Archive for the ‘Guest post’ Category
This is the first installment for a brand new series about citizen science in schools and classrooms.
Teachers often hear the term citizen science, but it’s never really clear what it is and how it might integrate into their classrooms. Citizen science is methodical scientific research conducted in part (or sometimes entirely) by non-professional scientists. These types of projects are called crowd sourcing because they source data from large groups of private citizens, amateur scientists, students, and those interesting to contributing to the larger picture of scientific inquiry. Schools and classrooms are an excellent source of data collection potential because of the large number of students that are present for extended periods of time from months to years.
Currently teachers are facing the new wave of Next Generation and Common Core Teaching Standards and the need to integrate their science curriculum with hands-on research, biology, and technology. Citizen science is a way to engage students with all of these subjects (inside or outside of the classroom) while providing a meaningful data set or outcome to scientists. The main question then arises; how do you, as a teacher, navigate all the options out there and integrate them into your classroom? In this series we’ll highlight some common questions about citizen science and then focus on different projects and how they meet Next Generation and Common Core standards so that you can decide what types of citizen science would be right for you and your school.
What Grades and Ages Can Participate in Citizen Science?
Almost any grade or age level can participate in citizen science. The main limitation I’ve seen has been access to computers, iPhones/apps, experience with technology, or being able to justify a project to the administration as to how it meets teaching standards. In this series we’ll discuss choosing age appropriate projects for different classes and the project’s ease of use. I’ve had five year olds show me how to find a hidden geocache using an iPhone and a 12 year old show me how to upload to Project Noah, so it can be done!
What is the Cost?
Most citizen science projects are free so the cost is not prohibitive. There are organizations that offer low cost classroom kits, posters, and teaching supplies to supplement their projects and provide teacher support. The other concern with cost is whether or not a particular project requires special tools. We’ll explore technology shortly, but I’m talking things like tweezers, bug collectors, binoculars, or genetic sequencing devices. Yes, there are some associated tools for each project and part of choosing the right one for you will be what you have at hand, ease of use for students, and availability of equipment.
What Technology is Required?
All citizen science programs have some form of online contribution system and/or an iPhone or Android app that can be downloaded. At a minimum the technology you’ll need will be either a laptop or a computer to upload data using either a Windows Operating System or Mac OS. Windows is most common and most operate on Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, or Safari.
What is the Time Commitment?
The time commitment is really up to the teacher. The nice thing about citizen science is that most activities can be done once or many times depending on the teacher’s time constraints and needs. Some projects lend themselves to one survey or event such as ant collecting or weighing state quarters to test fairness. For some projects you can contribute data seasonally, such as Journey North which tracks the migration of birds, whales, and flower blooming. Other events, such as weather monitoring might require weekly or even daily tracking.
How Is Citizen Science Data Used?
Most citizen science projects allow you to upload your data to a larger database that is made available to contributors. For instance, you can upload all sorts of data and information from Cornell Ornithology Lab’s e-bird database, such as which birds to find in a particular location to population numbers. The data your school contributes to the researchers helps provide information to build a more complete picture of a creature, pattern, event. You can use this data to help students with math skills, word processing, and computer skills.
Can I find Supporting Materials to Teach With?
Most of the citizen science websites have at least some background information and an “about” page to support those that want to participate in the project. Other websites are more comprehensive and offer curriculum, worksheets, and other supplementary materials. We’ll cover these websites in more details in this series.
SciStarter has also curated some projects with teaching materials for teachers on its Educators Page.
What About the Security of Students Online?
There are many ways to keep students safe. You as the teacher can be the focal point for entering all data or you can have the students enter data under your close supervision. Some projects also allow you to create student user accounts with anonymous numbers or names that you assign the students. I like Project Noah’s ability to create specific class centered challenges that only students, parents, and the teacher have access to. This type of project is super secure.
There are many ways to integrate citizen science into the classroom, and we’ve only touched on the tip of the iceberg. Please come back and check out the next installment of this series when we explore specific programs, their alignment with Next Gen. and Common Core standards and we’ll answer some of the questions just posted as they apply to particular projects and grades.
When not writing her blog The Infinite Spider, Karen McDonald is a guest blogger, curriculum developer, science content editor, and outdoor educator with over thirteen years in informal science education. She has an MS in Biology and a BS in Environmental Science and Philosophy. Currently she works for Smithsonian and contracts for Discovery Channel.
This is a guest post by Karen McDonald. When not writing her blog The Infinite Spider, Karen is a guest blogger, curriculum developer, science content editor, and outdoor educator with over thirteen years in informal science education. She has an MS in Biology and a BS in Environmental Science and Philosophy. Currently she works for Smithsonian and contracts for Discovery Channel.
When you consider the field of citizen science you probably think of it as something you do by collecting data, taking pictures, finding plants or animals, or uploading sightings. There’s a new form of citizen science emerging called a “thought experiment.” You may be familiar with thought experiments like that of “Schrödinger’s Cat” or Einstein’s “Chasing a Beam of Light” which use theoretical reasoning to solve a problem. However, thought experiments may also be applied to biological science because you are considering a hypothesis, principle, or theory and its consequences as it applies to a scientific application. This theory may or may not be implemented. The big difference between traditional citizen science and a thought experiment is that thought experiments do not use direct observation or experiments, they rely completely on theory. Thought experiments also have the advantage that they can be done from anywhere, which make them accessible to anyone who might be interested in trying them out. You can do them in a classroom, on the metro, or on an exercise bike.
A Bit of Background for This Thought Experiment
The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s Marine Invasions Research Lab, located in Edgewater, MD, along with a field branch in Tiburon California have teamed up with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the University of Alaska Southeast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and San Francisco State University to monitor a creatively named species of invasive brackish water tunicate called “rock vomit,” or Didemnum vexillum. It’s thought that D. vexillum originated in Japan, but now it’s found all over the world and it’s an aggressive invader. SERC scientists first found it growing in the bay of Sitka Alaska in 2010 during a bioblitz.
Rock vomit is a big problem for native habitats and commercial fishermen because it grows in mats (in quickly moving water) and long strands (with low water movement) and covers everything in sight. This includes fishing nets, lines, docks, ship hulls, and all living sessile (non-moving) creatures on the bottom. Rock vomit literally blankets sponges, anemones, bryozoans, scallops, oysters, and mussels. Here is the USGS official page with images and descriptions.
How Does This Citizen Science Thought Project Work?
SERC scientists have been trying to determine how rock vomit spreads and what factors might influence its demise. You can read more about their work using treatments of fresh water, extremely salty water, lack of oxygen, acetic acid, and bleach in a controlled field setting as they try to find out what might work to control it. These researchers are asking you, as citizen scientists, to participate in a thought experiment project to help come up with a way to control rock vomit based on their findings. On the page listed above they give you some factors to consider such as treatment area, containment, limiting mortality of other species and outside the area, wind, waves, and tides. Your job is to think about these variables and to design a theoretical solution to the problem of this invasive species. Remember, the solution may or may not be implemented but your thoughts and theories could help solve a major invasive species problem!
If you would like to submit an idea please send your proposal to Monaca Noble (Noblem@si.edu) by December 16th. The lab will choose the best solution and post the winner on the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center website for Invasive Species.
If you’re looking for some scientific inspiration, try this paper:
McCann, LD, K Holzer, IC Davidson, GV Ashton, and GM Ruiz. 2013. Promoting invasive species control and eradication in the sea: options for managing the tunicate invader Didemnum vexillum in Sitka, Alaska. Marine Pollution Bulletin. Available online.
SciStarter has a whole round-up of tree-related projects for you this season. Branch out into citizen science!
Walking around my neighborhood the other day, I was casually observing the local flora when I was struck by the redness of one particular set of leaves. While the tree pictured is not the exact one I spied upon, look at how vibrant these colors are! I began to wonder why this tree turned red while the others around it stayed orange and yellow. To begin, we must learn about why autumn leaves deviate from their greener shades in the first place.
As you probably already know, the color that most plants have is derived from chlorophyll, the yellow-green pigment found in chloroplasts responsible for allowing photosynthesis to take place. If you’ve forgotten how this process works, Crash Course Biology has a great video for this. While there are multiple forms of chlorophyll, it is generally true that most reflect green light, causing for plants to appear the way they do. (This raises the even better question of why aren’t plants black, but that deserves its own post.)
So, what happens to the chlorophyll as we approach the cooler months? When the temperature drops, deciduous plants slow the production of chlorophyll in preparation for the dormant period they will undergo during the winter. The plants will then be able to conserve energy by halting all photosynthetic processes during the lack of available sunlight. As this happens, orange and yellow carotenoids present in the leaves are exposed. These are pigments that are normally produced in leaves that help to absorb additional energy from the sun that is passed along to the chlorophyll and also to prevent auto-oxidation (basically the wear down of cells due to free radicals) from occurring. In addition to all of this, the plant begins to produce a cell wall between the stem and the leaf called an abscission layer. This will eventually cause for the leaf to be completely separated from the plant, allowing for it to fall to the ground.
Okay. We’ve covered green, orange, and yellow, but what produced the scarlet beauty found above and why doesn’t it occur in all trees? The answer is anthocyanins. If you’ve ever eaten a blueberry, raspberry, pomegranate, or any other fruit that can stain your hands and clothes, you’re probably already familiar with these little molecules. These pigments are similar to the carotenoids mentioned above but serve a different purpose. In cases during the late summer when plants are beginning to slow their photosynthetic processes but there is still plenty of sunlight abound, the leaves can actually be harmed by receiving too much high-intensity light in the region of Photosystem II (photoinhibition). In order to prevent this damage, the plant begins to synthesize anthocyanins to permeate through the leaves’ surfaces. Because of its red color, the pigment absorbs a large amount of the high energy visible and ultraviolet photons striking the plant, basically acting as a “plant sunscreen.” (Check out how you can even build your own anthocyanin-based solar cell!) Additionally, anthocyanins are good indicators of plant stressors including freezing temperatures and low nutrient levels.
Next time you see a particularly red tree, make sure to think about its environment! Does it receive an abundance of light? Has it been particularly cold? Feel free to comment with links to your own pictures of vibrant trees and plants!
Just like leaves, citizen science also happens to grow on trees! Don’t believe us? Check out our tree projects round-up!
Photo: Public Domain Pictures, Wikipedia
This was a guest post by Joe Diaz, a science educator and enthusiast. Follow @RealJoeDiaz. View the original post.
It’s not always easy for citizen scientists to see what happens with the data they collect. Not all projects are published, and those that are may not be open access and often only include a summary of the findings.
I work at F1000Research, and one of the key points of this open access journal is that all papers include all original data. It makes it easier for others to reproduce the work, and it makes science more transparent. In the context of citizen science projects, it lets all participants see their data in the context of the overall study.
No fee for ecology papers until 2014
At the moment, F1000Research is waiving the article processing charge on ecology papers, as long as that’s the first paper you’ve ever submitted to the journal, and you submit it before the end of the year, using code ECOL17. This would be a perfect opportunity for citizen science projects in ecology to try out the journal.
We’re also launching a new type of paper, which might also be useful for citizen science projects. Observation articles are papers that describe serendipitous observations that researchers have not been able to study systematically, but that offer a starting point for further exploration. With many people taking part in data collection for citizen science projects, you’re bound to come across something interesting! A famous example from astronomy is Hanny’s Voorwerp, but we suspect that a lot of ecology projects also bring up some interesting observations.
Ecology-themed observation articles are also free until the end of the year. Normally, publishing an observation article in publication in F1000Research costs $500, compared to $1000 for a full-length article).
Rapid publication and transparent peer review
Besides including all data, F1000Resesarch also includes all referee names and referee reports, and anyone who has an account can leave a comment on the article itself, or in response to a referee report. Like the articles themselves, the referee reports are all open access.
Articles on F1000Research are published online before peer review, after a quick in-house editorial check. That means that we can publish papers within a matter of days. F1000Research publishes all valid science.
This is a guest post from Eva Amsen of F1000 Research.
For any questions about our peer review model or the journal in general, please see our FAQ page.
For more info about this opportunity, see this blog post.
To submit a free ecology paper before the end of the year, use code ECOL17.
For any other questions, find us on Twitter at @F1000Research
Photo: F1000 Resaerch
When I first became involved in online professional development (PD) courses about 10 years ago, the casual approach to participation in terms of time and attire were often noted as desirable features. An often-touted advantage to online PD was that individuals could participate at 3 a.m. wearing pajamas and bunny slippers. Over the years, as the boon in online PD has expanded, I sometimes wonder if the sale of bunny slippers has kept pace with the expansion of online PD opportunities for educators.
Online education has gone mainstream, as evidenced by the large number of colleges and universities providing accredited online courses as part of their degree programs. Powerhouse universities like Stanford and Yale helped lead the way a few years back by offering their courses online and attracting hundreds of thousands of students. The widespread acceptance of top-notch universities provided an endorsement of sorts for the effectiveness of online education. The demand for online education continues to grow and this includes PD opportunities for educators.
Traditionally, PD for educators was synonymous with face-to-face classes, workshops, and seminars. Face-to-face PD, while valuable, is generally location- and time-limited which can exclude many educators who have other obligations or do not have flexible schedules outside of teaching due to family, extracurricular obligations, or other time constraints. Online PD courses that are self-paced are very appealing because individuals can chose when to participate based on their unique situation. One of the most appealing aspects of online PD is that it can be a great equalizer, providing PD for educators at all stages of their lives and careers.
As online PD has gained popularity, citizen science (CS) has also enjoyed a time of rapid growth. In recent years, CS programs and activities have proliferated, and many are Internet-based. Examples include Project BudBurst, Project Feederwatch , and The Great Sunflower Project It is widely known that effective PD results in better implementation of programs and activities. In the case of CS, effective PD may also help with data quality.
CS programs that are entirely online — such as the NEON’ s Project BudBurst – may not have the opportunity to offer face-to-face PD or employ the old tried and true “Train the Trainer” model. We decided to test online PD using Project BudBurst and created our first course Introduction to Plants and Climate Change for Educators. In January, 2012, we informally put out the word that we had a pilot online PD course for educators hoping to register about 15 people. Within a week, we had over 200 registrants and had to close registration as we could not meet demand. That is when it became clear that online PD was needed and that NEON could fill this important niche through the development of an online academy devoted to citizen science professional development – the NEON Citizen Science Academy (CSA).
NEON’s Citizen Science Academy Mission Statement: Provide online professional development resources for educators to support effective implementation of Citizen Science projects and activities that focus on ecology and environmental sciences.
The NEON CSA is intended to be a complete online PD resource for educators and will include online courses, modules, tutorials, and a virtual community of practice. Initially, I had been concerned that sharing and communication, a hallmark of face-to-face PD, would be sacrificed for the convenience of online courses. I have been pleasantly surprised to observe the exchange of ideas and thoughts in our virtual classrooms via discussion forums. Perhaps wearing bunny slippers encourages these informal exchanges.
As CSA develops, we intend to partner with other online CS programs and partner to offer a full suite of online courses and resources that support all aspects of CS for educators. Further, through a partnership with the National Geographic FieldScope program, CSA will also include innovative, free online mapping, analysis and data visualization tools that facilitate data analysis.
In the case of Project BudBurst, we now offer several courses for a wide variety of educators. One of our educators used her online PD participation to write a successful grant to engage her students in making observations of trees in their schoolyard. Another educator shared her efforts to have students in her art class take photos of plants as the seasons change. Several informal educators have designed exhibits and displays that feature Project BudBurst.
We hope you will join the growing CSA community by signing up for one of our online courses (citizenscienceacademy.org). Bunny slippers optional.
This is a guest post from Sandra Henderson, Director for Citizen Science at the National Ecological Observatory Network.