SOBA: Crowdfunding Science

Hear from skilled scientists whose projects have been made possible through crowdfunding.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


July 21, 2012 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-07:00)

Today, crowdfunding offers financial support for everything from movies to video games to independent music to journalism. It also provides an alternative to VC funding for startup companies and, increasingly, new technology. The June issue of Technology Review magazine, for example, identifies the practice as one of the top 10 emerging technologies alongside 3D transistors and nanopore sequencing.

By donating small amounts through online sites such as Kickstarter, crowdfunding has become a way to democratize success. In April, a US ban on offering equity to crowdfunders was lifted. Given the growing potential of this practice, it’s no wonder that scientists and citizen scientists (and their supporters) are getting into the act.

Join us at swissnex San Francisco to hear from skilled scientists whose projects have been made possible by crowdfunding, as well as from Jai Ranganthan, one of the organizers of the crowdfunding platform SciFund Challenge.

Dr. Brian Fisher is an expert on African ants and bioinformatics and Curator of Entomology at the California Academy of Sciences. He successfully funded his research on Through SciFundChallenge, Greg Goldsmith’s project to study cloud forests in Costa Rica exceeded its financial goal. Same for Matt Medeiros, who is discovering the biodiversity of moths on the uninhabited Hawaiian island of Kaho’olawe and getting his students in the Bay Area involved in his research.

Presentations are followed by a panel discussion, audience Q&A, and follow-up conversation at a nearby bar (to be announced at the event). During the discussion portion of the evening, we’ll probe the challenges and opportunities of crowdfunded science. Bring your questions!

*Presentations and discussion live-streamed. Follow the event on Twitter (@sciobayarea and #sobay), like SOBA on Facebook, and visit the ScienceOnline Bay Area blog for event recaps, news, and more.

Speaker Bios

Dr. Brian Fisher

Dr. Brian Fisher is an expert on African ants and bioinformatics. He is Curator of Entomology at the California Academy of Sciences and adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley and at San Francisco State University. Often found hip-deep in Madagascar mud, Fisher is a modern day explorer who has devoted his life to the study and conservation of ants and biodiversity around the world. His research sends him through the last remote rainforests and deserts of Madagascar and Africa in search of ants. Although his subjects may be small in stature, they make a huge impact on their ecosystems. And what they lack in size, they more than make up for in numbers. By documenting the species diversity and distribution of this “invisible majority,” Fisher is helping to establish conservation priorities for Madagascar, identifying areas that should be set aside to protect the highest number of species. Along the way, he has discovered hundreds of new species of ants. He has published over 90 peer-reviewed articles including the “Ants of North America” with Stefan Cover. Every year, he trains dozens of international graduate students in the taxonomy and natural history of ants, providing them with skills to use ants as an important indicator of biodiversity across the globe. He has appeared in a number of BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic films and has been profiled in Newsweek and Discover magazine.

Greg Goldsmith

Greg Goldsmith is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, where his research focuses on understanding the effects of global climate change on the ecology of tropical montane cloud forests. Goldsmith is particularly interested in understanding how weather and climate shape plant diversity and distribution, research which he currently carries out in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Panama. In addition to his research interests, Goldsmith has a passion for innovative science education and outreach. He serves on the board of directors for the science education non-profit Ecology Project International and is the co-founder of the award-winning website Canopy in the Clouds, an immersive learning environment for teaching earth and life sciences. For his work in research and education, Goldsmith is a featured explorer of the National Geographic Society.

Matt Medeiros

Matt Medeiros has been studying Hawaiian moths for the past ten years. His dissertation research focused on learning more about flightless cave moths and flightless moths that live on the tops of volcanoes on Maui and the Big Island. After earning his PhD from UC Berkeley in 2009, Matt spent two years teaching science at the Landon School in Bethesda, MD, before joining the faculty of the Urban School of San Francisco, a prep school in the Haight. He is also a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley where he studies moth systematics.

Dr. Jai Ranganathan

Dr. Jai Ranganathan is a conservation biologist and a Center Associate at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (University of California, Santa Barbara). His research focuses on conservation of imperilled species within agricultural areas in the tropics. He is one of organizers of the #SciFund Challenge, the largest science crowdfunding effort in the world. #SciFund Challenge is a volunteer-run organization that seeks to close the gap between science and society. You can find Jai onTwitter at @jranganathan.


Photo: Myleen Hollero

Event Photos