Author Archive

Understand the science behind a wildly popular, iconic American pastime with The Science of Cheerleading, a new ebook

By August 14th, 2015 at 10:36 am | Comment

Photo Credit: Science Cheerleader

Photo Credit: Science Cheerleader

There’s more science to cheerleading than meets the eye. And for the country’s 3 million cheerleaders, one way to engage with the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts is to understand how these fundamental ideas impact their cheerleading. Read the rest of this entry »

Growth Results for Microbes Collected by Citizen Scientists and Grown on the International Space Station

By May 29th, 2015 at 8:12 pm | Comment


patchRelative Growth Rates Documented by UC Davis Scientists for Project MERCCURI

“Encouraging” for Long-Term Manned Spaceflight

Do microbes grow differently on the International Space Station than they do on Earth? Results from the growth of microbes collected by SciStarter’s community of citizen scientists in Project MERCCURI indicate that most behave similarly in both places.

“While this data is extremely preliminary, it is potentially encouraging for long-term manned spaceflight,” said Dr. David Coil, Project Scientist in the Microbiology Lab of Jonathan Eisen at the University of California at Davis. “With this part of Project MERCCURI we hoped to shed light on how microbes associated with the normal, human and built environment behaved in space. Our focus was not on microbes that cause disease, but the many beneficial and neutral microbes that surround us on a daily basis.”

SciStarter and the Science Cheerleaders organized a community of thousands of people across the country to participate in the citizen science portion of the project, gathering samples from built environments such as chairs, doors, railings… even the Liberty Bell. Then the “microbiology team” in the laboratory at UC Davis grew up and examined hundreds of microbes. The team selected 48 microbes, which, with approval from NASA, rode the SpaceX Falcon 9 to the Space Station for further research. Of those 48, only a handful grew at all differently in Space, and the difference was significant for only one: Bacillus safensis. This microbe was collected on a Mars Exploration Rover (before it was launched) at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. It grew significantly better on the Space Station.

“We observed that the vast majority of the microbes we examined behaved the same on the Space Station as they do on Earth. In the few cases where we observed a microbe behaving differently in space than on Earth, we’d love to follow that up with further experiments,” said Dr. Coil.

In addition to comparing growth rates on Earth and the Space Station, UC Davis identified winners in three different categories for the “Microbial Playoffs” in space.

Best Huddle: the microbe that grew to the highest density, packing cells into the space allowed

  • Yuri’s Night, Los Angeles: Kocuria rhizophila was collected on a camera at a Yuri’s Night Party with Buzz Aldrin (the second person to walk on the moon).
  • San Antonio Spurs: Kocuria kristinae was collected on the court after a San Antonio Spurs game.
  • Discover Magazine: Micrococcus yunnanensis, collected from a dictionary at the offices of Discover Magazine.

Best Tipoff: the microbial competitor that took off growing like crazy from the start

  • Pop Warner Chittenango: Bacillus pumilus was collected on a Porta-Potty handle by Pop Warner Chittenango Bears cheerleaders.
  • Smithsonian Air & Space Museum: Pantoea eucrina was collected on the Mercury Orbitor at the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space.
  • Pop Warner Saints: Bacillus horikoshii was collected on a football field by Pop Warner Saints cheerleaders from Port Reading, NJ.

Best Sprint: the microbe that grew the fastest during the sprinting portion of growth (technically known as the “exponential growth phase”)

  • Oakland Raiders: Bacillus aryabhatti was collected on a practice football field used by the Oakland Raiders.
  • Pop Warner Chittenango: Bacillus pumilus was collected on a Porta-Potty handle by Pop Warner Chittenango Bears cheerleaders.
  • Mars Exploration Rover (JPL): Paenibacillus elgii, collected from a Mars Exploration Rover before launch (2004) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL- NASA, Pasadena, CA).

Find rankings of all 48 samples in these three growth categories on the Results page at the Space Microbes web site.

Other elements of Project MERCCURI are still in process. In addition to overseeing the microbial playoffs, astronauts also collected microbes on the Space Station and sent those back to Earth. The UC Davis team has analyzed the data from those and are preparing a scientific publication on the results. In addition, members of the public contributed 3,000 cell phone and shoe samples for an ongoing analysis of which microbes live where, and how that compares to the ISS.

“With this project, thousands of people contributed to research on the Space Station and at UC Davis, one of the leading microbiology research labs in the country,” said Darlene Cavalier, Founder of SciStarter and Science Cheerleader, which led the microbe collection effort. “Our goal is to spur even more people to get involved in significant science. Whether someone is a child or an adult, is interested in space or the ocean, in biology or chemistry, in the climate or computers – scientists are working on research and development that would benefit from more participation.” Learn about and sign up to help with more research projects at .

Project MERCCURI is coordinated by Science Cheerleader (current and former NFL and NBA cheerleaders pursuing science and technology careers), SciStarter, and UC Davis, in conjunction with the Argonne National Laboratory. The Project is made possible by Space Florida, NanoRacks, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.



Nominate a Team or Individual for Citizen Science Award

By May 28th, 2015 at 1:13 pm | Comment

The William E. Bennett Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Citizen Science was established by NCSCE and named in honor of its first recipient for his lifetime contributions to citizen science. The award is given annually to an individual and a team whose SENCER and other related activities have made exemplary and extraordinary contributions to citizen science.

Past awardees include former Congressman Rush Holt, Dr. Gary Booth of Brigham Young University, Dr. Monica Devanas of Rutgers University, Dr. Marion Field Fass of Beloit College, Dr. Catherine Hurt Middlecamp of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and teams from the United States Military Academy at West Point, the University of North Carolina Asheville, Indiana State University, and Butler University. To learn more about past awardees, please go here.

To nominate an individual or a team, please write a letter providing your reasons for making the nomination in sufficient detail to enable the selection committee to assess the nominee’s contributions to citizen science. A CV or biosketch for the nominated individual or, in the case of team nominations, a CV/biosketch for each person to be named in association with the team effort, must be included. No more than two supporting letters may be submitted; however, such letters are not required.

Your nomination letter and supporting materials should be addressed to “The Wm. E. Bennett Award Committee” and e-mailed as a PDF to with the subject line “Wm. E. Bennett Award Nomination.” The deadline for the 2015 Bennett Awards nominations is June 2, 2015.

SciStarter and Citizen Science at Philly Tech Week and the Philadelphia Science Festival!

By April 20th, 2015 at 3:26 am | Comment

Philly Tech Fest SciStarter and Drexel
Wednesday, April 22
Excite Center

3401 Market St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104
In partnership with Drexel University’s Center for Science, Technology & Society and the ExCITe Center, this event will workshop digital projects and their platforms to improve accessibility and empower citizen is a Philly start-up with international reach featuring 1,000 citizen science projects in need of help from the public. TheAsthmaFiles.orgis a collaborative ethnographic research project designed to advance understanding and efforts to address environmental public health challenges around the world. Both platforms will benefit from enhanced cyberinfrastructure to make it easier for people to participate in citizen science, track their contributions, connect with others, and more.At this event, representatives from the programs will present an overview and describe their cyber infrastructure challenges.

Learn about the projects then weigh in during the hands-on workshop designed to enhance the platforms and improve the experience for participants.

soil citizen science
Saturday, April 25
11:00am – 2:00pm
The Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education

8480 Hagys Mill Rd, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19128
Meet the SciStarter team and get involved in citizen science to collect microbes from soil for drug discoveries, track air quality, monitor phenology, map tress, build your own ZomBEE trap and more! We’re partnering with Discover Magazine and Astronomy Magazine to bring you more opportunities to get your hands dirty with science!
phillies citizen science
Saturday, April 25
SciStarter, Science Cheerleader Discover Magazine and Astronomy Magazine present:
“Be a Citizen’s (Bank) Scientist!”
Get involved in real research projects right in Citizen’s Bank Park at thePhiladelphia Phillies ! Monitor air quality, light pollution, and help inform NASA’s Asteroid Initiative from your stadium seat. Learn about the 1,000 opportunities to become a citizen scientist wherever you are!
fishtown citizen science scistarter
Sunday, April 26 2pm
Frankford Hall
1210 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19114
Take pub hopping to a whole new level during the Fishtown Science Crawl! Enjoy great drink specials as you explore your favorite Fishtown spots. Be A Citizen Scientist: Take part in some Citizen Science with SciStarter and explore Leafsnap, an electronic field guide, or if you’re feeling daring learn all about and zombees! FREE to attend, $5.00 wristband for Happy Hour prices at all venues.
Philadelphia Science Festival citizen science
Saturday, May 2
10:00am – 4:00pm
Ben Franklin Parkway
Science like you’ve never enjoyed it before! Meet the SciStarter team andScience Cheerleader s. We’re joined forces with Discover Magazine andAstronomy Magazine to bring you tons of opportunities to do citizen science and make a difference in the world. Find microbes in soil that may advance drug discoveries. Learn how to use low cost sensors to track air and water quality. Design your own community research question and more. Pick up a #citizenscience pin or a copy of a magazine. #GetNerdy!

Meet the Spring interns!

By April 14th, 2015 at 2:33 am | Comment

My name is Hined Rafeh, and I’m a first year graduate student at Drexel University studying Science, Technology, and Society. I am interested in studying citizen science and mixing it up with project owners, participants and everyone in between. I hope to meet you and other members of the SciStarter community at some of the upcoming SciStarter events I am organizing at the Philadelphia Science Festival between April 23-May 2!



ErnestHi, my name is Ernest Clymer and I am a junior at Temple University. My area of study is marketing and I hope to graduate with my B.A. by 2016. At this time I am interning at SciStarter not only in hopes of gaining experience with a start-up but being a part of an organization that focuses on building public engagement in science! SciStarter, to me, is the future of how we will obtain and share information with other people all over the world and I’m happy to be able to further promote these efforts through social media and working on promotions for upcoming events taking place in the Philadelphia area!


Editor’s note: It’s been such a pleasure working with Hined and Ernest. Their creativity is remarkable and inspiring! We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with them!

Categories: Citizen Science