With all sorts of restrictions in place to promote self-isolation and physical distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, people are having to brainstorm new ways of passing time and engaging with family, friends and the broader community.

Cut off from touring, for example, Canadian musicians have been live-streaming performances to entertain fans. Likewise, galleries and museums have been inviting people to take virtual tours of their collections.

Various artists have been reaching out too, both to express solidarity with people going through tough times and to share their talent with the world. Patrick Stewart (a.k.a. Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation), for instance, has been doing online readings of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The choice is particularly appropriate given that in the year the sonnets were first published, 1609, London was in the grip of bubonic plague and theatres were closed.

One home-based activity I’d like highlight with this post is tied to citizen science. I did an article on it back in November 2015 and the important role ordinary citizens can play in helping professionally trained scientists to collect and analyze data to advance research projects.

As the article noted, there are independent sites such as eBird and eButterfly that people with an interest in birds and butterflies can visit.

Then there’s the “global” citizen science website Zooinverse where you can find all sorts active, paused and finished projects in a range of disciplines from astronomy and history to medicine, biology and nature. Some are targeted at people with specialized knowledge in a discipline but many others are child and layperson friendly.

Chimp&See and Wildwatch Kenya are two that fall into the latter category.

As recent events have shown, we need science more than ever these days to help us find a way out of the increasingly dire environmental crisis we find ourselves in. So with most of the activities we typically rely on for entertainment and distraction, from pro sports and blockbuster Hollywood movies to shopping and bar-hopping on hiatus, why not take up the challenge?