to communicate our interests with the public and highlighted the SciFund Challenge as one way to do so.”

The SciFund Challenge is a Kickstarter-inspired research funding crowdsourcing platform for scientists. Experiment.com, allows researchers to post profiles of their projects and share to raise needed funds and awareness. The project must reach 100% or more of the funding goal, or no one is charged.


Regan says she decided to participate in the in the SciFund Challenge for a couple of reasons. “First, it is a great platform for explaining what my research is, why I am so excited about it, and why they should be excited about it too.  Second, it is an innovative way to raise research funds.  Typically research is financed by grants from big organizations, but funds are limited and the decision of what research gets done is made by a relatively small number of people.  SciFund is a new avenue for everyone to have a say in what research is funded.  If a particular research question is important to someone, they can contribute to it directly.”

The funding Regan can raise via the SciFund Challenge will be used for her certification as an aquatic taxonomist and to attend the Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting in Portland, Oregon.  “My thesis research involves measuring the integrity of freshwater communities, which will be done by sampling and identifying macroinvertebrates,” she explains.  “The Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting marks the first time that the four major water-based organizations are coming together to discuss current research in the field.  It would inform my own research and is an invaluable opportunity for young scientists like myself to become integrated in the research community.”


To learn more about Experiment.com, Regan’s project, or to contribute: https://experiment.com/projects/where-is-pollution-entering-the-chesapeake-bay-watershed