Great beer comes not from sheltered brewers wandering in circles around their garages alone, adding hops and malt extract to fermenting buckets, bottling and waiting for weeks in solitude. It comes from collaboration among brewers, drinkers, scientists and a community keen on creating a curious product.
That philosophy is encapsulated by Angel City Brewery, an LA-based craft brewery in the Arts District. In collaboration with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Angel City will have its third event tonight, simultaneously unveiling the taste of a new "crowd-sourced" beer, called Sanguine Saison, developed during previous events and hosting a panel of speakers from the science world.
In addition to the typical proceedings of a night out to the bar, the "Citizen Science + Suds" events have featured short lectures by professionals in the scientific industry. The speakers will discuss the value of citizen science – where scientists essentially crowd-source their data, allowing them a wider scope of research for their studies.
"This series is really opening people's eyes to what citizen science is and what crowd-sourced science can really do," said Lila Higgins, manager of Citizen Science at the museum. "It's really showing how people working together can collect data that can have really wide-ranging impacts on our daily lives, the way our city runs and functions and the way the city will be built into the future."
Each event has ranged in terms of the scope of lectures offered: the first featured Jonathan Hans of Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Hyeran Lee of Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and Miguel Ordenana of the museum's Citizen Science Office.
The second introduced Marcus Benigno of the ACLU of Southern California, Fraser Shilling of the Road Ecology Center and Alison Young of the California Academy of Sciences, all focused on the efforts of crowd-sourced data to impact marine conservation and social and environmental justice across the state of California.
"This last one asks, can citizen science save the world?" Higgins said. Panelists will include Brian Brown of the museum's Urban Research Center and Brooke Simmons of the Planetary Response Network and the Zooniverse.
Brown, curator of entomology at museum and co-director of the museum's Urban Nature Research Center, has experienced the value of crowd-sourced data firsthand.
"There are a group of us studying biodiversity and species of animals and plants found in LA," Brown said. "We're trying to understand how urbanization affects that diversity and trying to find a way to make positive changes. Citizen scientists give us a gigantic workforce if they report on the distribution of animals for us."
In one of Brown's recent projects at the museum, called Reptiles and Amphibians of Southern California (RASCals), his team has encouraged people in the LA area to take photos of the lizards, snakes and amphibians they see around the city and upload them to a platform called INaturalist.
Simmons, an astrophysicist and the current Deputy Project Scientist for Galaxy Zoo – precursor to citizen science platform Zooniverse – directs crowd-sourced data to promote studies in a series of disciplines, and to help mobilize Zooniverse's humanitarian and disaster relief arm to support actual first responders in the collection of information following crises. To her, the value of such events is in connecting attendees.
"Broadly speaking, when I do events like this, there are usually a variety of motivations for people attending the event. Some are researchers who want to know how they can make use of citizen science as a research tool; others are already citizen scientists who want to know what's new in the field or how to get more involved; others have just stopped by for a beer and got curious. I think the hope is that some of them come away inspired to try citizen science, or even run a project in their own community."
The event begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, and will be held in its usual spot at Angel City Brewery & Public House. And although the lecturers will all be scientists – experts in their fields – the discussions will be anything but dry.