The MDI Biological Laboratory has plans to spin off one of its internal projects as a for-profit company.
The Bar Harbor-based laboratory created Anecdata to develop a platform to enable individuals or organizations to crowdsource environmental data—from tracking bird migration to reporting instances of pollution—from members of the community and so-called citizen scientists. The spin-off company is one of the four science/tech startups being incubated at MDI Biological Laboratory.
After initially being developed by MDI Biological Laboratory to crowdsource an effort to identify, locate and remedy environmental threats in the Mount Desert Island region, the Anecdata portal, which includes a mobile phone app that makes it easy for participants to share observations from the field, is now being used worldwide in roughly 60 projects, from an effort to track the disappearance of eelgrass from Maine’s coastal waters to surveying the decline of the eastern meadowlark in North American, according to a news release.
In addition to developing the web portal and mobile app, Anecdata will also build customized web and mobile apps for organizations such as the South Carolina Aquarium, which is using a custom app built by Anecdata to collect crowdsourced data on discarded plastic on South Carolina’s beaches and waterways.
“The continued growth of citizen science and its ability to influence policy depend upon the development of easy-to-use tools,” Jane Disney, Ph.D., an MDI Biological Laboratory faculty member and a leader in the citizen science field for 25 years, said in a statement. “The Anecdata.org portal and mobile app replace antiquated systems that make data difficult to access, analyze and export, and that are subject to error.”
Anecdata.org is still operating under the auspices of the MDI Biological Laboratory, which is a nonprofit organization. The plan, though, is to officially spin-off the effort to a separate for-profit company called Anecdata Solutions, according to Stephanie Mattson, a spokesperson for the laboratory. She said that the spin-off company is in the process of being established.
Disney envisions a wide range of uses for the mobile app, including in corporate, public health and government initiatives. The data that is collected will feed into the Anecdata.org site, where it will be available to everyone.
“Citizen science is the wave of the future,” Disney said. “We are in an era of big data: it’s impossible for individual researchers to collect data on the scale needed to inform decision-making about human impacts on the environment and other serious public issues. The availability of the Anecdata.org mobile phone app makes crowdsourcing environmental data in the field that much easier.”
Funding for the Anecdata.org portal and mobile app has been provided by the Pittsburgh, Penn.-based Alex C. Walker Educational and Charitable Foundation and the Maine Technology Institute.