Archive for the ‘Apps’ Category
As part of SciStarter’s regular radio series with WHYY’s The Pulse, we highlight new developments in citizen science and a few projects ripe for spring!
As the weather starts warming up and we all begin shedding our thick, winter coats, a crop of new citizen science projects are enticing us to get outdoors in the name of science.
Darlene Cavalier, founder of the citizen science website SciStarter and regular Pulse contributor, says a top project this spring involves paying attention to phenology, or the life cycle changes of plants and animals.
“This might be changes in the nesting habits of birds, certainly in the leafing cycle of plants near you and, specifically, looking at the timing that your lilacs bloom and when they die,” says Cavalier.
All of that information is connected in the sense that birds tend to time their nesting habits to when insects will likely be around to feed their baby birds. And those insects are dependent on certain plants to be around to survive.
Cavalier says the information that’s collected through this phenology project will eventually help inform climate assessment acts in the U.S.
As part of the Philadelphia Science Festival in April, the SciStarter crew will be at the Schuylkill Nature Center in Roxborough to get people involved in the Zombee Watch project.
“We have zombie flies that actually infect honeybees and we’ll tell you how to look for that,” says Cavalier. “It’s pretty disgusting and it’s also eerily attractive for some reason.”
But Cavalier says not all scientific research has to happen outdoors.
Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the author’s blog. Project SCARAB is one of more than 800 great citizen science projects on SciStarter. Use our project finder to find one that you can participate in!
The great thing about living in a major port city such as Los Angeles is having access to ideas and goods from the around the world. However, the port of LA, and by extension every trade conduit branching off from there, takes the chance on cargo containers carrying an invasive species. In 2003 one such species, the polyphagus shothole borer (PSHB), was spotted in Whittier, a suburb of Los Angeles. In the intervening decade it has quickly spread to many of the trees in southern California. Read the rest of this entry »
Observe and collect data to learn how climate and habitat affect plants and animals with Nature’s Notebook.
Track the phenology of plants and animals with these citizen science projects.
Most North Americans are relieved that spring has finally arrived, especially after a winter when ice storms, snowstorms, frigid temperatures or droughts were regular occurrences. For many, winter was not only harsh, but it was also longer than expected. How could a plant grow and survive with cold temperatures or dry conditions? How would the animals that depend on these plants be affected by these changes? These are a few of the numerous questions the USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) investigates. The organization studies phenology, the study of the seasonal plant and animal life cycle events. Consisting of staff members, an advisory committee, and partner organizations (such as the U.S. Geological Survey), the USA-NPN collects and analyzes phenology data in order to address scientific and environmental questions.
Unfortunately, the USA-NPN has a small staff that cannot observe the wildlife of the entire country by themselves. They decided to enlist the help of citizen scientists so they could gather as many pieces of data as possible. In 2009, the USA-NPN established an online monitoring program for over 200 plant species. The following year, they recognized the need to include animals in the monitoring process; as a result, they added animals to the observation program and formally named it Nature’s Notebook (official site).
This year, the USA-NPN hopes to collect 1 million observations through Nature’s Notebook, and invites anyone who wants to participate. To become an observer, set up an online account; then, you can learn how to observe with aid of a detailed handbook or instructional videos. Nature’s Notebook has also created a mobile app (for iOS and Android systems), where observers can enter observations into the database while they are outdoors. The data is readily available through the Phenology Visualization Tool, where you can look at the data of a particular region or species.
The observation process might be overwhelming for someone who is new to it. With over 900 plant and animal species in the database, what should you observe? Theresa Crimmins, the Partnerships & Outreach Coordinator for USA-NPN, recommends that you “start small; pick 1 or 2 plants that are familiar to you. Make it low-effort and fun! Observe plants you know and are familiar with.” You can also join a regional campaign, and focus your observations on a particular species, such as the campaign to track cloned lilacs. For educators who want to incorporate Nature’s Notebook into their curriculum, the USA-NPN has educational material available. Crimmins recommends that instructors incorporate the program around the same time each year, in order to contribute to the long-term record of particular species. While there is a time commitment involved for this citizen science project, repeated observations are necessary to notice the long-term changes of a particular species.
USA-NPN and Nature’s Notebook have definitely made an impact on phenology in the United States. It has partnered with almost 200 organizations, contributed to many peer-reviewed publications, and is collaborating with government agencies such as the US Fish and Wildlife Service to see how the data can be used to inform decisions about wildlife refuges. This year, Nature’s Notebook is excited to offer an opportunity to learn and interact through their webinar series. Their next webinar, on June 10th at 11am (PST), will be “A Summary of Spring”; a fitting way to celebrate the season and everything that happens within it.
Rae Moore has a BS in Chemistry from McMaster University and studied Bioinorganic Chemistry as a PhD student at McGill University. She has also been a cheerleading coach, yoga teacher, and preschool science educator. Now she focuses on science education and advocacy, and blogs about scientific job searching on her blog, ThereOnceWasaChemist.com.