Archive for the ‘Insects’ Category

Citizen Science in the Classroom: School of Ants

By April 2nd, 2014 at 4:48 pm | Comment

Using School of Ants Citizen Science to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards in the Classroom

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Discovering Ants

Grades:

K-12th

Description:

School of Ants (SOA) is one of many urban wildlife citizen science projects hosted through the Your Wildlife project. Your Wildlife and School of Ants focuses on biodiversity and citizen-scientist driven inquiry in urban areas around schools and homes.  Dr. Andrea Lucky is the director of the SOA project out of the University of Florida’s Entomology Lab and the Nematology Lab at NC State. The idea behind the project is for citizen scientists to collect samples of ants from paved and green spaces around their homes and schools. They then send in the samples to the lab in Florida for identification. This data is used to generate a North American map of ant biodiversity and distribution.

SOA used to provide kits for ant collection but now they ask project participants to provide the supplies. As you can see from the list below these are limited to zip-lock bags, cookies, and index cards with some postal shipping. You can find step by step project instructions for the kits and collection in their free online PDF. Due to limited resources schools may participate by submitting one sample from each address or school location (no more than one). However you may submit multiple samples from different addresses (from the same person or class). Sampling takes exactly one hour. NOTE: as a caution be sure to have a minimal understanding of the biting and stinging ant varieties around your school. Do not collect ants that might cause harm to students.

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Computer with internet and printer
  • Instruction page for collecting ants
  • 8 white 3”x5” index cards
  • 2 Pecan Sandies Cookies (contains nuts, but must be used for standard protocol)
  • 8 small zip-lock bags (1 qt.)
  • 1 large zip-lock bag (1 gal.)
  • 1 envelope for mailing ants by US post, and postage
  • Freezer
  • Book
  • Magnifying glasses (optional)
  • Dr. Elanor’s Book of Common Ants PDF (free online through iTunes, optional)

ant capture alex wild

Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:

  • Ants are ubiquitous and the project can be done anywhere in the US around schools or homes.
  • Ants can be observed three seasons of the year in most locations.
  • There are minimal supplies required to participate in this project.
  • This project is a one-time activity, lasting one hour, so the time required is minimal.
  • The project can be a springboard for lessons focusing on arthropods and invertebrates around the school.

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Citizen Science in The Classroom: Monarch Migration

By March 16th, 2014 at 10:16 am | Comment

Using Journey North’s Monarch Project to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards

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Journey North supports a variety of citizen science projects, including monarch migration. (Photo: Journey North)

Citizen Science and Monarch Migration as a Teaching Tool

Grades:

K-12th

Description:

Journey North (JN) is a citizen science project for the observation and tracking of seasonal weather changes and phenology or life cycle changes in animals and plants. This website is an amazing resource and interactive platform for teachers. There’s so much information that they provide that it’s almost jaw dropping. On their site you’ll find how your class can participate in tracking everything from seasonal changes in daylight to migrations of humming birds, whales, and even flower blooming. One of the most popular citizen science projects on their site is the monarch butterfly project. In this project students and teachers can learn about the life cycles of monarchs, their natural history, and migration. Students may look for monarchs in their local area and report observations of eggs, larvae, pupa, and adults. This project encompasses much more than just observations. The content provided on their site includes geography, historical and real-time data, ecological conservation, life cycles, reading comprehension and more.

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Journey North support real-time data and mapping of monarch sightings, which are useful geography tools for the classroom. (Photo: Journey North)

Materials You’ll Need:

  • A computer with internet access.
  • A printer that can print in color (preferably).
  • Optional: milkweed plants and flowers that may be conducive for monarch food, water, or shelter.

Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:

  • This project can be done either in or out of the classroom and in or out of urban areas.
  • It requires very little equipment or tools.
  • Usable data, graphs, maps, reading materials, and lesson plans, and identification tools are provided on the site.
  • You can meet almost every standard of Common Core and Next. Gen standards with this project and all the resources provided on the site.
  • Teachers can use the lessons provided even if they don’t participate in the project.
  • Students learn geography and science together.
  • Students obtain a “sense of place” by making local observations and contributing to a global observation effort that can be seen in “real-time” on the site’s maps.
  • Zero data can be useful, which teaches children about the importance of collecting all types of data.
  • Uploading data is safe and children remain anonymous, it’s put in as a class.
  • They have a free app that you can use in the field with a smart phone so you’re not tied to the classroom for uploading data. Students can put in their observations in real time.

Teaching Materials:

Supplied on Journey North’s Website you’ll find a while host of videos, reading materials, maps, slide shows, downloadable data, and more. There is also a teacher’s guide that can help you find introductory lessons and more information for your lessons. They also offer the ability to be monarch “ambassadors” and exchange cards with schools in South America through their “symbolic migration” butterfly card program.

Online Safety for Children

Teachers create one account for uploading data for their entire class so no specific student data is needed. They do ask that you put in your address and provide an e-mail. They also ask you what grade you teach and approximately how many students are in that grade.  After one initial registration you don’t need to do anything more except log in and begin recording observations. A log-in is not required to access all the free lesson support materials on the site.

mobile jn

Journey North has a free mobile app for uploading your observations. (Photo: Journey North)

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Citizen Science in the Classroom Series: Lost Ladybug Project

By December 15th, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Comment

Using the Lost Lady Bug Project Citizen Science Project to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards

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Lost Ladybug Project

Grades:

Primary through adult

Description:

Scientists are asking for help learning about the distribution of native and invasive ladybugs, their populations, and ranges. Classrooms and individuals may participate by joining this project to upload their sightings of ladybugs (pictures and searches) to contribute to this data collection effort.

Materials You’ll Need:

LLP 2

Lost Ladybug Project Home Page

Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:

  • Ladybugs are commonly distributed across North America and they are non-threatening to students and children.
  • The researchers are asking for photos and sightings or even just searches. There is no minimum number of times you need to participate or help.
  • The project website says that, “Zeros are useful data!” This is great because it teaches the core scientific idea that sometimes nothing is something.
  • You can use their provided online or printable field guides on their site to help identify the ladybugs so you don’t have to be an expert identifying ladybugs.
  • Once you photograph the ladybugs you can upload the photos and submit the data of your location online. Researchers will also help with the proper ID.
  • Usable data, graphs, reading materials, and identification tools that are quick to download are available on the site. You can also sort data by region and have children read and interpret data and basic maps.
  • Uploading data is safe and can be anonymous.
  • Children can see their data online.

Teaching Materials: Supplied on their website Lost Ladybug Project on SciStarter.

Includes lesson plans, facts and reading materials, identification tools, songs, coloring book and primary reading, videos, downloadable data, interactive maps, pie charts, and graphs.

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Teaching materials supplied by the Lost Ladybug Project

Online Safety for Children

Uploading information for this site requires an adult or participant to upload their first and last name and an e-mail address, with the option to make this information visible to the public. Teachers may wish to use a school name such as Winston Middle or Mr. Joni’s Class and then a generic e-mail address. You do need to provide your country, state, and nearest city but not exact coordinates if you don’t choose to provide that information (it’s in the optional section). You may also optionally provide the names and number of spotters, but again you can choose anonymity. Students may be protected by having one adult enter the data, or you can assign them numbers or names or even a “group” uploading identity.

Common Core and Next Gen. Standards Met:

Kindergarden:

Next. Gen. Science:

K-LS-1 Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals need to survive. Teachers may focus on the feeding habits of ladybugs, aphids, and the host plants that aphids feed on. Use the resources provided in the lesson plans on “Collecting Ladybugs Habitat I & II”.

Common Core:

Literacy: RI.K.1-Students should answer questions about text read to them from the ladybug readings suggested. W.K.1, W.K.2, W.K.7-Students may use books suggest above to make drawings and writings about the book and what they learned about ladybugs as well as working on a shared research project about ladybugs.

Math: MP.2, MP.4, K.CC, K.MD.A.2-Using data about their own collection or that provided online students may model with math, count spots on ladybugs, and compare objects with measurable attributes(spots) in common.

First Grade:

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. For this Project: Focus on the life cycle of ladybugs, and how the young look completely different from the adults before they undergo metamorphosis. Use the resources provided in the lesson plans on the “Ladybug Life Cycle” along with posters and resources on their teaching page.

Common Core:

Literacy: RI.1.1, RI.1.2, RI.1.10, W.1.7, W.1.8- Students should answer questions about text read to them from the ladybug readings suggested. Students may also use books suggest above to make drawings and writings about the book and what they learned about ladybugs as well as working on a shared research project about ladybugs and data they collect.

Math: MP.2, MP.51.NBT.B.3-Students may use data from the data page to reason abstractly and quantitatively about ladybug populations by state or region. They may then discuss the proper unit and tools and compare numbers.

LLP 4

Ladybug from the Lost Ladybug Project

Second Grade:

Next Gen. Science:

2-LS4-1 Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitat.

For this Project: Compare diversity of ladybugs in different regions using the provided online lesson plan on Ladybug Diversity.  Also use their online identification tools and printable posters as well as the data and mapping information provided.

Common Core:

                Literacy: W.2.7, W.2.8, SL.2.5- Teachers may have students conduct scientific collection, research their projects using books suggested on the website, and crate a visual representation of their research in poster form or audio/video form. Suggested video ideas for the ladybug project can be found online here.

Math: MP.2, MP.4, MP.5, 2.MD.D.10- Students may use data from the data page to reason abstractly and quantitatively about ladybug populations by state or region. They may then discuss the proper unit and tools and compare numbers. Students may also graph their findings or data provided online.

Third Grade:

Next Gen. Science:

3-LS3-2 Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment.

For this Project: Students can use geographic maps and tools to visually compare ladybugs from different regions using the posters and mapping pages provided. They may then hypothesize about the differences between colors, patterns, and shape. Also use the online lesson plan on food webs provided.

Common Core:

                Literacy: RI3.1, RI.3.2, RI 3.7, W.3.2, SL.3.4, SL.3.5- Teachers may have students conduct scientific collection, research their projects using books suggested on the website, and crate a visual representation of their research in poster form or audio/video form. Suggested video ideas for the ladybug project can be found online here.

Math: MP.2, MP.4, 3.NBT, 3.MD.B.3- Students may use data from the data page to reason abstractly and quantitatively about ladybug populations (native and invasive) by state or region. They may then discuss the proper unit and tools and compare numbers. Students may also graph their findings or data provided online.

Fifth Grade:

Next Gen. Science:

5-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth’s resources and environment.

For this Project: Teachers should have students examine data maps, with information about native and invasive ladybugs, and have students work in teams to identify patterns and what the data means. They may then discuss how researchers may use the data to create conservation plans for ladybugs and why this might be important. Teachers may also use the online lesson plan provided about native v. invasive species of ladybugs.

Common Core:

                Literacy: RI.5.1, RI5.7, RI.5.9, W.5.8, W.5.9, SL.5.5- Teachers may have students conduct scientific collection, research their projects using books suggested on the website or online media suggested, and crate a visual representation of their research in poster form or audio/video form. Suggested video ideas for the ladybug project can be found online here.

                Math: MP.2, MP.4- Students may use data from the data page to reason abstractly and quantitatively about ladybug populations (native and invasive) by state or region. They may then discuss the proper unit and tools and compare numbers. Students may also graph their findings or data provided online.


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.

Monarch Monitoring – Help Count These Magnificent Migrators to Aid Conservation Efforts

By December 1st, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Comments (2)

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Monarch butterflies clustering on a tree at an overwintering site in Pacific Grove, CA.

The monarch butterfly is a remarkable species.  Each year these insects migrate in a similar pattern to birds from colder to warmer climates as the seasons change, often returning to the same overwintering sites every year.  Unlike birds, however, no single monarch lives long enough to make the whole migration, so the journey occurs across multiple generations, adding to the complexity and incredible nature of the phenomenon. There are two main groups of monarchs in North America that are distinguished by their migration routes: the eastern group spends its spring and summer in eastern or central U.S and overwinters in Mexico, while the western group lives in central California and surrounding states for most of the year, overwintering on the California coast.  Although these two groups are the same species, they are studied independently, as different factors affect their life cycles and migrations.

The Xerces Society, an organization dedicated to the conservation of invertebrates including insects, has been studying the western monarch population for nearly two decades through a citizen science project called the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count.  The project asks volunteers to travel to monarch overwintering sites on the California coast and count the butterflies that are present.  Sarina Jepsen from the Xerces society describes that the project is “really an extraordinary effort” because of the sheer number of monarchs and their broad distribution across the California coastline.  She notes that the project provides “the primary information” the society has to understand annual changes in the monarch population.

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A monarch butterfly on its primary food supply, milkweed.

So far, the count has provided scientists with two important pieces of information.  The first is that the monarch population has declined dramatically over the last 15 years – on average, only 10% of monarchs are returning to their overwintering sites compared to 1997.  A recent study has linked this decline in part to climate change, which affects the monarch’s primary food source and mating ground, the milkweed plant. The second piece of information from the count, as Jepsen describes, is a “spatial picture of how the monarchs are doing and areas that can be prioritized for conservation projects.” Another factor in the monarch decline is the loss or degradation of over wintering sites, so a detailed picture of their distribution in the winter is critical to maintaining the remaining sites that these butterflies use.

Although many of the people participating in the project have been dedicated for a number of years, the Xerces Society is always looking for new volunteers to join in the count.  Jepsen asserts that for new participants helping out, “It’s our hope that they’ll develop an appreciation of monarch butterflies and a desire to work towards their conservation.” The count takes place for three weeks around the Thanksgiving holiday, so it’s a great activity to burn off some of those extra holiday calories while aiding in the conservation of these incredible insects.

Reference: Xerces Society

Images: Top – wikipedia via california photo scout; Bottom – Xerces Society

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Emily Lewis is a PhD candidate in chemistry at Tufts University, where she analyzes catalysts for synthetic fuels on the nanoscale. She received her BS and MS degrees from Northeastern University, and her thesis work examined fuel cell catalysts under real operating conditions. She loves learning about energy and the environment, exploring science communication, and investigating the intersection of these topics with the policy world. When she’s not writing or in the lab, you’ll probably spot Emily at the summit of one of the White Mountains in NH. Follow her: @lewisbase, emilyannelewis.com.

The Attack of the “ZomBees”

By October 21st, 2013 at 10:49 am | Comment

Drag your bones toward more Halloween-themed citizen science! SciStarter has been paying attention to the zombee apocalypse from ZomBee Watch’s early days. Here are some important updates on the project and details on how you can get involved.

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Have you noticed bees behaving in a strange ‘zombie’-like dazed manner near lights, especially at night? Then, they may be infected by a parasitic fly that affects their behaviour and ZomBee Watch, a project started by Professor John Hafernik and colleagues, needs your help. Until now, known infections had only happened on the west coast, but citizen scientists just recently spotted infected bees for the first time in New England, which means the infection is spreading.

Zombees were initially discovered at San Francisco State University by Professor Hafernik. “I first discovered infected honey bees by accident in late 2008 when I began noticing a large number of disoriented and dying honey bees on campus,” he said. After picking a few in a vial and leaving them for a few days, Professor Hafernik found small brown fly pupae inside the jar. “I sent a sample to Brian Brown at the Natural History Museum of LA County and he identified the flies as Apocephalus borealis,” said Professor Hafernik.

Later, Professor Hafernik figured it out that infected bees were leaving their hive at night, attracted to nearby lights. It turned out that flies can inject eggs into the abdomen of a bee, and when eggs hatch, small maggots start eating the bee’s flight muscles and internal organs. At some point, the bee’s behaviour changes as well and they feel compelled to fly at night. After leaving the hive, they live only for a few hours, and about five to seven days later, mature maggots emerge from the dead bee. “We’ve observed as many as 16 maggots emerging from a single bee,” said Professor Hafernik. “At this point there is no way to treat or prevent infection, but we hope that as we learn more about how flies recognize their hosts, that we can find a way to control infections.”

Professor Hafernik explained how this was an ideal project for citizen scientists. “Given the increasing public concern about declines in bees and the fact that infected bees showed such unusual behaviour that could be tracked by the public, crowd sourcing the project seemed like an excellent way to gather data quickly and for citizen scientists of all ages to make important contributions to research on honey bee health.”

Participants do not need any special background or training to get started. “We provide video and PowerPoint-based tutorials on our website to get them started,” said Prof Hafernik. If participants find zombees, they’re asked to place them in a jar, and take a photo to upload onto the website. It’s recommended to keep the bee for 7-10 days to confirm if maggots emerge. If they do, participants need to take another photo and again uploaded it to the website. For records in new areas, participants may be asked to send a sample by mail to double check identification.

This is an ongoing strategy and if you wish to participate, go to the website now and register. The window of opportunity to observe these bees is going to close very quickly as winter approaches, but there is still time to help with this project.


Dr. Alex Reis is a freelance science writer, with a particular expertise in the field of biology and genetics. She holds a degree and MSc in Animal Science, topped up with a PhD in Embryology. In a ‘previous life’ as a researcher, she worked in the field of cell and molecular biosciences and published various scientific manuscripts including in Nature. Nowadays, however, she spends most of her time reading and writing science articles for several news outlets. Recent work includes articles published in The Munich Eye, Decoded Science, United Academics Magazine, BitesizeBio and Science NOW. After moving around the UK for a while, she now lives in the Highlands of Scotland. When not working, she can be found trying to get friendly with the ‘locals,’ from deer to seals, otters or even sea eagles.