Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Winter Citizen Science Projects To Warm Your Heart and Mind

By January 26th, 2015 at 11:41 am | Comment

Photo:  NPS

Photo: NPS

Winter weather is upon us!

Many folks bundle up and venture outside to participate in citizen science, while others look for projects they can do indoors.

Here’s a mitten-full of indoor and outdoor cold-weather projects for you to explore.

 cloud watching

Weather-IT

This project is run by a graduate student who needs your help! Now through the end of February, she’s looking for people to provide information on snowflakes, cloud patterns, and more. Get Started! 

 penguin

Study Adélie Penguin breeding

Through Penguin Science, students have access to photos, videos, and field data of Antarctic penguins. The project provides materials and activities to help your class and family study penguins. Get Started!

Photo: New York State

Winter Wild Turkey Flock Survey

Calling all New Yorkers! The Department of Environmental Conservation is monitoring the health of the turkey population and wants you to report sightings of winter turkey flocks. Get Started!

Photo: NOVA

The NOVA Cloud Lab

This is a great project to do when you want to stay inside and keep warm. Classify clouds and investigate storms from the comfort of your own home. Get Started!

rink

RinkWatch

Do you live in Canada? Do you have an outdoor ice rink? If you do, this project is perfect for you! Report the conditions on your rink throughout the winter and compare them to rinks throughout the country. Get Started!

Photo: Nature Abounds

IceWatch USA

Have a body of water near year? Volunteers are needed to track weather and wildlife conditions on water bodies throughout the winter. Get Started!

 

Are you in San Jose/CA, Philadelphia/PA, Boston/MA, or Atlanta/GA? Would you like to help us organize events there? Email info@scistarter.com! If you’d like your citizen science project featured on SciStarter, email Jenna@scistarter.com.

Going to the Citizen Science Association’s Conference in San Jose, CA? Suggest or join a project for our hackfest.

Celebrating the Next Generation of Bird Watchers [Guest Post]

By January 9th, 2015 at 9:37 am | Comment

This guest post by Sharman Apt Russel describes a citizen science experience with the children in her daughter’s third-grade classroom. the project, Celebrate Urban Birds was one of our Top 14 Projects of 2014. Check out the rest of the projects on that list here. Celebrate Urban Birds is also one of more than 800 citizen science projects on SciStarter. Use our project finder to find one that fits your interests!

Mourning Dove DSC_4427 copy

The Mourning Dove, a common rural and urban bird perched upon a rock (Image Credit: Elroy Limmer, used with permission)

Public school teachers have always been my heroes. When I first began to research and write about citizen science, I was particularly interested in easy-to-do, inexpensive, age-appropriate, classroom-friendly projects that I could take to teachers like my own daughter Maria—then in her second year in a third-grade classroom in the small border town of Deming, New Mexico. Unsurprisingly, one of the best programs I found—Celebrate Urban Birds–was also recently named by SciStarter as one of the best citizen science projects of 2014.

Designed and managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Celebrate Urban Birds asks children and adults to choose an urban, suburban, or even rural area half the size of a basketball court and watch bird activity for ten minutes. Any observations of sixteen designated species are recorded on a data form. For Maria’s class of twenty-four, Cornell Lab promptly sent twenty-four kits written in English and Spanish–instructions, forms, colored posters to help us identify the birds, packets of flower seeds to plant, and stickers that said “Zero Means a Lot!” The “Zero Means a Lot!” theme was repeated a number of times. “Send us your observations,” the Lab enthused, “EVEN IF YOU SEE NO BIRDS in your bird-watching area. Zero means a lot!”

On that warm spring morning, we headed out with a gaggle of children to the school playground where we faced a row of planted conifers and deciduous trees, the school fence just behind the trees, a street and residential houses just behind the fence. The mostly eight-year-olds divided into three groups of eight, each with a supervising adult, each with their own area to watch. This didn’t last long, of course, with a few small boys first running back and forth under the trees, and then entire groups dissolving and mixing.

Wonderfully iconic– a kind of miracle–an American robin posed on a branch and puffed out its red breast. That was one of the birds on our list of sixteen species! A rock pigeon swooped through the bare yard behind us. Rock pigeons were on our list, too! We could hear mourning doves call from a nearby telephone pole. A third bird on our list! Next, a child spotted a house sparrow lying dead on the other side of the fence, and this attracted far more attention than the live house sparrows in the nearby tree. Our fourth species.

The American Robin, a beautiful sight commonly found in urban areas and one of the birds that the group spotted during the project (Image Credit: NASA)

The American Robin, a beautiful sight commonly found in urban areas and one of the birds that the group spotted during the project (Image Credit: NASA)

For ten minutes, we exclaimed and watched and checked our list, looking for American crows, American robins, Baltimore orioles, barn swallows, black-crowned night herons, brown-headed cowbirds, Bullock’s orioles, cedar waxwings, European starlings, house finches, house sparrows, killdeer, mallards, mourning doves, peregrine falcons, and rock pigeons. One child believed emphatically that he saw a peregrine falcon swoop through the blue sky and another a Baltimore oriole colored red and yellow. Their teacher Maria said, “No, probably not,” but when the children insisted, she only smiled—“Okay, then, check the box that says ‘unsure.’” Some children remembered birds they had seen before, the mallard at the El Paso zoo with a broken leg and the mean parrot kept by their grandmother. Birds and memories of birds seemed to fill the air.

For ten minutes, we watched and then came inside and concentrated on filling out a form that included a description of the site and our observations, carefully copying what Maria wrote on the chalkboard. I realized that this last activity—learning how to record data–was as useful to these children as anything else we had done today.

My daughter and I were immeasurably pleased and planned how to do the next Celebrate Urban Birds even better. Perhaps we would do one of the associated art projects that the program suggests. We would have graphs and word problems. We would hand out more information about other common species in town–grackles and Western kingbirds. Eventually these children would say, “I learned how to bird-watch in the third grade.” Or, “I became passionate about birds in the third grade.” Or, “My teacher’s mother came into my third-grade class and revealed the world to be a web of miracles and connection, and I have never been the same since.”

At this point, I knew I was getting ahead of myself a little.

In today’s schools of scripted curriculums and constant test-taking, teachers like my daughter often have very little time in which to teach science. My daughter only had a half hour a week. A half hour. Celebrate Urban Birds was a creative, fun, educational use of that time. Moreover, like citizen scientists everywhere, these third graders had just become part of something larger than themselves. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology estimates that they work with some two hundred thousand volunteers, tracking and monitoring birds, with over a million observations reported each month on the Lab’s online checklist. These observations help produce real science, contributing to over sixty scientific papers as well as policy decisions designed to protect birds and their habitat.

The next year, my daughter and I did a repeat of Celebrate Urban Birds, and this time we had to use the stickers “Zero Means a Lot!” But that was a good learning experience, too. Surprisingly, the children did not seem particularly discouraged. They only asked if they could look for birds again tomorrow.

 


 

Sharman Russel SciStarterSharman Apt Russell lives in rural southwestern New Mexico and teaches writing at Western New Mexico University in Silver City and at the low-residency MFA program in Antioch University in Los Angeles. She’s engaged in a number of citizen science projects, including monitoring archeology sites and inventorying possible new wilderness areas in the Gila National Forest. Her new book Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World (Oregon State University Press, 2014) was selected by The Guardian (UK) as one of the top ten nature books in 2014.

 

SciStarter’s Top Fourteen Citizen Science Projects of 2014!

By January 5th, 2015 at 7:00 am | Comment

1
As we ring in the New Year, we’re celebrating the 14 Top Projects of 2014! These are the projects that received the most visits on the SciStarter website. Resolve to do more citizen science in 2015!
We’ll help you with that goal. Happy New Year!

2
Photo: Mike Hankey
1.  American Meteor Society – Meteor Observing
Report meteors and meteor showers online or with an easy smartphone app and help scientists determine their astronomical origins. Get started!

3
Photo: NASA
2.  Perfect Pitch Test
If you have perfect pitch, this project needs you! Just take a brief survey and a quick pitch-naming test to help determine if perfect pitch differs for different timbres. Get started!

4
Photo: NOAA
3.  Digital Fishers
Only have a minute to spare? Use it to analyze short video clips of amazing deep sea life. Get started!

5
Photo: EyeWire
4.  EyeWire
With EyeWire, you can play a captivating image-mapping game that helps maps the retina’s neural connections. Get started!

6
Photo: LLNL
5.  American Gut
Our guts contain trillions of microbes. Sample and identify the organisms in your gut with this cool project. Get started!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Photo: Dennis Ward, Project BudBurst
6.  Project BudBurst
Do you enjoy following the trees and plants in your yard as they leaf out, flower, and produce fruit? Record your observations and submit them to BudBurst. Get started!

8
Photo: NASA
7.  Loss of the Night
Stargazers take note- Identify and report all the stars you see at night in order to measure light pollution. Get started!

9
Photo: NASA
8.  SatCam
Use your smartphone to record sky and ground conditions near you, and SatCam will send you satellite images for the same area. Get started!

10
Photo: NPS

11
Photo: Victor Loewen
10.  Celebrate Urban Birds
Observe the birds outside your window and report the presence of 16 common species. How many will yousee? Get started!

12
Photo: DDQ
11.  Dark Sky Meter 
Use your phone to measure the brightness of the night sky and contribute to a live map of global light pollution. Get started!

1312.  World Water Monitoring Challenge
Curious about your local water quality?  This project provides a simple kit for you to test water temperature, pH, and more. Get started!

1413.  Ignore That!
Help scientists study the human mind by playing a 5-minute game that determines how distractable you really are. Get started!

15
Photo: NASA
14.  GLOBE at Night
This is a great project for children and adults who enjoy looking up at the night sky and want to track light pollution. Get started!

Citizen participation in science at the Museum of Science in Boston

By December 11th, 2014 at 1:16 pm | Comment

This is a guest post from David Sittenfeld, Manager, Forums at the Museum of Science, Boston.

FIREFLIES, HEALTHIER CITIES, AND POLICY INPUT: CITIZEN PARTICIPATION IN SCIENCE AT THE MUSEUM OF SCIENCE IN BOSTON

Rica, a Museum summer youth intern, facilitates a discussion about urban air quality issues. Photo by David Rabkin, Museum of Science.

Rica, a Museum summer youth intern, facilitates a discussion about urban air quality issues. Photo by David Rabkin, Museum of Science.

At the Museum of Science in Boston, we’ve been exploring three flavors of citizen science over the last half-decade or so. We started with fireflies and have added participatory efforts around urban environmental health assessment and participatory policy formulation.  We’re excited about the way that citizen science has transformed the landscape for science and are looking forward to what’s next! Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen Scientists Keep Watch for New Epidemics

By December 2nd, 2014 at 7:53 pm | Comment

Iain Wanless / Flickr. Dying crows were one early sign of West Nile Virus entering North America

Iain Wanless / Flickr. Dying crows were one early sign of West Nile Virus entering North America

In 1999, crows began dropping dead in the United States. A crow here, a crow there – nobody thought much of it at the time, says Joshua Dein, a veterinary scientist working with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But this was the precursor to outbreaks of the West Nile Virus in North America. Since scientists knew the virus infected crows at a near 100% mortality rate, Dein says it is possible public health officials could have been forewarned about the oncoming virus had someone been monitoring the crow situation.

But this is a goal easier said than done. Early detection of disease events that affect wildlife is often difficult to achieve because sometimes the evidence is diffuse and hard to collect. “When you have hundred dead ducks in one place that usually gets attention. You usually when you get ones or twos – not so much,” Dein says. Read the rest of this entry »