Archive for the ‘Citizen Science’ Category
This is a citizen science webinar opportunity from CitSci.org.
DURATION: 1 hour
Time: 1:00-2:00p (MST)
This week on The Pulse and SciStarter’s segment about citizen science, producer Kimberly Haas takes a look at Zooniverse’s Old Weather, a project that dives into weather’s past in order to study our climate’s future.
Old Weather is a Zooniverse project that dives into historical archives of weather observations. Citizen scientists can browse through online archival data of ship logs from decades past, then help transcribe and digitize them so that researchers can access them more easily. These transcriptions will contribute to climate model projections and hopefully knowledge of past environmental conditions. Historians will use this work to track past ship movements and tell the stories of the people on board.
Read WHYY’s related blog post to learn more. Listen to the piece below.
Here’s where you can help. If you’re a citizen science researcher, project manager, or participant in the PA, NJ, or DE areas, we want to hear from you! If you have an interesting story to share about a citizen science project or experience, let us know. Send your stories for consideration to Lily@SciStarter.com.
WHYY (90.9 FM in Philly) Friday on-air schedule:
6-9 a.m. – Morning Edition
9-10 a.m. – The Pulse
10 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Radio Times
10 a.m. following Sunday – The Pulse (rebroadcast)
Citizen Science in the Classroom and the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network
NOAA National Ocean Service Phytoplankton Monitoring Network Citizen Science Project to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards
1st-12th (*see notes below about elementary grades)
The Phytoplankton Monitoring Network (PMN) is hosted through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). This project is a part of the REDM or Regional Ecosystem Data Management system, which establishes and catalogs regional data about ecosystem health. Phytoplankton is the base of the food web, it provides over ½ our oxygen, and is the foundation for life in the oceans. Too much plankton can cause harmful algal blooms (HAB) and poisoning of shellfish as well as low oxygen in marine waters. Researchers with PMN are focused on monitoring native and invasive populations of phytoplankton in coastal US waters as well as tracking HABs. You do not have to be a plankton expert for this project. The researchers will provide you with ID support, a phytoplankton image gallery, and a plankton ID app for your smart phones.
This citizen science project is a bit different than others that we’ve talked about because it is region specific. To participate you must live along coastal waterways with water that has a salinity of at least 10-15 ppt (parts per thousand). The other difference in this project is that it requires two trainings (of a teacher or class) online or in person (about 4 hours total time) and you must commit to taking and observing water samples two times a week (5-10 minutes each) for a year. Time will also need to be allocated for students to process the samples. This could range from 2 hours to 20 minutes depending on the sample and how fast the students become in their IDs. The project could be broken up by class or shared with other teachers and volunteers.
*This citizen science activity tends to lend itself towards middle to high school classes; however, it can easily be approached as a platform for early education. In the standards section below there are some ideas for elementary students and activities they may do to participate in conjunction with middle to high school grades that could do the actual sampling and ID processing.
Materials You’ll Need:
- Live in an area with access to water that has 10-15 ppt salinity. If you’re not sure of your water’s salinity PMN staff will send you a hydrometer, and instructions, for measuring this.
- Computer access with printer.
- Online access and ability to upload data.
- All materials are provided by PMN except a rope and a compound microscope with 200-400x magnification.
- Materials provided by PMN include a plankton net, data sheets, and water testing equipment.
- Clipboards and pencils for data collection.
Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:
- Even though there is a one year time commitment this project could lend itself to students feeling a sense of ownership through a meaningful long term project.
- This may be used as a service or research project for volunteer hours for students needing community service.
- Almost all of the materials for the project are supplied by the PMN.
- Phytoplankton monitoring also includes water analysis, which may be used as supplemental water chemistry lessons; this includes pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen and more.
The down-side to the project is that they do not provide pre-made lesson plans. They do provide volunteer training, plankton identification training, a plankton ID app for smart phones, and a beautiful phytoplankton photo gallery online as well as pre-made data collection sheets. Because of this lack of teaching materials I will be referencing outside teaching resources that you may want to consider. This includes the books: “Sea Soup: Phytoplankton” and “SeaSoup: Zooplankton” by Mary M. Cerullo and Bill Curtsinger. The Center for Microbial Oceanography (CMO) has assembled a 70 page lesson plan for 3rd-12th grade that is very comprehensive, especially for those that don’t have enough microscopes for all students. UCLA has published a short set of plankton lesson plans, to meet NGSS standards, for grades 4-12. You can also find a plankton sampling lesson through the New Jersey Marine Science Center Consortium (grades 4-12).
Online Safety for Children
For this project you will need to submit a form for your sampling site to become an official location. This does require public sharing of your school/site’s address and the contact information of at least one representative. Students do not need to create their own account. Only one account for data uploading is required and this may be done through the teacher. However, multiple teachers or volunteers may access the account to upload information.
Common Core and Next Gen. Standards Met:
Next. Gen. Science: 1-LS3-1 Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like their parents. Using the lesson plan from UCLA teachers may have students sort plankton by phyto and zoo and then discuss how they differ from land and plant animals. Student may also then compare the larval life cycle phase of the zooplankton to adults. Resources with pictures of adult and larval plankton are also in the CMO Lesson 3. If students are observing plankton under the microscopes they may also make the comparisons mentioned above. The image gallery provided by the PMN would be helpful for ID, including freshwater algae.
Count and protect migrating amphibians. Help salamanders cross the road at night with the Salamander Crossing Brigades.
Citizen science after hours…here are some citizen science projects you can do at night.
Springtime means that love is in the air. Bees are buzzing, birds are chirping, animals are mating–and salamanders want to do it too. That is, if they can reach their breeding grounds safely. Salamanders, known for their permeable skin and their capacity to regenerate limbs, make use of rainy spring nights to trek from their underground forest habitats to nearby ephemeral pools to lay eggs. In their travels, salamanders often have to cross roads, and yet so far, they don’t have crosswalks.
To help ensure salamanders’ safe passage to their breeding grounds, the Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory (AVEO), the citizen science arm of the Harris Center for Conservation Education in New Hampshire, trains citizen scientist volunteers as crossing guards for the northeast’s amphibians every spring. Salamander migrations are highly threatened by automobile traffic- rates of deaths on roadways are predicted to be high enough to lead to local extinction of spotted salamanders in the next 25 years according to a study published in Wetlands Ecology and Management. Citizen scientist volunteers are trained to safely usher amphibians across roads and enumerate the species that they see. Through efforts over the last six years, AVEO’s collaboration with citizen scientists has prevented over 15,000 amphibians from being victims of roadkill.
In what AVEO calls, “Big Nights” as part of the Salamander Crossing Brigades project (official site), citizen scientist volunteers work collectively at crossing brigades for wood frogs, spring peepers, and salamanders, including the protected Jefferson and blue-spotted salamander species. Hundreds to thousands of amphibians can cross in one night depending on temperature and precipitation conditions. AVEO studies snow melt and weather patterns, among other variables, to predict nights of maximal amphibian movement on which they schedule their crossing brigades. Salamanders generally prefer rainy nights when temperatures rise above 40, but unpredictabilities arise making designating Big Nights the most challenging, yet critical, aspect of the project. This year AVEO anticipates that early to mid-April will be salamander crossing season this year in southern New Hampshire.
View Amphibian Tracker 2014 in a larger map
AVEO also trains citizen scientists to help protect the salamanders of New Hampshire by identifying new road areas which salamanders traverse to reach their breeding grounds. “We add new crossings to our map every year, all based on the knowledge of our citizen science network. Our volunteers are essential. We simply wouldn’t have a Salamander Crossing Brigade program without them,” says Brett Amy Thelen, science director for the Harris Center for Conservation Education. According to Thelen, one of the project’s biggest accomplishments was inciting the City of Keene, NH to purchase a parcel of conservation land encompassing multiple amphibian crossing sites identified by citizen scientists. “The land was originally slated for development, and the City’s decision to purchase it was based in large part on the data collected by our volunteers, which demonstrated that the site was an important migratory amphibian corridor in Keene.”
AVEO leads another citizen science project, the Vernal Pool Project, where citizen scientists help locate new vernal pools, the ephemeral breeding grounds of salamanders and other amphibians. Breeding in permanent bodies of water is hindered by resident fish populations which prey on salamander eggs. As a result, the transience of vernal pools provides salamanders with a safe breeding location that they can return to each spring. The Vernal Pool Project has identified 130 vernal pools in southwestern New Hampshire, enabling AVEO to implement forestry practices designed to protect the pools from the potential negative effects of timber harvests. Because vernal pools are generally within 1000 feet of salamanders’ normal habitats, protecting the surrounding forest areas is also important for salamander conservation.
Want to participate in a night of helping hundreds of colorful and noisy critters get to the other side? Salamander Crossing Brigade volunteer training sessions will take place on the evening of Thursday, March 13 in Keene, NH and the morning of Saturday March 29 in Hancock, NH. To find out more about salamander migrations, you can check out University of Connecticut Professor Mark Urban’s “amphibian tracker” on his lab website.
Image: Courtesy of Brett Amy Thelen (top), Urban Lab (map)
Sheetal R. Modi is a postdoctoral fellow at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University where she studies how bacteria develop and spread antibiotic resistance. She has a PhD in Biomedical Engineering, and when she’s not growing her bacterial cultures (and repeatedly killing them), she enjoys science communication and being outside.
Monitor the rates and sizes of meteoroids striking the moon with the Lunar Impact Monitoring project.
Citizen science after hours…here are some citizen science projects you can do at night.
By now you’ve probably seen Gravity, and maybe you figured real astronauts don’t have to worry about projectiles, flying debris, or explosions. After all, the stars seem so calm from Earth, and the only turbulence we see on the surface of the moon are the waves breaking its reflection over the river. But sometimes, if you look long enough (even with the naked eye), you can spot a meteorite hurtling into Earth’s atmosphere with a flash. Approximately 73,000 lbs, about two large truckloads, of rock streaks through the Earth’s atmosphere each day. Earth’s atmosphere causes the meteorites to burn out before they do any damage, but the Moon has no protection against meteorites and neither do spacecraft or astronauts who might be working on or near the Moon. Potential for catastrophe? Worthy of little globes of Sandra Bullock tears? I’d say so.
To understand what risk these meteorites pose to spacecraft and their crews working in the lunar environment, astronauts have to know how often meteorites impact the moon, what size, and with how much force. Astronomers have been able to see the meteorites hitting the Moon for years – it doesn’t take much. When a meteorite strikes the Moon, it explodes in a flash that can be caught with only an 8 to 14 inch telescope and a clear sky. Since 2006, NASA astronomers like Rob Suggs say they “point telescopes at the night portion of the moon and record video from sensitive cameras,” which they analyze later. Simple as that, the Lunar Impact Monitoring Project at NASA was born.
Suggs says NASA began seeking out the help of citizen scientists immediately: “Many amateur astronomers have equipment similar to what we use.” By having more eyes on the moon, NASA can greatly increase the likelihood of seeing a lunar impact flash. The scientists want to be able to see as much as possible but sometimes, Suggs says, “we are clouded out or the Moon has set at our observatories while the Moon may still be visible from an amateur astronomer’s backyard.”
And sometimes amateur astronomers are the ones who end up seeing the impact. George Varros, a citizen scientist volunteer who has been involved with the Lunar Impact Monitoring Project since 2006, has already caught several impacts on camera. Varros first got involved with the project in part because of a lifelong love of astronomy, but he also says he recognized NASA was asking the amateur astronomy community to do “solid science, and it was not very difficult to do.” Even so, Varros says that the work “does take an effort and several hours, several nights, of imaging might elapse before you record [an impact],” but the wait is well worth it. Capturing an image, he says, is the best part. Already, the project has been able to catch the birth of a new crater and 300 flashes.
Once an image is caught on tape, NASA scientists can try to correlate the impact with a meteor shower they know about and use that information to learn the speed and size of the meteorite. Often, these meteorite can fly through space eighty times faster than the fastest jet on Earth. So far, meteorites haven’t been known to destroy any spacecraft, but some people say that some in-space anomalies – bumps and bruises – have been from meteorites.
Whatever violence the rocks are causing up in space, lunar monitoring is still a peaceful experience from Earth. Suggs says it’s been thrilling to see impacts from the project and “seeing the new crater that Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter detected from our March 17, 2013, impact was extremely exciting and satisfying.” But his favorite part of the project is still sitting out and watching the sky. Suggs says, “I enjoy the observing: just me and the telescopes and the Moon in the middle of the night.”
Images: Wikimedia (top), courtesy of George Varros (GIF)
Angus R. Chen is a research assistant at Princeton University, where he does geochronology research using uranium and lead isotopes from zircon crystals. Previously, he was a research intern at the Harvard Forest, studying the impacts of climate change on soil. He recently graduated from Oberlin College with a double major in environmental science and creative writing. When he’s not in the lab admiring rocks and then pulverizing them, he writes poetry, fiction, science articles, and makes cool videos.