This is a citizen science webinar opportunity from CitSci.org.
Greetings from CitSci.org! Please join us for our sixth “Feature Friday” webinar. These webinars invite you to offer your ideas and thoughts about improvements to CitSci.org. The first Friday of each month these webinars will focus on a specific topic / feature of CitSci.org. We will demonstrate how to use the website feature and take feedback.
The March webinar will focus on “Viewing Data: Observation list and Map,” this discussion will include ways to display the data you and and your volunteers have collected. Together, we hope to guide the future of this exciting platform in support of your collaborative citizen science / community based monitoring efforts.
Craig Bruns of the Independence Seaport Museum flips through an old weather log book (Kimberly Haas/for The Pulse)
This week on The Pulse and SciStarter’s segment about citizen science, producer Kimberly Haas takes a look at Zooniverse’s Old Weather, a project that dives into weather’s past in order to study our climate’s future.
Old Weather is a Zooniverse project that dives into historical archives of weather observations. Citizen scientists can browse through online archival data of ship logs from decades past, then help transcribe and digitize them so that researchers can access them more easily. These transcriptions will contribute to climate model projections and hopefully knowledge of past environmental conditions. Historians will use this work to track past ship movements and tell the stories of the people on board.
Read WHYY’s related blog post to learn more. Listen to the piece below.
Here’s where you can help. If you’re a citizen science researcher, project manager, or participant in the PA, NJ, or DE areas, we want to hear from you! If you have an interesting story to share about a citizen science project or experience, let us know. Send your stories for consideration to Lily@SciStarter.com.
WHYY (90.9 FM in Philly) Friday on-air schedule:
6-9 a.m. – Morning Edition 9-10 a.m. – The Pulse 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Radio Times 10 a.m. following Sunday – The Pulse (rebroadcast)
A synopsis of and key takeaways from the Citizen Cyberscience Summit 2014 in London
As some of you may already know, SciStarter presented at the Citizen Cyberscience Summit in London this past weekend (2/20 to 2/22). In a nutshell, the conference was a place where a multitude of organizations and groups could convene to discuss the most pertinent issues regarding citizen science today and for the future.
The first day revolved around listening–the schedule comprised of back-to-back 30-minute sessions focused on stories from practitioners about their experiences. For a session called “It Takes a Village: Engaging Participants Beyond Clickwork,” founder Darlene Cavalier spoke about SciStarter’s Project MERCCURI, a citizen science research project in partnership with UC Davis, Science Cheerleader, Space Florida and NanoRacks to crowdsource the collection and study of microbe samples to examine the diversity of microbes on Earth and on the International Space Station. Cavalier centered her discussion on Project MERCCURI to illustrate the benefits of working with partners to reach new communities. Project MERCCURI works with Pop Warner little scholars, Yuri’s Night, NFL, NBA and MLB teams and other nontraditional partners to activate collection activities and amplify results.
The second day was one of discussion, during which groups that attended held workshops or panels to gain insight on topics spanning policy, publishing, data gathering, sensor technology, mapping, and more. The diversity of these topics was a testament to the depth and breadth of citizen science itself.
On this day, a session called “Connecting Communities to Citizen Scientists” addressed some of the challenges experienced by citizen scientists participating in multiple projects across different platforms. This workshop, convened by Darlene Cavalier at SciStarter and Francois Grey at NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress, was made possible with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. During the discussion, we heard from project managers from Public Lab, Project Noah, iNaturalist, EyeWire, Zooniverse, and a representative from Mozilla about various models for managing projects and their progress. “There is a diverse ecosystem of citizen science projects on the Web,” says Cavalier. “We are working work with stakeholders to explore ways to improve the experience for participants who want to move between different projects running on different platforms, both in terms of identity management and tracking contributions to different citizen science initiatives. The idea is to rise the tide for all involved in citizen science.”
And finally, the third day was all about doing. This open “Hack Day” allowed groups and individuals to propose sessions based on problems that they’ve identified in the work that they do. Then, the entire day allowed attendees to cross-pollinate ideas, offer their expertise, and hopefully help contribute to the solution.
SciStarter’s Hack Day Challenge explored the idea of building a dashboard to help citizen scientists track and manage their projects. We invited anybody and everybody to our workspace (two wooden tables pushed together donned with laptops, post-its, butcher paper, candy, and SciStarter swag) to give us input. As a result, we heard from a plethora of stakeholders within the realm of citizen scientists–researchers, journalists, project managers, citizen scientists, educators, and more. We asked, how can we improve the experience for participants who want to move between different projects running on different platforms?
After a lot of conversations, a lot of scribbling, and, well, a lot of post-its, SciStarter was able to fine tune a plan for a dashboard that helps connect more people to projects and people to people, something that will truly guide us through the next year.
You can find the full program schedule and list of presenters here, and if you’re interested in looking up social media posts from the conference, follow the #CCS14 hashtag.
Have any questions for SciStarter about the conference? Do you have writing, programming, development, or organizational skills you’d like to contribute to our community effort? Please feel free to leave your comments below or e-mail us at email@example.com. We want to keep this conversation going!
The story of a nuclear disaster and what can do you as a citizen scientist to help assess the residual aftermath.
[In the news - KQED Science recently spoke to project organizer Ken Buessler about the radiation in our ocean.]
Three years ago on March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami shook Japan. The loss of power that ensued eventually led to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant overheating. Four out of six reactors suffered meltdowns, spitting radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and directly into the ocean. 19,000 people died or went missing.
Almost immediately, the news ignited fears of how this would impact marine ecosystem and human health over time. Today, three years later, there is still no U.S. government agency monitoring the spread of radiation from Fukushima along the west coast or Hawaiian Islands.
How Radioactive is Our Ocean?(official site)is a citizen science project that allows the public to propose sampling locations, raise the cost for testing and shipping of the supplies ($500-600), take samples and analyze 20 liters (about 5 gallons) of seawater for signs of radiation (cesium-137 isotopes) from Fukushima. Everything is provided by WHOI and CMER. There are three main ways that you can participate:
Help the project reach their goal by donating to sample an existing site. Click “HELP FUND A LOCATION” on the main page and choose to support one of the many sites that are underway;
Propose a new sampling site. Click “PROPOSE A LOCATION” and see what is involved. If accepted(we are trying to get spread of locations up/down coast), we ask for a donation of $100 and we’ll set up a fundraising webpage, add that page to our website, and send you a sampling kit once your goal of $550 to $600 has been reached.
Donate to general capacity building and public education activities at CMER.
Here’s a video showing how you would take samples from locations near you:
How is radioactivity measured in the ocean?
“We live in a sea of radioactivity,” says Ken Buesseler, marine chemist at the WHOI. “The danger is in the dose.” Buesseler spent the bulk of his career studying oceanography and the spread of radionuclides from Chernobyl in the Black Sea. He goes on to explain:
The unit to describe the level of radiation in seawater samples is the Becquerel (Bq), which equals the number of radioactive decay events per second. This number is reported per cubic meter (i.e. 1,000 liters or 264 gallons) of water.
A typical water sample will likely contain less than 10 Becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3) from cesium-137. The amount of cesium-137 that leaked into the water as a result of Fukushima was in the penta-Becquerels (that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000 Becquerels). By comparing the amount of cesium-137, which has a relatively long 30-year half life, and cesium-134, which has a much shorter, 2-year half life, scientists can “fingerprint” the contamination from Fukushima and estimate how much was released into the Pacific.
Is that much radiation significant?
The world’s oceans contain many naturally occurring radioactive isotopes like potassium-40, which comes from the erosion and breakdown of rocks. Bananas, known for their potassium content, release about 15 Bq on average. That means that the radiation leakage was about the same as that of 76 million bananas, to put things in perspective. This is actually around and about (perhaps a little over) the amount of radiation Fukushima was allowed to dump into the environment before the disaster. However, WHOI and CMER still make the case that it would be important to monitor and track cesium-137 and cesium-134 levels in the ocean, given future projection.
Fukushima plume predictions for cesium-137 levels in the Pacific Ocean for April 2016
How are marine species affected?
Because the cesium-137 isotope is soluble, it mixes well with ocean currents. “The spread of cesium once it enters the ocean can be understood by the analogy of mixing cream into coffee,” writes Buesseler. “At first, they are separate and distinguishable, but just as we start to stir the cream forms long, narrow filaments or streaks in the water.” After they form streaks, they blend in and are diluted (think about how coffee turns into a lighter color after you add cream).
Fish and other forms of marine life can take it up and excrete it, depositing it in the sediment below. The marine life most contaminated with Fukushima radiation is found nearest to the reactor, but some species, like Bluefin tuna, are far-ranging and even migrate across the Pacific. When these animals leave the Northeast coast of Japan, some isotopes remain in their body, but others, like cesium-137 and cesium-134, naturally flush out of their system.
If you’re interested in proposing a sampling location to help the WHOI and CMER study the distribution of radionuclides in the Pacific, get started with the project or help spread the word about it!
Lily Bui is the Executive Editor of SciStarter and holds dual degrees in International Studies and Spanish from the University of California Irvine. She currently works in public media at the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) in Cambridge, MA. Previously, she helped produce the radio show Re:sound for the Third Coast International Audio Festival, out of WBEZ Chicago. In past lives, she has worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; served in AmeriCorps in Montgomery County, Maryland; worked for a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter; and performed across the U.S. as a touring musician. In her spare time, she thinks of cheesy science puns. Follow @dangerbui.