Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

The Crowd & The Cloud Series Features CIRES Director

Citizen science TV series featuring CU Boulder’s Waleed Abdalati premiers in April

There’s a revolution happening in science. Enabled by smartphones, computers and mobile technology, regular people are observing their environments, monitoring neighborhoods and collecting information about the world and the things they care about. These so-called “citizen scientists” are the focus of a 4-part public television series premiering in April, THE CROWD & THE CLOUD.

The series is hosted and narrated by Waleed Abdalati, Director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, CIRES, at the University of Colorado Boulder and former NASA Chief Scientist. Abdalati traveled around the country during the past few years, to learn about SmartFin, which turns surfers into ocean scientists, to meet weather watchers who provide life-saving data to forecasters, and to bring the citizen science experience to life in this series. 


"My background as a scientist has shown me the value of the big-picture perspective you get from looking at Earth from space,” Abdalati said. “By diving into the projects we’ve covered in THE CROWD & THE CLOUD, I’ve learned how the up-close-and-personal perspective, people collaborating and sharing data via the cloud, is an excellent way to gather the information we need to help solve the challenges we all face.”

The series has been more than three years in the making, funded by the National Science Foundation and written and produced by Geoff Haines-Stiles, the award-winning senior producer and series director of Carl Sagan’s classic COSMOS series.  

In THE CROWD & THE CLOUD, Haines-Stiles and Abdalati take viewers on a global tour of citizen science projects and people on the front lines of this disruptive transformation of how science is done. The series shows how citizen scientists are helping professional scientists advance knowledge, speeding up new discoveries and innovations in public health, environmental science, wildlife conservation and more. And it deals with emerging challenges, too, such as questions about data quality and privacy.

THE CROWD & THE CLOUD also encourages viewers to become involved, engaging through social media and by offering a set of online resources to help viewers become doers.

Scott Eustis (left), Shannon Dosemagen and Jeff Warren were part of the Public Lab response to the “Deepwater Horizon” disaster, using low-cost cameras, kites and balloons to document the BP oil spill. Photo: Nathan Dappen/CROWD & CLOUD

“I loved talking with people about these projects, because they are so passionate and making such a difference,,” Abdalati said. “The fervor out there, the enthusiasm to better understand their world, from our brains to the health of our oceans… really impressed me.”

THE CROWD & THE CLOUD is distributed by American Public Television and premiers on the World channel Thursday, April 6, at 9 pm EDT. Live Facebook appearances after each show will let viewers continue the conversation with Haines-Stiles, Abdalati and other viewers.

For updated information about how to watch:

CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and CU Boulder.