The recent observations of gravitational waves (GWs) have enticed further exploration as to how this new cosmic messenger can yield information about the lives and deaths of progenitor systems to binary compact objects. In the first part of this talk, I will highlight efforts to use GW observations to constrain uncertain aspects of progenitor systems to binary black holes (BBHs), such as properties of the supernovae that affect these systems earlier in their evolution and the environments in which BBHs form. In particular, I will discuss how certain formation scenarios can produce BBH systems with unique observational properties, such as high masses, distinct spin configurations, and large eccentricities. Furthermore, given a population of BBH observations, I will show how one can constrain the relative rate of various formation scenarios and uncertain physical parameters that embed population synthesis simulations through Bayesian hierarchical modeling.
In the second part of the talk, I will present Gravity Spy, the first GW citizen science project hosted by Zooniverse. In addition to performing a comprehensive characterization of noise within the LIGO interferometers, the Gravity Spy project provides a platform for investigating how the symbiotic relationship between human and computer classification schemes can facilitate a classifier more efficient than each method is capable of on its own. Such techniques can be utilized across all disciplines that deal with the classification and characterization of large datasets, and will allow citizen science to scale with the ever-increasing datasets of the future.