Notes from Nature Profile: New Team Member Raphael LaFrance

Notes from Nature is SUPER EXCITED to introduce Raphael (Rafe) LaFrance, who is working on Notes from Nature in a part time role to help out with some needed improvement to the NFN interfaces and general usability.  YAY! More about Rafe below.  Also, again, thanks to our volunteers for sticking with Notes from Nature, and hoping that you’ll soon see improvements with Rafe now on board.


Name: Rafe LaFrance

Title: Informatics Specialist

Where do you work primarily?  I work at the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History (Prof. Guralnick’s lab) in the field of biodiversity informatics. We are currently using computers, field data, and museum data to track where organisms are and have been in the environment.  We also track how organisms respond to changes in their environment over time.  All of this is done with an eye towards the value of data for decisions in a policy and management framework.

What you do in your day job?  I have a few roles. I help design and program a couple of web sites related to the Museum’s research.  I also help with the preparation and analysis of research data.  And, I also work as a general IT and programming support when that is needed.

What’s your role with NfN and what do you hope to gain from it accomplish?  If relevant, how will your research benefit?  Notes from Nature is one of the web sites that I help develop.  One goal I have for NfN is to continue the tradition of listening to the needs of the citizen and research scientists and make improvements to the Notes from Nature web site based upon those needs.  I have already heard several ideas that will make NfN more fun and easier to use.  I hope to get them to you ASAP.  Another goal is to streamline the process of getting the images and data to the citizen scientists so they can continue to make the highest quality contributions to science at their typical brisk pace.  And finally, I want find new and useful ways to present the citizen scientists’ results back to the research scientists.  All of which is a long winded way of saying that I want to help push the envelope of what the collaboration between citizen and research scientists can accomplish.

What’s the most exciting aspect of citizen science work from your point-of-view?  Like most of us here in the Zooniverse, I have a keen interest in science and would love to help in the research.  Well, here it is!  Research scientists need this data; it contains vital details needed for their research.  Not only are we making real contributions we’re doing it at a rate that couldn’t be done by the researchers alone.  We get to — are encouraged to —  comb through the hidden archives of museums.  We see things that most museum goers don’t get a chance to see and we get to talk with top notch researchers about their data.  I started off being curious about biology but doing citizen science has not only increased my enthusiasm for science in general it has sharpened my appreciation for the process of science.  I now have a better understanding of what questions research scientists actually ask.  How do they go about answering them.  What data do they need to arrive at the answers.  From my point of view it has made me appreciate science even more than I already did.


About Rob

Three "B's" of importance: biodiversity, bikes and bunnies. I get to express these "B's" in neat ways --- I bike to a job at the University of Florida where I am an Associate Curator of Biodiversity Informatics. Along with caretaking collections, I also have a small zoo at home, filled with two disapproving bunnies.

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