Archive for the ‘Citizen Science’ Category

Dragonfly Watch – Find Those Fast and Furious Insects!

By June 12th, 2015 at 12:12 am | Comment

A tandem pair of Common Green Darners (Anax junius) laying eggs. © Dennis Paulson.

A tandem pair of Common Green Darners (Anax junius) laying eggs. © Dennis Paulson.

“I’m an aquatic entomologist, and dragonflies and damselflies are the most colorful and noticeable insects in the habitats in which I work,” says Dr. Celeste A. Searles Mazzacano, a staff scientist and Aquatic Conservation Director at the Xerces Society. In her role as the project coordinator for the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership, she continues to add acclaim to these fast and furious little critters, “The nymphs are amazing predators with extremely cool adaptations for feeding—hinge-toothed lower lips that shoot out faster than the eye can see—and respiration rectal gills that double as a jet-propulsion chamber!”

The Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP) is a collaborative partnership that was set up between experts, nongovernmental programs, academic institutions, and federal agencies from the United States, Mexico, and Canada, in which citizen scientists play an integral role. There are many questions currently surrounding dragonfly migration that MDP is trying to answer. For example, says Dr. Mazzacano, “What is the southern extent of migration, what is the relationship between resident and migratory members of the same species at the same site, and do all individuals that migrate south from a single place, go to the same destination in the south, or do individuals drop out and overwinter at different latitudes?” The primary goal of the project is to answer some of these questions and to provide information needed to create cross-border conservation programs to protect and sustain this amazing migratory phenomenon.

The Project has enjoyed an extremely positive response from the citizen science community. “Because the adults are so lovely, I consider dragonflies to be the poster children of aquatic invertebrates. They are much easier to see and care about than the equally important but less obvious mussels, stoneflies, and mayflies,” adds Mazzacano. Many people are fascinated by dragonflies but don’t really know anything about them, and consequently want to learn more, and find good places to observe them. “Interestingly, many birders are also getting into dragonflying.”

There are five dragonfly species that are the most regular annual migrants in North America. The Migratory Dragonfly Partnership collects data on them in two ways, via two different but connected citizen science projects. For the Migration Monitoring project, citizen scientists report dragonflies heading south in the late summer and fall (these may be in the tens of thousands, thousands, or a steady trickle of individuals—it varies); and the Pond Watch project, where the local life history and the relationship between resident and migrant dragonflies of the same species in the same habitat is investigated. Here citizen scientists are asked to report on the presence or absence, abundance, and behaviors of migratory species at their Pond Watch site on a regular basis throughout the year.

Green Darner on the finger of a course participant. Courtesy Xerces Society.

Green Darner on the finger of a course participant. Courtesy Xerces Society.

The project has only been running for three years, which means that MDP is just now beginning to accumulate enough data to publish findings. “One of the first products was a comprehensive review paper by steering committee member and [retired Rutgers University] odonate expert Dr. Mike May ,” says Mazzacano. “And we have a paper in the works about the results of the stable hydrogen isotope studies done on wings of migrating dragonflies to determine how far they traveled from the site where they developed and emerged as adults.” That paper should be out later this year.

With current emphasis on the unique ability of citizen science projects to meet Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by providing opportunities for inquiry, MDP is now partnering with Dr. Karen Oberhauser at the University of Minnesota, who is working on dragonfly-based curriculum for school children. “And more immediately, we are beginning to work now with local organizations that focus on environmental opportunities for Hispanic youth in the Portland Oregon area to offer dragonfly-based environmental education in Spanish,” notes Mazzacano.

As with many hobbies, after all the inquiry has been satisfied, it comes down to enjoyment and recreation. The most exciting thing about the project for Mazzacano is that it gets more people outdoors interacting with insects in a positive way, and  connects those people to their local ponds and wetlands. “Freshwater is the most threatened resource we have, and when people learn about and start to love the creatures in local waters that they might not even have known existed prior to this, they will become more engaged in trying to protect those resources,” says Mazzacano with enthusiasm. And of course it has also been exciting for her, thanks to the data collected by citizen scientists, to be able to answer some of the many questions that exist about dragonfly migration. “I think this connection to freshwater is a benefit that will go on long after individual citizen scientists learn about, and help with MDP projects.”

Would you like to become a citizen scientist in this project? Connect to the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership here, register your local pond, pack a picnic hamper and head out to monitor the timing, duration, and direction of travel of migrating dragonflies. Note any additional behaviors, such as observed migratory flight, feeding or mating, and you are encouraged to take photos or record video coverage.

When gathered across a wide geographic range and throughout a span of years, these data will provide answers to questions about which species are regular migrants; the frequency and timing of migration in different species; sources, routes, and destinations of migrants; and the health of their environment.


Ian Vorster has a MS in Environmental Communications and most recently served as director of communications at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. Prior to that he worked in the health communications field. Ian has served as a designer, writer, photographer, editor and project leader in the field of science, and now works freelance in a blend of these roles. You can see more of Ian’s work at dragonflyec.com.

 

DIYBio and Open Science Changed My Life (And Could Change Yours)

By June 10th, 2015 at 1:21 am | Comment

Milo Toor, a software engineer learns to sequence DNA at Counter Culture Labs. Source: Counter Culture Labs

Counter Culture Labs belongs to a network of community labs in which professional and amateur scientists come together to pursue authentic scientific research. Source: Counter Culture Labs.

Milo Toor, a software engineer writes about his experience with DIYBio and Counter Culture Labs. You can find more information about Counter Culture Labs and search for other DIYBio projects on the SciStarter citizen science project database. Counter Culture Labs is a 100% volunteer-run, membership funded organization, and is currently running a Kickstarter campaign, funds from which will be used to help support infrastructure and grow their collection of science toys. Help keep science accessible by donating!

 

I have two families. There’s the one with two parents and two sisters, with whom I share DNA and have Thanksgiving dinner. And then there’s the one with several dozen science fanatics, with whom I design DNA and craft vegan cheese to one day accompany that turkey. I would like to share my experience with the latter of these beloved families, Counter Culture Labs.

Located within Oakland’s Omni Commons, Counter Culture Labs (CCL) is both a physical space and a community. CCL is a self-supervised playground for science enthusiasts of all ages and abilities, a breeding ground for curiosity, and a proud part of the burgeoning global DIY Biology community. Read the rest of this entry »

Nominate a Team or Individual for Citizen Science Award

By May 28th, 2015 at 1:13 pm | Comment

The William E. Bennett Award for Extraordinary Contributions to Citizen Science was established by NCSCE and named in honor of its first recipient for his lifetime contributions to citizen science. The award is given annually to an individual and a team whose SENCER and other related activities have made exemplary and extraordinary contributions to citizen science.

Past awardees include former Congressman Rush Holt, Dr. Gary Booth of Brigham Young University, Dr. Monica Devanas of Rutgers University, Dr. Marion Field Fass of Beloit College, Dr. Catherine Hurt Middlecamp of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and teams from the United States Military Academy at West Point, the University of North Carolina Asheville, Indiana State University, and Butler University. To learn more about past awardees, please go here.

To nominate an individual or a team, please write a letter providing your reasons for making the nomination in sufficient detail to enable the selection committee to assess the nominee’s contributions to citizen science. A CV or biosketch for the nominated individual or, in the case of team nominations, a CV/biosketch for each person to be named in association with the team effort, must be included. No more than two supporting letters may be submitted; however, such letters are not required.

Your nomination letter and supporting materials should be addressed to “The Wm. E. Bennett Award Committee” and e-mailed as a PDF to sencer@sencer.net with the subject line “Wm. E. Bennett Award Nomination.” The deadline for the 2015 Bennett Awards nominations is June 2, 2015.

The White House Wants Your Help to Stop the Decline in Pollinators

By May 27th, 2015 at 11:59 am | Comment

Pollinators: A critical component of a healthy ecosystem. And oh, they also affect 35% of the world's crop production. (Image Credit: USFWS)

Pollinators: A critical component of a healthy ecosystem. They also affect 35% of the world’s crop production. (Image Credit: USFWS)

Pollinating animals play a crucial role in our food production system, and they are essential in maintaining the health and vitality of many ecosystems.  Unfortunately, many pollinator species, such as bees and butterflies, have been declining recently.  In response to that decline, the national Pollinator Health Task Force, commissioned by the White House, recently released the Pollinator Health Strategy. Read the rest of this entry »

Is There a Community Lab Near You? – Find lab space, equipment, and training in your area!

By May 20th, 2015 at 9:25 am | Comment 1

labs1

Photo: NIH

Do you want to explore, invent, design, or create something but don’t have the facilities to do so? Do you want to learn more about biotechnology, science, and laboratory safety? Community labs may be the perfect fit for you!

Community labs are rapidly spreading throughout the world. Our editors highlight five, below.

People often pay a membership fee to join and gain access to the lab’s space, community, equipment, materials and guidance. Members join existing projects or design and carry out independent research.

If you run or belong to one not already listed on SciStarter, go ahead and add itso we can help more citizen scientists find it!

Cheers!

The SciStarter Team

Read the rest of this entry »