Archive for the ‘Health’ Category
As cold and flu season approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, many people are starting to think about what they can do to avoid getting sick. To help prevent illnesses, public health advice needs to be based on solid scientific evidence.
The Health Tracking Network is a citizen science project designed to fill some of these gaps in knowledge. You can join others from across the world in helping find factors linked to common illnesses such as the common cold, influenza, and stomach flu (gastroenteritis).
Anyone 18 years old or older can participate. When you join the Health Tracking Network, you:
- spend 2-3 minutes per week answering questions about illness symptoms and related topics,
- earn money for charities of your choice, and
- can track your own health, fitness, or anything of interest to you with separate tracking tools.
Participation is completely anonymous.
The project began in April, 2011, and more than 415 people have joined so far. Through their participation, members of the Health Tracking Network have generated more than $2,000 in donations to charities.
The Health Tracking Network needs more participants from all over the world! More participants will allow the project to identify factors related to common illnesses with confidence, which may ultimately lead to good scientific advice about prevention. Join the effort now!
When you wake up in the morning and start your daily routine—take a shower, brush your teeth, cook breakfast—do you ever stop to wonder where all that water you’re using comes from? It’s availability (or lack thereof) is certainly not a common worry in the United States, where as of 2005 (the latest assessment of national water use conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey) about 86 percent of the population relies on public water supplies for household use. Turn a faucet handle, and water, the world’s most precious, life-giving resource, is simply there, ready to cool us or clean us or quench us of our thirst, wherever we need it, whenever we want it.
But for how much longer? Climate change, pollution and unprecedented global demand are already threatening the world’s water supply according to a United Nations World Water Development Report released earlier this year. (SciStarter partnered with Discover Magazine, the National Science Foundation and NBC Learn to explore the Future of Water as part of our Changing Planet series.)
In response to these challenges, two international nonprofit organizations, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the International Water Association (IWA), partnered up to launch a challenge of their own.
Today, September 18, is World Water Monitoring Day, a key component of the broader World Water Monitoring Challenge that runs from March 22 to December 31. Thousands of people from around the world will use low cost monitoring kits to test their local water bodies for the basic indicators of watershed health–temperature, acidity, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen—and enter their results into a shared online database. It’s not too late to get involved. The program’s administrators hope that participants will not only learn which rivers, lakes, streams and reservoirs supply their communities but also become aware of the unique combination of environmental challenges each one faces.
“These are issues the next generation will have to cope with,” said Lorien Walsh of the Water Environment Federation. “The water we drink today is the same water people have been drinking for thousands of years. It is a finite resource, and we can’t use it if it’s not clean.”
In 2011, over 300,000 people from nearly 80 countries participated in the World Water Monitoring Challenge. Taking clean water for granted might be common in the United States, but it is a luxury people can ill afford in the developing world, where three million people, most of them women and children, die from water-borne illnesses like cholera every year.
“Kids in Kansas can see the data they collected and compare it to the data collected by kids in the Congo,” said Walsh. “There’s a stark difference.”
Announcing Philadelphia’s newest citizen science project: MyHeartMap Challenge!
This project aims to crowdsource the first-of-its-kind map of Automated External Defibrillators in Philadelphia by photographing AEDs.
When someone collapses and stops breathing, an automated external defibrillator or AED can save their life. [Home AEDs are available for purchase.] In Philadelphia, PA, a city with about 1.5 million people, AEDs are all around us. Near our homes, workplaces, and even grocery stores! Currently, there is no comprehensive map, and, as a result, AEDs are often not used when they are most needed. With the crowdsourced information collected from this contest, the organizers will build a map of AED locations in Philadelphia that can inform 911 services and the public.
The MyHeartMap contest will officially go live January 31, 2012 at 9am! Until then, you can download the app from the iPhone store and Android marketplace and start submitting entries. Clues will be posted at the project website myheartmap.org and philly.org. The contest closes on March 13, 2012, at 6pm ET!
There are three ways to play:
1. Find and photograph the most AEDs in Philadelphia County before March 13, 2012 and win the $10,000 grand prize. The team or individual that finds the most “confirmed,” “eligible” AEDs by the contest end date will receive the grand prize of $10,000.
2. Be the first to submit a photograph of a “Golden”AED and win $50. The organizers have identified between 20 and 200 AEDs in Philadelphia County as “Golden” AEDs. These are unmarked, and you won’t know it’s a winner when you photograph it. Clues will be posted at the MyHeartMap project website.
3. Want to help but not compete for a prize? Submit addresses of locations without AEDs or that you wish had an AED – this is just for fun, and it will help with the map.
Researchers at Penn State University need your help to study the distribution of microorganisms in household hot water heaters. Turns out your everyday hot water heater can double as a model hot spring, one of Earth’s extreme environments where important clues about microbial life in the Solar System might be found.
First, researchers want to better understand the genetic differences of similar microbes from across the globe: Which populations of microbes are isolated and what can this tell us?
Penn State’s Astrobiology Research Center (which is part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute) is running this citizen science project, titled, “Pilot Citizen Science Study of Distributed Domestic Water Heater Microbiology Diversity” and here’s how it works:
Participants take a water sample from their kitchen tap and answer 20 questions to help determine which-and how many–microorganisms are present. The whole process takes about 30 minutes. Researchers will then combine your answers (data) with contributions from households across the country. The goal is to generate a first image of the biogeographic distribution of microorganisms across the United States.
I had a chance to chat with Dr. Chris House, Associate Professor of Geosciences & Director of the Penn State Astrobiology Research Center. He gave me the inside scoop on microbes, why they’re important, and how the study will help NASA understand extreme environments around the Solar System.
Off we go!
First, what are microbes doing in water heaters? Is that bad?
Chris: The main microbial group known from water heaters is Thermus. This thermophilc species is also known from hot springs around the world and was first isolated from Yellowstone National Park. It lives by using oxygen to consume organic material from the water. It is not harmful in any way. Read the rest of this entry »
A few weeks back, I had an opportunity to speak with faculty at Bard College about the school’s new Citizen Science program. This week, I’ve got the inside scoop from the freshmen who took part in the intensive three-week course.
Four students in Dr. Kate Seip’s section of the course were kind enough to share some of their experiences via email. These students cited the professors’ emphasis on practical, real-world application of science knowledge, and their ability to foster in-class discussion as being instrumental for helping them understand the importance of these issues.
Cindy, a budding psychology/neuroscience major, said that Seip and the Citizen Science course have solidified her interest in neuroscience. Though she initially had reservations about spending three more weeks at Bard College during the winter, Cindy maintained an open mind. Indeed, the lack of specific course credit (or grades) seemed to “foster students’ independent quest for knowledge regarding infectious disease and science as a whole.” Her favorite aspect of the course was the laboratory rotation in which students extracted DNA, collected and grew bacteria, and learned about bacteria resistance. Getting up at 8:30am wasn’t even so bad (icy pathways and skin-cracking wind notwithstanding!).
Johannah, a psychology major and cognitive science minor, particularly enjoyed hearing about Seip’s background and why she chose to pursue scientific study. Along with other students, Johannah participated in outreach efforts in local elementary schools as part of the civic engagement portion of the course. In one outreach event, she and others made oobleck with the students.
James, a biology major, thought that the Citizen Science program included “an appropriate balance of lab work, computer modeling, and lectures/information sessions.” He felt that he “lucked out” by being assigned to Seip’s class, as she was “dedicated to the subject material and the program, while being relatively laid back.”
Though James felt that the Citizen Science course could have challenged the students a bit more, he found the lab work was particularly exiting because it was “the most interactive and hands-on part of the program, and it was just an all around fun experience.”
“[Dr. Seip] was dedicated to and passionate about her field, [which] inspired the rest of us to dedicate ourselves to the program. None of the material we studied was dry or boring, and it was easy to see the real-world significance in what we read,” James said.
A new partnership between Microsoft and the European Environmental Agency is combining detailed scientific information on air and water quality with observations made by citizen scientists.
Ever wondered about the air quality in Copenhagen? Or perhaps the water quality in Paris?
Eye on Earth uses Microsoft’s Bing Maps to combine goespatial and environmental data from 22,000 bathing sites and 1,000 air quality monitoring stations throughout Europe. An “air quality model” provides the air pollution situation between air quality monitoring stations.
Citizen scientists can contribute their knowledge by clicking on simple user feedback icons. For each location, the map displays the average yearly value of all ratings submitted by citizen scientists. Users can then overlay the environmental data with their own observations with the click of a mouse.
Having just returned from a vacation to one my favorite cities of all time, Seattle, I thought I would highlight some of the amazing citizen science projects taking place in Washington state. Below, I’ve provided just a quick sampling of some the projects we’ve added to our Project Finder.
Do you know of any other projects in the state of Washington? If so, leave a comment or add them to the Project Finder yourself!
- Beach Environmental Assessment, Communication, and Health (BEACH) volunteers monitor high-risk Washington state beaches for bacteria called “enterococci”. The presence of this bacteria at elevated levels means there is a potential for disease-causing bacteria and viruses to also be present. BEACH is intended to reduce the risk of disease for people who play in saltwater.
- State of the Oyster volunteers help monitor bacterial contamination levels in edible shellfish collected from privately owned Washington state beaches in Hood Canal and throughout Puget Sound
- The Salish Sea Hydrophone Network needs volunteers to help monitor the critical habitat of endangered Pacific Northwest killer whales by detecting orca sounds and measuring ambient noise levels. Volunteers are especially needed in 2010 to help notify researchers when orcas are in the Salish Sea, which encompasses the waters of Puget Sound and the surrounding area.
- Seward Park has gone bonkers for citizen science. They need volunteers for a wide range of cool projects, including hemlock tree monitoring, plankton sampling, bat surveys, water chemistry, phenology, eagle and raptor DNA fingerprinting, and even coyote tracking with the help of Twitter. That’s enough citizen science to last a lifetime!
The Pacific Biodiversity Institute offers two surveying projects: the Harbor Porpoise Monitoring Project at locations near Anacortes, Whidbey Island, and San Juan Island, and the Western Gray Squirrel Project in the Methow Watershed.
- Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST) is a network of citizen scientists that monitor marine resources and ecosystem health at 300 beaches across northern California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. Team volunteers pledge to survey their beach every month, and, in return, the COASST office gives that information back out to volunteers and the communities.
- SoundCitizen is a community-based water sampling network in the Puget Sound area of Washington state. Staffed by undergraduate students at the University of Washington, the project needs citizen volunteers and school groups, who voluntarily collect water samples from aquatic systems, perform a series of simple chemical tests, and then mail samples to the lab to be analyzed for cooking spices and emerging pollutants.
This is a very cool, new entry in the ScienceForCitizens.net database. It’s from the folks at Innocentive, the world leader in open innovation. (We’ll have more to say about our blossoming alliance with them shortly.) For now, check out this Innocentive Challenge which seeks to advance knowledge about Type 1 Diabetes. Citizen scientists are invited to define problems or areas they feel are in need of further exploration and research concerning Type 1 Diabetes. insights from citizen scientists will form the basis of new research projects pursued by scientists at Harvard University and elsewhere.
There is a $5,000 award for the best submission for this Challenge.