Archive for the ‘Academic studies on citizen science’ Category
Citizen scientists help make discoveries about how genetics may shape the way we taste food.
Turkey or ham? Stuffing or mashed potatoes? Pumpkin or apple pie?
As I prepared for Thanksgiving this year, I reflected on all the culinary choices this feasting day offers and wondered why people who share a culture, a community, or a family have such diverse preferences when it comes to their favorite holiday foods.
Maybe it’s genetics?
Researchers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science are exploring this question through their Genetics of Taste Lab, a permanent “science on the floor” health exhibit that brings together citizen science and crowdsourcing to understand our relationship with food. Read the rest of this entry »
Editor’s Note: myObservatory is a SciStarter advertiser but had no editorial input or control over this blog post.
by Kristin Butler
When I attended the Citizen Science Association’s first national conference in San Jose earlier this year, I noticed a recurring theme: while there has been an explosion in the collection of data by volunteers across the globe, researchers are still challenged to find the time and resources to organize, analyze, understand, and share all that data.
Helping people use technology to make their data meaningful is the idea behind myObservatory, an information management system platform that allows users to collect, check, analyze, and share data.
The small company was founded in 2007 by Yoram Rubin, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley who has a passion for conserving natural resources. Read the rest of this entry »
Starting this month, you can tune in and take part in monthly discussion sessions about citizen science. The discussions take place on Twitter and anyone is welcome to join with questions, answers, comments, and ideas. You can follow the discussion at the hashtag #CitSciChat.
The monthly #CitSciChat are sponsored by SciStarter and The Counter Culture, which is my new research lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. These Twitter chats are designed to bring citizen scientists, project managers, students, and scientists together to share ideas, knowledge, and resources. We’ll discuss news, policies, discoveries, papers, and projects. The chats are opportunities for people around the world to meet and share their experiences with citizen science.
Whether you are experienced with Twitter or not, I hope you will find it easy to take part. Here’s how it works. I’m the moderator (@CoopSciScoop) and for each session I will invite a few guests with varied expertise and who enjoy lively discussions. I’ll pose question (Q1, Q2, etc.) and guest panelists and others will answer (prefaced with A1, A2, etc). Others can answer too, and pose related questions (label them, e.g., Q1a, Q1b, etc). There are no expectations that everyone will agree, but there are expectations that everyone will be courteous, polite, and respectful. Know that it’s okay to simply follow along, but I hope you will join the conversation. If you do, be sure to remember to include the hashtag #CitSciChat so that others in the conversation don’t miss your Tweets. I will Storify each session and post the recap on this blog.
The #CitSciChat follows in the footsteps of many other Twitter chats. For example, there are Twitter journal clubs, such as #microtwjc for discussions of microbiology papers (initiated by @_zoonotica_). There are chat sessions like #StuSciChat that connects high school students and scientists (moderated by Adam Taylor @2footgiraffe) and #STEMchat that connects parents, educators, and STEM professionals (moderated by Kim Moldofsky @MakerMom). A very popular #Edchat, founded by Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell), hosts conversations among educators.
Citizen science chats take place on Twitter at #CitSciChat the last Wednesday (Thursday in Australia) of every month, unless otherwise noted. The first will be January 28 (29th in Australia). We’ll increase in their frequency if interest levels are high. To involve people across the globe, chats take place 7-8pm GMT, which is 2-3pm ET in USA and Thursday 6-7am ET in Australia. Each session will focus on a different theme. To suggest a project or theme for an upcoming chat, send me a tweet @CoopSciScoop!
Building A Community of Practice: Organizing the Organizers in Citizen Science
I’ve invited guests among the leadership of the Citizen Science Association, the European Citizen Science Association, and Citizen Science Network Australia. These panelists will discuss how these organizations are helping coordinate practitioners across the many disciplines that engage the public in research.
Panelists to follow:
- Darlene Cavalier @Scicheer – CSA
- Mary Ford @maryeford – CSA
- Jennifer Shirk @ShirkSci – CSA (tentative)
- Martin Storksdieck @Storksdieck – CSA
- Muki Haklay @mhaklay – CSA & ESCA
- Fermin Serrano @Ibercivis – ECSA
- Joseph Perello @OpenSystemsUB – ECSA
- @CitSciOz – CSNA
- Michelle Neil @Michelle_Neil – CSNA
Editors Note: This is a guest post by Gwen Ottinger, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Drexel University. She has done extensive research on community-based air monitoring and community-industry relations around oil refineries. She is author of Refining Expertise: How Responsible Engineers Subvert Environmental Justice Challenges (NYU Press 2013).
A study released last week in the journal Environmental Health breaks new ground in our understanding of the environmental effects of fracking—and shows the power that citizen science can have in advancing scientific research and promoting political action.
Unconventional oil and gas (UOG) production, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking), can affect water and air quality. Researchers, including citizen scientists, have studied its impacts on water extensively. But we don’t know a lot about how air quality is affected, especially in nearby residential areas, according to the study, “Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas production.” Part of the problem is where most academic researchers take samples. Too often, they choose monitoring locations based on the requirements of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which look for regional, not local, effects of pollution. When looking at air quality around UOG production operations, they may select sites opportunistically, based on where they can gain access or where they can find electricity for their monitoring equipment. This approach, however, may not produce data that is representative of the actual impact of fracking on air quality.
The recently released study pioneers a new approach to choosing sites for air quality monitoring: it mobilizes citizens to identify the areas where sampling was most likely to show the continuous impact of fracking emissions. Citizens chose places in their communities where they noticed a high degree of industrial activity, visible emissions, or health symptoms that could be caused by breathing toxic chemicals. They took samples themselves, following rigorous protocols developed by non-profit groups working in conjunction with regulatory agencies and academic researchers.
The result – we now have a lot more evidence to show that UOG production can have a big impact on local air quality. And, as a result of citizens’ involvement in selecting sampling sites, scientists and regulators now have a better idea of where to look to start studying those impacts systematically.
The study demonstrates once again the power of citizen science to improve scientific research. But it also shows the political power of citizen science. In a companion report released by the non-profit Coming Clean, the study’s citizen-authors use their finding that air quality is significantly affected by UOG to argue that governments need to be cautious when issuing permits, and to call for more extensive monitoring that includes citizen scientists.
Next week, several of the study’s authors—and many other citizen scientists—will convene in New Orleans to cultivate the scientific and political power of citizen science. At the Community-based Science for Action Conference, November 15-17, citizens dedicated to protecting their community’s environment and health will have the chance to try out new technologies for environmental monitoring, share best practices for successful collaboration between scientists and citizens, and learn about the legal and political issues where their science can make a difference.
Want to get involved? Registration is still open at the conference’s website. Can’t attend but want to support your fellow citizen scientists? Consider making a donation to help send someone else to New Orleans.
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.
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.