Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Win a 25 million year old fossil at USA SciFest!

By April 24th, 2014 at 9:09 pm | Comment


Non-profit citizen science organization Paleo Quest is very excited to partner with SciStarter at the USA Science and Engineering Festival (Hall DE, Booth Number 5337). Paleo Quest researcher John Nance will share marine fossils that are up to 25 million years old with attendees. Each fossil that will be on display was collected by the non-profit’s founders Aaron Alford and Jason Osborne while scuba diving in murky swamp rivers with swift currents and black water conditions along the coast of the Chesapeake Bay. Show John how excited you are about science and our prehistoric past by asking as many questions as you can, and you may walk away with your very own fossil to add to your personal collection.


Paleo Quest will also be at the Scientific American booth where attendees can participate in our citizen science program SharkFinder. Use Zeiss microscopes to search for microfossils in 19-million-year-old marine deposits and see if you can discover a first occurrence of a species or even a new species all together. SharkFinder was recognized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy last year as one of the top citizen science programs in the country.

Paleo Quest fulfills its mandate through exploration and scientific collaboration, by discovering and recovering fossil specimens, including underwater (scuba) excavations, advancing the understanding of stratigraphy, and by donating materials of scientific significance to museums and universities. The organization donates fossils and fossil-bearing matrix as educational materials to elementary through college level institutions that go to support their science curriculum. This in turn promotes literacy in the earth and paleontological sciences at all academic levels, and collaborative publications of notable findings for the broader research community at a professional level.

Science Festivals and Hack Days!

By April 7th, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Comment

April is the month for science festivals. Join the SciStarter team at a festival near you later on this month — bring yourselves, and we’ll bring the citizen science!

Cambridge Science Festival

Friday, April 18 – Sunday, April 27

Come check out the diverse spectrum of citizen science projects out there! On April 19th during the Science Carnival event, our friends at EyeWire, Games With Words, GoViral, NOVA Labs, Public Lab, and Project MERCCURI will be joining us and demonstrating how to participate in their projects.



USA Science & Engineering Festival

Saturday, April 26 – Sunday, April 27

SciStarter will be partnering up with PaleoQuest to demonstrate their Shark Finder project. The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center will also be coming by to tell you about their new citizen science initiatives! Project MERCCURI will also be on deck. Stop by and say hello!

HACK DAYS! SciStarter is hosting a hack event in D.C. (4/26 to 4/27) to develop open APIs for citizen science. If you’re interested in participating, sign up here!


Philadelphia Science Festival

Friday, April 25 – Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Philly SciFest always brings a plethora of activities to choose from! SciStarter and Project MERCCURI will have a booth during the Science Carnival event on May 3rd. Come help us end this season of science festivals with a bang!

HACK DAY! SciStarter is hosting a hack event in Philly (4/9) to develop open APIs for citizen science. If you’re interested in participating, sign up here!


Interested in volunteering with us for any (or all) of these events? Shoot an e-mail to! “Feature Friday” Webinar on 3/7/14: Viewing Data: Observation list and Map

By March 7th, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Comment

This is a citizen science webinar opportunity from


Greetings from! Please join us for our sixth “Feature Friday” webinar. These webinars invite you to offer your ideas and thoughts about improvements to The first Friday of each month these webinars will focus on a specific topic / feature of We will demonstrate how to use the website feature and take feedback.
The March webinar will focus on “Viewing Data: Observation list and Map,” this discussion will include ways to display the data you and and your volunteers have collected.  Together, we hope to guide the future of this exciting platform in support of your collaborative citizen science / community based monitoring efforts.
WHAT: March“Feature Friday” webinarWHEN: March 7th, 2014 (12:00 noon PST; 1:00 PM MST; 2:00 PM CST; 3:00 PM EST)

DURATION: 1 hour

Time: 1:00-2:00p (MST)

How to participate:
Dial: +1 (213) 493-0601
Access Code: 590-048-005
Join this meeting

Why Did the Salamander Cross the Road?

By March 5th, 2014 at 11:00 am | Comment

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.


A spotted salamander spied on one of AVEO’s volunteer nights. Photo courtesy of Brett Amy Thelen.

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.

Project MERCCURI and your #SpaceMicrobes selfies from #scio14!

By March 3rd, 2014 at 11:43 am | Comment

Categories: Biology,Events,ISS