Here's how your social media posts help scientists

Here's how your social media posts help scientists
Here's how your social media posts help scientists

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Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay.

And while we've seen several studies on the potentially negative effects of too much of it, it also has many practical applications.

Take this new study out of North Carolina State University, which used Twitter to track the spread of invasive species.

When tweets were referenced against local news reports, researchers accurately tracked the spread of two species - the spotted lanternfly and the tomato leaf miner - in the U.S. and beyond.

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Using on-the-ground-reports as a tracking aid is something meteorologists rely on as well - although they're usually following something larger than an insect.

"As a meteorologist tracking and presenting active weather, I rely on social media for storm reports damage reports," says Weather Network meteorologist Rachel Modestino.

And user-generated content is especially important during severe weather in a large country like Canada.

Experts say social media can be a powerful tool because of the insight it provides – and this is especially important in remote areas where there are no official observation stations.

“News media and social media have the potential to give you more immediate insight into what’s going on, especially if scientific information on insect spread is not immediately published in scientific literature, or not widely available to other scientists,” Ariel Saffer, graduate student in geospatial analytics at NC State and co-author of the invasive insect study says in a statement.

“... It can be hard to get aggregated information in continuous time, especially at the global scale, as that information can be managed by multiple agencies.”

So the next time you post a photo of a storm or an unusual bug to social media, you could be providing experts with crucial information they might not have had access to otherwise.

Thumbnail image courtsey of Canva Pro.