Archive for the ‘Academic studies on citizen science’ Category

Cyber Citizen – New Citizen Science Apps for Your Phone

By December 7th, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Comment

Screen shot 2013-12-07 at 1.12.48 PM

Here are several new citizen science apps to snazzy up your smartphone. These apps are products of Cyber Citizen, a National Science Foundation-funded research project at Michigan Tech. Cyber Citizen focuses on developing mobile and web-based tools to facilitate citizen participation in scientist-led environmental and social research projects, explains Dr. Robert Pastel assistant professor of computer science and co-leader of the project. These apps are developed by Michigan Tech computer science undergraduate students. So not only does the project encourage citizen science but it gives students a unique opportunity to “harness their skills to solve real-world scientific problems.”

Though it only started in 2011, Cyber Citizen already has four apps in or near completion, and there are several more in the pipeline. Ethnographer is an app enabling ethnographers researching the history of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to connect with Upper Peninsula residents. Citizens can use the app to join in on ongoing discussions on various topics or add to the project’s collection of historical accounts, personal interviews and photographs. Anyone interested is welcome to join.

Another app is called Beach Health Monitor. This app allows beach goers to collect data that helps determine whether beach conditions might pose a human health risk. Modeled after the EPA’s Virtual Beach software (http://www2.epa.gov/exposure-assessment-models/virtual-beach-vb), the app collects information like bacteria concentrations and uploads to the data to the web where the information is publicly available.

The remaining apps Lichen AQ (air quality) and Mushroom Mapper focus on environmental data collection. Lichens are unique composite organisms especially sensitive to air pollution making them valuable biomarkers. Lichen AQ uses this trait to help land managers to monitor air pollution. Mushroom Mapper examines the various habitats of different mushroom species. This app is expected to be completed in the coming months.

Cyber Citizen is part of the National Science Foundation’s Cyberinfrastructure Training, Education, Advancement, and Mentoring for Our 21st Century Workforce (CI-TEAM) initiative. This initiative supports projects that integrate science and engineering research and educational activities which promote cyberinfrastructure systems. To learn more about Cyber Citizen or get their apps, visit their website.

Additional reference:

http://www.mtu.edu/news/stories/2013/october/story97909.html

Image: USDA.gov


Dr. Carolyn Graybeal holds a PhD in neuroscience from Brown University. She is a former National Academies of Science Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow during which time she worked with the Marian Koshland Science Museum. In addition the intricacies of the human brain, she is interested in the influence of education and mass media in society’s understanding of science.

Photosynq: Plugging into Photosynthesis

By October 21st, 2013 at 11:37 am | Comment

Recently researchers at Michigan State University have been turning their attention to how we study plant photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the biological process by which plants and algae convert light into storable energy for growth and survival. Quantifying photosynthesis levels can reveal a lot about plant health. For example how efficient is the plant in capturing light energy. How resilient is it in the face of environmental stressors such as drought.

Scientists already have tools to measure photosynthesis. Unfortunately, these tools can be prohibitively expensive or require testing be done in a lab. To address this obstacle, researchers at Michigan University launched Photosynq, an open access project aimed at creating a low-cost hand-held device which would allow anyone and anywhere to measure photosynthesis.

Scientists still have much to learn about plant photosynthesis and crowd sourcing the research can be really helpful. “The way we currently study plants is limited,” explains project manager Greg Austic. “We take one plant, grow it in the lab and examine what happens to that one plant in very controlled conditions. But there are thousands of plant species, and they are growing and surviving outside in their real environment. Creating a device that enables anybody to contribute to this research could really expand our understanding.”

The creators have developed a device small enough to hook up to a cellphone, which comes preloaded with a bank of measurements and protocols for the user to select from. After collecting their data, users can upload their results to an open database. The beauty of the project is that anyone with a phone and an internet connection could use it, meaning its use would not be limited to academic research. The Photosynq team envisions educators using it as a teaching implement to help students learn about plant biology. Or farmers using it to modify planting strategies. And as more people use it, the larger the database grows giving everyone more data to use.

Mining that data could result in some pretty interesting outcomes. For example, researchers might identify a plant with unusually high photosynthesis efficiency. A private citizen might stumble upon a plant that is particularly effective at carbon capture. These potential discoveries could be used to develop new, possibility greener, technologies.

The device and project materials are still in beta and the Photosynq team is interested in getting more input about their project. The developers encourage individuals to sign up to be device beta testers. They are also interested in pre-production input. If there is a measurement or tool that you think would be useful or interesting to have, visit their Google discussion board and let them know. The more feedback they can get, the better the device will meet people’s needs.

At the heart of the project is the philosophy of making science and scientific inquiry more open. “What I think is so great about this project,” Austic explains, “is its mission to create an ecosystem where anyone [be it a senior scientist or a curious seven year old] can ask a science question and engage anyone to answer it.”

Learn more about their project, why it is important, and how you can get involved by visiting.


Dr. Carolyn Graybeal holds a PhD in neuroscience from Brown University. She is a former National Academies of Science Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow during which time she worked with the Marian Koshland Science Museum. In addition the intricacies of the human brain, she is interested in the influence of education and mass media in society’s understanding of science.

Final Four citizen science projects!

By 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…

Roadkill Survey

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…

Cicada Tracker

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…

Clumpy

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…

Project Nighthawk

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…

Planet Four

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.

Report finds citizen science is of “high value to research, policy and practice”.

By November 23rd, 2012 at 8:50 am | Comment

Mark Kinver, an environment reporter at BBC News, reports on a review of more than 230 citizen science projects. The authors of the review concluded involvement of volunteers offers “high value to research, policy and practice”. They also published a Guide To Citizen Science offering advice on how to set up a successful citizen science project.
The review and guide was commissioned by the UK Environmental Observation Framework (UK-EOF).
From the BBC report:

The review reached a number of conclusions about the value of data collected by volunteers:
The development of technologies was “revolutionising citizen science”, for example through online recording and smartphone apps;
Data quality could be excellent, but was not fully recognised by all researchers or policymakers;
It is a cost-effective way of collecting environmental data
There was potential to make considerably more use of citizen science that currently was the case.

Read the full BBC article here