By Darlene Cavalier June 18th, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Comment
The editors at ExtremeTech scoured projects featured on SciStarter and highlighted their favorites. Are your favorite projects among those featured here? If not, post a comment to let the editors know!
If you are looking for a place where you can get involved in science projects, specifically citizen science ones, then SciStarter is the place to go. We scoured their site and picked out some of the best, most interesting, and most important examples we could find so you could learn about SciStarter and some of the cool work that’s being done there.
Read the full article here: “The best of SciStarter: DIY bioprinters, AR drones, and 19th century sailors”
By Darlene Cavalier June 13th, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Comment
We thought you might enjoy this list of apps and other resources for field biologists (and citizen scientists!). This list was created by emilio m. bruna and his class at the University of Florida (Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation):
By Darlene Cavalier June 2nd, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Comment
Over the last few weeks, we’ve watched and envied reports and photos coming from those of you living within the emergence zone of Brood II 17-year periodical cicadas (from Georgia to Connecticut). We even traveled westward to witness the magical Magicicada spp. in action in Greensboro, North Carolina (as our own backyard in Raleigh is too far east of the emergence zone). We encouraged you to report your observations of emergence online to help out other cicada researchers.
And yet, we felt something was missing. We were hungry to do some cicada-related public science. But what?
We wracked our brains. We consulted experts like the awesome John Cooley and Chris Simon who are leading a tremendous effort to map the emergence of Brood II over time and space. We thought about themes of our public science program – studying the biodiversity in our daily lives, the species that live on our bodies, in our homes, backyards, and CITIES… and then it hit us.
Over the course of the 17 years while periodical cicadas are underground, the landscapes above them change – trees are planted or knocked over, streets are paved, houses are built and demolished, old lots return to the wild, people come and go. How might these changes – particularly those related to urbanization – affect the 17-year cicadas?
Will you help us find out? Now, AT THIS VERY MOMENT, we have a tremendous opportunity to sample 17-year cicadas over a wide geographic area, across a range of landscapes from forested to urban.
We’re asking you to collect and send us 5-10 dead, adult 17-year cicadas from locations throughout the emergence range. We’ll measure the impact of urbanization by looking at the “crookedness” of their body parts – that is, to what extent do the length, width, and shape of parts on the left and right sides of the cicada bodies differ from one another? Research on other insects suggests that increased exposure to environmental stress during development (stress like pollution or warming – things that might happen more often in the urban environment) results in increased body “crookedness” – Is this the case with the 17-year cicadas?
So what are you waiting for?! The cicadas are out and about RIGHT NOW! Get out there and grab some dead cicadas!
Click here for more information on the Urban Buzz Cicada Project – including background material, instructions for collecting and data forms.
The clock is ticking — GO! GO! GO!
By Carolyn Graybeal May 22nd, 2013 at 9:47 am | Comment
The American kestrel nesting season is in full swing!
Found throughout the Americas, the American kestrel (Falco sparverius) is the smallest of the North American falcons. Unfortunately, its population is in decline particularly along the Pacific Coast and in New England. Much of the decline is due to land clearing which reduces the kestrel’s natural nesting habitats.
To combat this decline, the American Kestrel Partnership, a project of The Peregrine Fund, is asking citizens to set up nestboxes for breeding kestrels. Through the project’s website, volunteers can purchase pre-made nestboxes or download instructions for making the boxes themselves.
As of the end of April, over 1200 nestboxes were registered. Although it can take a couple years before kestrels will use the boxes, occupation rates are promising. Currently the project boasts a 37% occupation rate. The curious can watch a live video feed of kestrels nesting, a rare glimpse of kestrel behavior.
On average the females will lay about 4-5 eggs per brood. It will take about a month for the eggs to hatch and another month before the chicks fledge. These young adults will have the summer to hone their hunting skills before winter sets in.
In addition to setting up nestboxes, volunteers are asked to submit records of successful nesting or lack of kestrel activity in their boxes. This information will help researchers understand how land management may affect kestrel populations. For example do kestrels prefer to nest in quieter, rural environments or in areas with higher prey density? What is the effect of insecticides on chick survival? Ultimately, this information will be used to help restore kestrel populations.
By Lily Bui May 6th, 2013 at 4:49 pm | Comment
Spring has sprung! Citizen scientists like you can now shed your winter layers and say hello again to the great outdoors. Here are ten projects that can help your appetites for citizen science blossom along with the flowers this season.
Track, report, and follow the spring hummingbird migration to understand how hummingbirds are impacted by climate change. The Audubon Society needs citizen scientists to follow the spring hummingbird migration in real time. A free mobile app makes it easy to report sightings, share photos and learn more about these remarkable birds. You can participate at any level – from reporting a single sighting to documenting hummingbird activity in your community throughout the life of the project!
Although it spans three countries and has been documented since the 1880s, North American dragonfly migration is still poorly understood, and much remains to be learned about migratory cues, flight pathways, and the southern limits of overwintering grounds. Become part of an international network of citizen scientists and help monitor the spring and fall movements of the 5 main migratory species in North America, or report on these species throughout the year at a pond or wetland of your choice.
Collect microbes from stadiums, cell phones and shoes! Project MERCCURI is an investigation of how microbes found in buildings on Earth (in public buildings, stadiums, etc) compare to those on board the biggest building ever built in space – the International Space Station (ISS). Your samples will be mailed to the University of California Davis where they will be sequenced and analyzed. Results will be shared on SciStarter so you can compare your samples to those from other locations, including the International Space Station! In addition, up to 40 samples will be selected to fly on the International Space Station where their growth rates will be compared to their counterparts in the UCDavis lab! Wouldn’t it be cool if your sample is sent to the International Space Station!?
WNYC Radio invites families, armchair scientists and lovers of nature to join in a bit of mass science: track the cicadas that emerge once every 17 years across New Jersey, New York and the whole Northeast by building homemade sensors and reporting your observations. Magicicada Brood II will make its 17-year appearance when the ground 8″ down is a steady 64° F. Help predict the arrival by planting a homemade temperature sensor in the ground and reporting your findings back to to WNYC. Your observations will be put on a map and shared with the entire community.
Help researchers better understand relationship between dogs and owners! The Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab in NYC is investigating the different ways people and dogs play together, and we need your help (well, you and your dog’s help). We are cataloguing all the ways people play with their dogs and asking dog owners to submit short videos of their own dog-human play. By participating in Project: Play with Your Dog, citizen scientists are providing valuable information into the nuances and intricacies of our relationships with dogs.
Help scientists understand changing climates in your area by making regular observations of your plants! Project BudBurst, a NEON citizen science program, is a network of people across the United States monitoring plants as the seasons change. We are a national field campaign designed to engage the public in the collection of important ecological data based on the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting of plants (plantphenophases). Project BudBurst participants make careful observations of these phenophases. We are interested in observations from five plant groups – deciduous trees and shrubs; wildflowers and herbs; evergreens; conifers; and grasses. To participate, you simply need access to a plant.
By just taking photos and observing spiders, you can help the Explorit Science Center learn about which climates certain spiders live in and track the distribution of spiders over time. Join the Explorit’s Community Science Project by finding and recording spiders in your home or neighborhood (as many as you can!). Use your camera or smart phone to take a photo of the spider and submit it online to add to our geographical database.
Spy on nature, and contribute to science. Share photos and observations through SciSpy and you’re contributing to research initiatives that rely on amateur participation. Created by Science Channel (Discovery), SciSpy enlists paticipants to document the natural world of their backyards, parks, cities, and towns. Photos and observation data are tagged and stamped with date, time and location information and will hopefully provide helpful information to track migrations, changes in the natural environment, seasonal trends and more.
Help scientists study tree species distribution by identifying and locating tree species on your iPhone or iPad! Leafsnap is an exciting new mobile app that is designed to help citizen scientists identify and locate tree species from photographs and ultimately help the scientific world develop a better understanding of biodiversity. Developed by Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, Leafsnap contains a unique visual recognition software that helps users identify species from the photographs taken straight from your iphone or ipad.
The National Severe Storms Laboratory needs YOUR help with a research project! If you live in the area shown on the map, the Precipitation Identification Near the Ground project (PING) wants YOU to watch and report on precipitation type. Why? Because the radars cannot see close to the ground, we need YOU to tell us what is happening. Scientists will compare your report with what the radar has detected, and develop new radar technologies and techniques to determine what kind of precipitation—such as snow, soft hail, hard hail, or rain—is falling where.
Whether you’re cicada tracking outside or swabbing microbes indoors, we wish you all the best with your experiments this season. Be sure to come back and tell us about it in the comments!
Still got some spring in your step? Check out even more citizen science projects in our Project Finder!
By Carolyn Graybeal April 26th, 2013 at 7:16 am | Comment
Each year since 1996, the National Geographic Society joins with the U.S. National Park Service to host one BioBlitz, and this year it will be held down on the bayou! On May 17th-18th citizen scientists will join field biologists to map and inventory the living creatures in the Big Easy’s Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve.
A BioBlitz is a 24-hour biological survey during which volunteer scientists and park officials guide teachers, students and families to catalogue an area’s biodiversity in a brief but intense manner. Located on the Mississippi River delta, Jean Lafitte Barataria Preserve is a 23,000-acre wetland containing an astounding diversity of plant and animal life. This includes nutrias, 200-plus bird species, and various marsh, swamp and forest plants and insects. Volunteers will be led by park officials and expert scientists who will help guide the cataloging process.
This is a unique opportunity for non-scientists to conduct real fieldwork that will contribute to the park’s official species list. Last year’s volunteers included over 2,000 schoolchildren! But the event is not all notebooks and specimen bags. In true Nawlins style, this event will include a Biodiversity Festival, with music, food, art, and fun!
Sustaining biodiverisity is of both biological and economic importance. Now, BioBlitzes are held in various countries around the world and are opportunities for scientists to engage and educate the public about biodiversity a fun and interactive way. Look for one near you!
Locations of past NGS/NPS BioBlitzes include Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Biscayne Bay, Florida and Indian Dunes National Lakes. Last year, over 5,000 volunteers participated and catalogued 489 species of plants and animals in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.
Volunteer registration opened April 14th, and inventory groups fill up quickly! If you are interested in volunteering for any part of the event, email firstname.lastname@example.org or learn more about the project at National Geographic’s website. Scientists interested in volunteering should visit this link for more specific information. There are also additional learning resources for educators.
By Lily Bui April 24th, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Comment
“Never judge an ant at first glance,” warns Dr. Eleanor Spicer Rice, myrmecologist and head of the School of Ants project.
Meet Forelius pruinosus. At first glance, it may seem a little unimpressive, even underwhelming. However, the more you learn about Forelius, the more you realize there’s more to it than meets the antennae. For one, they’re masters of climate and can survive just as well in the arid desert as it can in your kitchen or bathroom. Surprisingly, they also smell good. These ants secrete an odorous alarm pheromone that attracts their nestmates, a trait that comes in handy when they’re in danger. Forelius are known to be light on their feet as well. When faced with conflict or danger, they shake their bodies and communicate with others by dancing.
Believe it or not, Forelius has yet to acquire a common name, as common as it is in the household and beyond. That’s why Your Wild Life is holding a competition to name it! They’ve taken submissions from all over (museums, science events, online) and received a plethora of creative suggestions–from “Fancy Ant” to “Lady Gaga” and everything in between!
Here are the top four contenders for Forelius‘ common name. Visit the special voting page to pick your favorite! Hurry, the deadline is April 30, 2013!
1. Barricade Ant – Forelius pruinosus use chemical defenses and elaborate teamwork to barricade the colony openings of ants four times larger than themselves during foraging.
2. Blockade Ant – F. pruinosus does not allow other ants to leave their nests if they’ve found something delicious nearby; they surround their competitors’ nest and shoot chemicals out of their butts!
3. High-Noon Ant – F. pruinosus have been described as thermophilic, or heat-loving, and are typically the only ants actively foraging at noon when the sun is at its highest. This is one of the best ways for ant scientists to collect them – go out at the hottest part of the day and you’ll even be likely to find a F. pruinosus!
4. Highway Ant – F. pruinosus forms thick trails as they forage during the day, they form wide ant highways as they travel from a food source back to their nest.
You can view a compilation of all the creative suggestions on the text map below. Click for the interactive version!
You might wonder, why bother with picking a common name at all? “Who would want to talk about Forelius when they could talk about ants that had way more interesting common names like carpenter ants, thief ants or big-headed ants?” emphasizes Holly Menninger, who manages the naming competition for Your Wild Life. What she means is that when something has a common name, it becomes more accessible to people. Sometimes science can be a bit esoteric, even intimidating. However, Your Wild Life has made finding a name for Forelius a democratic process, open to any and all who want to participate: “I think people like to be heard, to have their opinions and ideas make a difference – I think that’s why lots of folks are attracted to voting contests.”
(In this post on the PLOS blog, Caren Cooper also expounds on the importance of common nomenclature, with a nod toward Your Wild Life’s naming contest.)
So far, the contest has attracted a spectrum of participants–from kids at the kindergarten level to retired seniors. Menninger says, “Our big goal at Your Wild Life is to engage the public in the study and appreciation of the biodiversity in their daily lives. Specifically with respect to ants, we want folks to learn a little bit about their tiny 6-legged neighbors, the ants who wander about their backyards and playgrounds.”
This project is a testament to how citizen scientists can make a lasting impact on scientific research–whether the impact originates from a source as large as a whale or tiny as an ant.
Want even more critter-friendly citizen science projects? Check out these exciting projects from our Project Finder!
Photos: SchoolofAnts.org, YourWildLife.org
By Darlene Cavalier April 24th, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Comment
April 23, 2013
Every day, across the country, ordinary Americans known as “citizen scientists” make critical contributions to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by collecting, analyzing, and sharing a wide range of data—from weather phenomena, to sightings of migrating birds, to the timing of flower blooms at different latitudes. Now, the White House is preparing to honor some of the Nation’s most effective contributors to these important but sometimes-overlooked public servants.
Public participation in scientific research, also known as citizen science, is not a new phenomenon. In fact, before the establishment of discipline-specific training programs in the 18th and 19th centuries, most scientific research was carried out by amateurs. Many of our country’s most prominent scientists got their first taste of science by participating in citizen-science projects, and even today—despite the ascendance of a professional scientific corps—society has much to gain by including non-experts in the scientific enterprise. Among other benefits, public engagement in science can help citizens critically consider science-related public policy questions, make more informed decisions regarding the pros and cons of new technologies, and provide knowledgeable input about how tax dollars should be spent.
Today, advances such as Internet-based social media platforms and other information technology resources are increasingly allowing individuals to share information over large distances, enabling like-minded citizens to participate in research projects at unprecedented levels. Many practicing scientists today are discovering that citizen scientists play an indispensable role, by helping to collect and analyze data at unparalleled rates and over wide geographical distances.
To recognize the substantial contributions and achievements of citizen scientists across the Nation, the White House will host a Champions of Change event on Citizen Science on June 4, 2013. The White House Champions of Change program highlights the stories and examples of ordinary citizens who are doing extraordinary things for their communities, their country, and their fellow citizens. This event will focus on individuals or organizations that have demonstrated exemplary leadership in engaging the broader, non-expert community in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) research. Of particular interest are efforts by individuals or organizations to include women, the economically disadvantaged, persons with disabilities, and racial and ethnic minorities underrepresented in STEM.
Do you know a citizen science leader who is using citizen science to help catalyze positive change in his or her community? Members of the public are invited to nominate candidates for consideration.
Click here to nominate a Citizen Science Champion of Change before April 30, 2013 (under “Theme of Service,” choose “Citizen Science”).
Joan M. Frye is a Senior Policy Analyst at OSTP
We’re taking citizen science to the National Science Teachers Association and the San Antonio Spurs game. Join us!
By Darlene Cavalier April 8th, 2013 at 11:23 am | Comment
|Dionn, MBA, Former Warriors cheerleader||Regina, Medical Doctor, Former Redskins Cheerleader||Laura, I.T.,Former Spurs Cheerleader|
Meet Science Cheerleaders Dionn, Laura and Regina on April 11 at the National Science Teachers Association in San Antonio from 2-3 pm and join them at the San Antonio Spurs game on 4/12 to collect microbes to send to space!
Project MERCCURI (Microbial Ecology Research Combining Citizen and University Researchers on ISS),a new research project from Science Cheerleader, SciStarter and UC Davis, is being made possible by Space Florida and NanoRacks LLC. Both organizations partnered in late 2012 to sponsor the “International Space Station Research Competition” and support innovative research payloads getting to space.
Project MERCCURI was selected as a winning project for the competition, and will facilitate the study of how microbes in buildings on Earth compare to those found on the International Space Station. Through December 31, 2013, the public can join the research team to collect swabs of surfaces at sporting events, in classrooms and at other venues. The microbes collected on the swabs will be characterized by analysis of their DNA; this will allow comparison of microbial distributions across the country. Some living microbes from the swabs will be grown in the laboratory and then sent to the International Space Station for growth rate comparisons and microbial playoffs! All results will be shared with the public.
Join the Science Cheerleaders and our partners at the National Science Teachers Association conference in San Antonio on April 11 from 2-3 pm, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, 215.
Then, come to the San Antonio Spurs game on April 12 where we will collect microbes from the stadium, court and game ball. The Spurs are offering discount tickets in addition to providing access to their court!
If you can’t make it to San Antonio, have no fear! We’re in the process of confirming similar events across the country and WE NEED YOU! If you’re interested in hearing from us as we build out our Project MERCCURI event calendar and/or as we analyze results, please sign up here.
PSSST: Every participant will earn a MERCCURI mission patch, too!
By John Ohab April 5th, 2013 at 9:17 am | Comment
This post originally appeared on the PLOS Blog Network.
We’re down to the Final Four in this year’s NCAA tournament, and chances are your bracket isn’t looking too good. Welcome to the club. Worry not! We’ve got four citizen science projects that will help you make the most of Final Four weekend.
MICHIGAN WOLVERINES fans…
If your team gets pummeled this weekend, you’ll make a great Roadkill Observer or Splatter Spotter. Roadkill Survey for Road Bikers need your help to find out where wildlife live and how they move in relation to roads. Project Splatter collects UK wildlife road casualty data via Twitter and Facebook. Both projects hope to identify roadkill ‘hotspots’ for future mitigation projects and help preserve wildlife.
SYRACUSE ORANGE fans…
You’re in the perfect spot to help track the cicadas that emerge once every 17 years across New Jersey, New York and the whole Northeast by planting a homemade temperature sensor in the ground and reporting your findings. Your observations will be put on a map and shared with the entire community. Everyone’s a winner…unless your team loses, of course.
WICHITA ST. SHOCKERS fans…
If you’re too exhausted after the game to harvest wheat in nearby fields, you can still help plants by participating in Clumpy. Simply classify plant cell images by their “clumpiness”, and you can provide researchers with new insights into the progression of bacterial infection in plant cells.
LOUISVILLE CARDINALS fans…
If your team doesn’t live up to the hype, you can always hide your shame in New Hampshire and help scientists study a bird of a different feather. The Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory is coordinating volunteer nighthawk surveys on warm evenings in Keene. Submit your observations of booming, peenting, or nighthawks diving.
And for fans of teams that didn’t make it this far…
Check out Planet Four, a citizen science project in which volunteers help planetary scientists identify and measure features on the surface of Mars. By tracking ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ on the Martian surface, you can help planetary scientists better understand Mars’ climate.