Archive for the ‘Archeology’ Category

What’s the Score?

By December 10th, 2012 at 9:45 am | Comment

Music on the mind!

The hills are alive with the sound of citizen science (and music)!

Calling all music enthusiasts–the Bodleian Libraries are enlisting the help of the public in order to improve access to their music collections. About sixty-four boxes filled with unbound, uncatalogued sheet music from the mid-Victorian period has been digitized for public access. Although this particular genre of music was considered to have little academic value in the past, it has recently come into new light as a window of insight into amateur music making as well as social practices during the Victorian era.

For instance, the “Cleopatra Galop,” written by dance-master Charles d’Albert, was advertised as “new dance music” in New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay Herald in September 1878. Archival gems like these are not uncommon in the Bodleian collection. What’s even more fascinating is that the Bodleian team has partnered with the University of Oxford to make recordings of some of these works available so that users can aurally experience the pieces that they’re helping to describe. Listen to the “Cleopatra Galop” in the extensive recordings collection.

In order to help with the project, participants simply submit descriptions of the music scores by transcribing the information they see. There’s no pre-requisite of being able to read sheet music to take part, and the Library provides a superb step-by-step guide on how to do it.

Screen shot 2012-10-19 at 6.33.17 AM

The metadata collected from this project will eventually feed into a database, making the music collection ultimately more searchable online once it’s made available. By participating in this project, you’ll gain access to tons (all right, maybe pounds or kilos) of sheet music that has never been released to the public. Not only that, but the artful covers are worthy of a study in themselves.

Most importantly, the Bodleian Library has partnered with Zooniverse, a world leader in crowdsourced technology and a platform for various citizen science projects like Galaxy Zoo, Planet Hunters, and Bat Detective (many of which are searchable in SciStarter’s Project Finder).

Music enthusiasts, history buffs, archive divers, or those simply curious are all invited to take part in this sonically stimulating citizen science project. Help the Bodleian keep score!

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Image: Musical Notes, NSF
Image: Bodleian tutorial, whats-the-score.org

8 Spooky Citizen Science Projects for Halloween!

By September 27th, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Comment

Most of us live in fear of what we don’t know. In science, however, the Unknown is exactly what keeps us hooked. Even the most revered physicist of all time (I’m talking about Einstein, of course) had a little trouble explaining the universe at times, calling what we now know as entanglement in quantum mechanics “spooky action at a distance.” The Unknown can be spooky, indeed, but with citizen scientists in hot pursuit of knowledge and data, we can collectively un-entangle scientific mysteries that come our way this Halloween.

This holiday brings out the dark, the macabre, and the sometimes inexplicable. We put on costumes to temporarily assume roles that we usually don’t play in our normal lives. Here are some Halloween-themed citizen science “costumes,” or roles, that you can don this October.

1. Extraterrestrial Tracker
Astronomy and Space
SETI Live, Zooniverse, NASA

setilive

Photo credit: NASA

Are we alone? With an ever-expanding, vast universe beyond our tiny blue planet, SETI thinks not. SETI Live is a citizen science project (part of Zooniverse) that invites you to help scan astral objects for radio waves and signals that might be transmitted by extraterrestrial life. The Allen Telescope Array (a name that looks conveniently like “Alien Telescope Array” from afar) scans the skies and sends data back to the SETI Live website, where citizen scientists are able to help sift through information and classify stars with exoplanets.

Or, if you’d rather Be A Martian this Halloween, you can do that, too! On this highly interactive site, you can create Martian profiles to become “citizens” of the planet. (We like to think of it as citizen scientist-ship.) You can count craters, ask questions about Mars in the forum, and tag photos taken by the rovers Spirit and Opportunity, the Curiosity’s predecessors, with descriptions of what you see. No matter where you land on this site, your experience is destined to be out of this world.

2. ZomBee Watcher
Nature and Animals
San Francisco State University Dept. of Biology, SFSU Ctr. for Computer for Life Sciencies, Natural History Museum of LA County

bee

Photo credit: USGS.gov

The ZomBee apocalypse is upon us! Run—or buzz your way—to Zombee Watch! Researchers suspect that the parasitic fly Apocephalus borealis is responsible for infecting large populations of honeybees. The fly lays eggs inside the body of honeybees, which then serve as incubators. As the eggs grow, they suck up nutrients from their bee hosts. The hosts become disoriented as their bodies change from within, often leading them astray from their natural habitats. Eventually, newborn fly larvae crawl out of the honeybee’s body and grow into adult flies, beginning the cycle all over again. Citizen scientists can contribute to ZomBee Watch by helping collect sick-looking or dead bee specimens to observe whether parasitic pupae emerge. See what the buzz is about.

3. Vital Signs
Nature, Animals, and Plants
Vital Signs Maine

vital signs

Photo credit: Vital Signs Maine

When distinguishing the un-dead from the living, it’s important to look for the right Vital Signs. This citizen science project brings scientists and novices together to investigate invasive species in Maine. Are certain ecosystems at risk of being overrun by invasive plants and/or animals? Participants can help scientists observe both invasive and native species by taking photographs, then entering data into the online application. The site provides helpful how-to guides for those just starting out and offers a huge database of observations made by other citizen scientists.

4. Secret Agent (Sci)Spy
Nature, Animals, and Plants
Science Channel (Discovery)

scispy

Photo credit: Discovery

Our mobile technology today is analogous to the gadgets of Hollywood’s most sophisticated spies. Use your spy cameras (or phone cameras) to spy on nature and contribute to science. Created by Science Channel (Discovery), SciSpy enlists agents to document the natural world of their backyards, parks, cities, and towns. Report back to base by sharing photos and observations and contribute to research initiatives that rely especially on amateur participation. This project is sure to leave you both shaken and stirred.

5. Archaeologist
Archaeology
Paleontological Research Institution, Cornell Dept. of Education

fossilfinders_Scienceforcit

Photo credit: FossilFinders.org

Dig deep into the past with Fossil Finders and uncover hidden clues about human history. Participants will help paleontologists from the Paleontological Research Institution identify and measure fossils in rock samples from central New York, enter their data into an online database, and compare their data with the data of other schools. Local participants can sign up for trips to important sites, whereas online participants can engage in virtual tours. Fossil Finders’ learn-by-doing approach to science unearths a sea of knowledge for those who contribute.

6. Tastemaker
Biology, Genetics
Denver Museum of Nature and Science

taste

Photo credit: DMNS

If you find yourself hording sweets this Halloween, perhaps this next project is just your flavor. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science, supported by the Science Education Partnership from the National Center for Research Resources and National Institutes of Health, has spearheaded a project called the Genetics of Taste: A Flavor for Health. The study aims to increase public understanding of genetic research, while also making strides to better understand the genetic ancestry of the gene Tas2r38, which dictates the ability to taste bitter, and its affect on the health of modern day humans. Don’t mind lending your taste buds to science (after consuming all that Halloween candy)? The opportunities are so tangible, you can almost, well, taste it.

7. Ghost Hunter
Smart Phone Apps
Northwestern University

ghost-scistarter

Photo credit: USGS.gov

Photo credit: USGS.gov

Earlier this year, Professor Fabian Bustamente of Northwestern University developed an experimental augmented reality Android phone app that allowed users to participate in citizen science while simultaneously playing a game. Participants “zapped” ghosts that showed up on a map of their surrounding area by taking photographs, which were then stitched together into panoramic shots. Commentators believe that augmented reality apps like these could pave the way for future mobile app-based citizen science.

8. Bat Detective
Nature and Animals
Zooniverse

Courtesy of USGS

Photo credit: Zooniverse

Here’s a citizen science project that gives you a glimpse into the lives of these creatures of the night. Bats, nocturnal creatures, are very hard to spot with the naked eye. This project enlists the help of citizen scientists to screen over 3,000 hours of acoustic surveys of bats’ calls, which researchers believe “leak” information about their behavior into the environment each night through echolocation. These classifications will later be used to create a new algorithm to help researchers more easily extract information from their sound recordings to monitor threatened bat populations.

While Hallow’s Eve has you captivated by the curios, be sure to stay curious too! With these citizen science projects, it’s all treat, no tricks. Make sure to visit SciStarter to find over 500 more citizen science projects!

Living Treasures: The Portable Antiquities Scheme

By July 5th, 2012 at 10:38 am | Comment

portable-antiquities-scheme-scistarter

What do you think of when you hear about archaeology? Perhaps your mind jumps to Indiana Jones’ arduous search for the Holy Grail. Maybe you imagine Howard Carter’s incredible reaction to the “wonderful things” he spotted at first sight of King Tutankhamen’s tomb. Or if you’re as big of a dork as I am, you might hear the theme song for “Jurassic Park” resounding in your mind.

What you probably don’t think of are commonplace objects that you may come across every day. Think about it: the everyday objects that surround us now are living treasures. If aliens from outer space were to land on our planet thousands of years from now, what we may categorize as mundane would probably be key clues of our human history.

The spirit of archaeological adventure need not be contained in movie scripts or history books. You can access it here and now with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (UK), a voluntary project that focuses on the recording of archaeological objects found by members of the public. The scheme was established to promote the recording of chance “finds” and tune the general public into the importance of understanding our past through objects.

Volunteers record details of their discoveries—descriptions of objects’ weight, measurements, location, etc. The Scheme’s database features more than 508,214 finds recorded by volunteers alone!

Have an old necklace that has been passed down through multiple generations in your family? How about a coin collection that you came across at a garage sale? From beloved heirlooms to found knick-knacks, you can view some of the many interesting and unusual finds that have been recorded so far on the official website. Read more about how this project has progressed in the UK!

SciStarter has tons of other archaeology citizen science projects you can participate in as well! Make sure you check them out too.

How to be Indiana Jones for the weekend

By September 30th, 2010 at 1:53 am | Comment

Help the Friends of Calico unearth history in the Mojave desert. Photo: Bureau of Land Management

Help the Friends of Calico unearth history in the Mojave desert. Photo: Bureau of Land Management

For those of you who watched “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and wondered how you could go searching for ancient artifacts yourself, here is your chance to get in on some archaeology action. The Calico Early Man Site, located near Yermo, California, is starting its fall digging season this weekend (October 2 and 3) and they welcome volunteers to help with their unearthing efforts.

JK Mueller, the organizer of the dig, let us know what first-timers should expect. When you first arrive, she says, you’ll see on the ground “chips and artifacts scattered everywhere, mostly made of chalcedony, an orange glass-like material.” She assured us that diggers will learn on the job “how to sift for artifacts and how to distinguish an artifact (human made) from a geofact (nature made).”

Saturday night lectures cover a wide range of related topics, from geology, gemology, and tool manufacture to climate. Volunteer effort is central to keeping the site running, and helpers have made many significant finds. Just last season, says Mueller, “The Friends of Calico president found two projectile points in the piles of mined bentonite clay right outside the main building. One still had animal hair and leather string attached [and was] dated at 1500AD.”

This archeological site has delivered interesting finds—and scientific controversy—since digging began there in the 1940s. From the mid-1960s until his death in 1972, Dr. Louis S.B. Leakey, famous for his research in evolutionary anthropology, directed the excavation. Of particular debate are rocks found at the Calico site that look much like prehistoric tools, and that are thought to be around 200,000 years old. While the tool-like rocks may appear to have been made by people, other scientists have argued that they could have acquired their shape through typical geological processes. If these rocks are indeed human made—that is, artifacts—rather than a result of geologic pressures—geofacts—the finding could push back the traditionally accepted date of human entry into the Americas (about 11,000 years ago) nearly 20-fold.

To see for yourself, and to learn more about the science behind the dig, head down to southern California. There is no cost to volunteer, but if you wish, you may join the Friends of Calico, a non-profit organization that helps finance ongoing scientific projects. It’s also helpful, notes Mueller, to bring “gloves, scarves, jacket, hiking boots to travel the last few feet of rough ground, [as well as] magnifying glasses and knee pads.”

And be prepared to make friends. Mueller says, “Volunteers are loquacious, energetic, and personable, and love to talk about varied topics and to learn at all ages. New volunteers almost always feel right at home.”

To join the dig or find out more information, sign up here.

http://www.motherboard.tv/

Make Science History with the Open Dinosaur Project

By February 20th, 2010 at 11:55 am | Comment 1

Here’s your chance to be part of science history! In the video below, Andy Farke and Matt Wedel introduce the Open Dinosaur Project, a collaborative research effort to develop a database of dinosaur bone measurements.

The best part? You don’t need formal scientific training, a background in research, or even to have seen the Jurassic Park movies. You just need an interest in paleontology and access to skeletal information, publications, or fossils. Anyone who contributes data — whether high school students, teachers, or grandparents — is eligible to be a junior author on the resulting scientific publication.

Could you be the next Indiana “Bones”? (<– terrible) The only way to find out is to visit the Open Dinosaur Project page and get started! You should also check out their fantastic blog!


Special thanks to Andy Farke and Matt Wedel for making this video!