Archive for the ‘Climate & Weather’ 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.
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
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 »
Looking for ways to fund citizen science research? Check out the Citizen Science Funding Resource Guide!
Jessica Clemente, an environmental science graduate thought she would be doing work outside of her community once she got her degree. But she is an asthmatic, and when she found out there was an asthma study taking place in the area of her home in South Bronx she became involved and eventually took the lead. “Living day-to-day in an area where all I saw was high traffic volumes, poor air quality and adding more waste to our community got me enraged,” she says in an EPA video interview. Her anger prompted action, and she looked at the tools to empower herself and her community—education and advocacy.
In many cases, there is a connection between socioeconomic status and air quality. Some call it environmental justice—why should a factory spew tons of filth into the same air that a poor, young family across the road breathes? Amanda Kaufman, the Environmental Health Fellow in the Air Climate and Energy Program Office at the EPA says, “We are currently working with a community in Newark, New Jersey that has faced environmental justice issues in the past and still faces many to this day. We hope to collaborate with the community action group to establish a community-led air monitoring project.”
Live in Los Angeles county? Photograph butterflies and moths, and help scientists study climate change.
Interested in more moth and butterfly citizen science projects? We’ve got you covered!“Once I read a story about a butterfly in the subway, and today, I saw one…” 
In the heat of summer monsoons, butterflies accompany the paddling turtles in the lake outside my window… butterfly? Wait a minute; I remember dragonflies, not butterflies, from childhood. Nightly news reports every evening that our fragile blue marble is undergoing significant changes. Could butterflies and moths help scientists understand how living organisms adapt to climate change?
More than 174,000 species of butterflies and moths, the Lepidoptera, or scaly-winged insects, have been cataloged, making them some of the most successful insects to flutter across our planet. Vital to local ecosystems, butterflies and moths are important food sources and pollinators, only differing in their coloration (bold colors vs. drab monochrome) and diurnal/nocturnal range. Yet, only 236 species of butterfly have been observed in Los Angeles County.The Los Angeles Butterfly Survey, a partnership between the all-volunteer Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, is working with citizen scientists to count and photographically catalogue the butterflies, and moths, found between the urban skyscrapers of southern California.
Becoming a butterfly, or moth, hunter has never been easier. Citizen scientists simply photograph, noting the date, time, and location, of their winged sighting. The photo and observations are then uploaded to the BAMONA website, where experts identify/verify the species before adding the find to their database. The data is used to develop a visual database and life history page for each species including stunning, user-submitted, photographs and maps reflecting recent sightings.
Kelly Lotts, co-founder of BAMONA, notes, “It is very easy for kids to grab cameras and to take photographs of species found where they live or at their school… Kids really enjoy being able to point to their dot on the map, to their actual photograph.”Since its launch in 2011, the Los Angeles Butterfly Survey has become an invaluable tool encouraging city dwellers to become scientists for the day. Over 628,000 butterfly and moth sightings have been recorded across all of North America; 1320 for southern California. Lotts goes on to explain, “We get a lot of data requests from scientists looking at butterflies as indicators of climate change… in 2011 and 2012, in California, there was a sighting of Hyalophora cecropia each year. This is very unusual as the Cecropia is found in the east of the Rocky Mountains.”
Citizen scientists benefit from their involvement as well. At the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, they are mapping local species in order to inform planting in the pollinator garden. New projects are sprouting up including the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project. According to Lila Higgins, Manager of Citizen Science for the museum, “Citizen scientist are already getting so much out of their experience. They are thinking like scientists – making predictions about what they are going to find in the coming weeks. Talk about science in action.”
Why not grab a camera and enjoy the summer sun while waiting for a butterfly to flutter by?
References and Resources:
 Image courtesy Tony Maro (BAMONA submission).
 Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail
 Image courtesy Wendy Caldwell (Museum of Natural History, Los Angeles).
 Data courtesy BAMONA website.
Dr Melinda T. Hough is a freelance science advocate and communicator dedicated to sharing the inspiring stories of life science and helping the general public explore their world. She holds a PhD from the University of Edinburgh for research into how antibiotics kill bacteria, was a policy fellow at the National Academy of Sciences, and is a published photographer. Naturally curious, it is hard to tear Melinda away from science. Not content to stay in one place for very long, she might be found exploring, often behind the lens of her Nikon D80, plotting her next epic adventure, or training for the next half marathon.