Archive for the ‘Nature & Outdoors’ Category
In the next two posts, as part of our SciStarter in the Classroom collection, guest contributor Ben Graves will share his personal experiences and advice for using citizen science in the classroom. Graves is a fellow with the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, which supports a small cohort of early-career teachers across the United States with intensive professional development. He teaches AP Environmental Science and freshman environmental science at Delta High School, a rural school in western Colorado. Before moving to Colorado, Ben was deeply involved in environmental education and citizen science initiatives with youth in the national parks, including leading volunteer trail crews across Alaska and teaching inquiry-based science workshops for students and teachers at NatureBridge, an organization that provides environmental science programming in the national parks.
I spend lot of my summer outdoors—in my garden, running and biking in the mountains, learning new approaches to teaching outdoor and experiential science. As the end of the summer nears, I think about how to get my science students outside. Science doesn’t need to be contained inside a classroom, and I have found that citizen science projects are a great way to get students outdoors and keep them engaged throughout the school year.
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Going out of your way to attract mosquitoes seems like the last thing anyone would want to do, but that is exactly what the national Invasive Mosquito Project is hoping volunteers will do in the name of public health.
Managed through the United States Department of Agriculture, the Invasive Mosquito Project aims to track the spread of invasive container-breeding mosquitoes – those whose females lay eggs in the standing water that collects in containers such as vases, rain barrels, and even pool or boat covers. The introduction of many non-native species often coincides with the introduction of new pathogens, and mosquitoes are notorious for playing host to a number of these, including the viruses responsible for West Nile, dengue and most recently in the news, Zika.
Walking through Purisima Creek Redwoods Reserve in northern California, I am the paparazzi of Western sword ferns (Polystichum munitum). When I find one, I stop and click, click, click my smartphone photos and then approach boldly for a closer look. Are new leaves emerging as curled fronds or fiddleheads? Are there round spots called sori—reproductive structures that produce spores—on the underside of the fronds? Are these spots brown or green? And how many centimeters are the four longest uncurled fronds? I am really getting intimate here, probing for the most personal of details, and ready—yes—to post it all online on the Fern Watch website. Researchers there won’t handle this information discreetly. Instead they share among themselves and all their citizen scientists, using our data to learn more about how redwood forests are responding to climate change.