Two years ago, a pair of scientists put out a shingle on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter: They needed, by hook or by crook, to get to Mexico to study a rare species of quail. 55 people signed up to fund their project to the tune of almost $5,000 dollars, in return for quail T-shirts, books, and the profound thanks of the researchers. The New York Times wrote about it, and ever since, there has been talk of a place on the web just for crowdfunding science.
The newly launched PetriDish.org is an answer to these prayers. The site is visually appealing—cartoon test-tubes fill up with bubbling orange fluid as the projects get funded, and the introductory videos from researchers convey their excitement both about their work and about engaging the community. The nine handpicked projects now on the site are fascinating: funding the search for new species of ants in one of the last standing pristine Malagasy forests, helping get DNA sequences for one of the longest-studied wolf populations in the world, and pitching in to find the first moon orbiting a planet beyond our solar system, among others. And there are perks for the folks who chip in. The scientists and the team beyond PetriDish have put together rewards for backers that range from framed pressings of one team’s algae samples to getting a species named after you.
I asked Matt Salzberg, the founder of PetriDish, about the site and the projects.