Archive for the ‘Nature & Outdoors’ Category
This is a guest post by Michael Bear Citizen Science Project Director at Ocean Sanctuaries. In this post, he describes a citizen science led effort to catalog marine life living in and around the HMCS Yukon. In 2000, the Yukon was transformed into an artificial reef as part of San Diego’s marine conservation effort.
In 2000, the City of San Diego in collaboration with the San Diego Oceans Foundation (SDOF), purchased, cleaned and sank a 366 foot-long Canadian warship called the HMCS Yukon to create an artificial reef, a task at which has been spectacularly successful. Sitting at the bottom of the San Diego coast, the Yukon attracts dozens of local marine life species and is becoming a revenue-generating attraction for tourist divers from around the world.
When this project started, both the SDOF and the local scientific community were curious to understand the effects of an artificial reef on local fish populations and surrounding marine life. A joint study was undertaken by SDOF and Dr. Ed Parnell of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and released in 2004.¹ Crucial to the study was data gathered by local citizen science divers to generate a baseline of marine life species on the ship.
This year, Ocean Sanctuaries, San Diego’s first citizen science oriented, ocean non-profit is conducting a follow up study to the pioneering work of Dr. Parnell and colleagues. Established in 2014, Ocean Sanctuaries encourages and supports citizen science projects which empower local divers to gather marine data under scientific mentorship and forward our understanding of the oceans. Ocean Sanctuaries currently has three active citizen science projects. ‘Sharks of California’ and the ‘Sevengill Shark ID Project’ are both shark related. The third project is the follow-up study on the Yukon called the Yukon Marine Life Survey.
The data gathered in this project will be mainly photographic. Local divers will photograph specific areas of the ship in quadrats and with transect lines and the data will to be compared with the same areas examined in the 2004 study.
The project plans to use a web-based application for wildlife data management called ‘Wildbook’ for cataloging observations made in the Yukon Marine Life Survey. ‘Wildbook’ was originally designed to identify whale sharks, but will be modified as a multi-species database for use with the Yukon Marine Life Survey.²
Referring to the original Yukon Marine Life Survey of 2004¹, Barbara Lloyd, Founder of Ocean Sanctuaries says, “The Yukon Artificial Reef Monitoring Project (ARMP) was a short-term baseline study of fish transects and photo quadrats. The ARMP project has been gathering data for about a decade now. We at Ocean Sanctuaries strongly believe that a follow up study to the original baseline study can provide the research and fishing communities with valuable marine life data. In addition, unlike the original study, we intend to use photographs to ensure verifiable encounter data. We aim to create a large base of citizen scientists to take the photos and enter the data. This crowd-sourced data will allow us to collaborate between citizens and researchers.”
The current Yukon Marine Life Survey will span at least five years. Once completed, the data will inform scientists of changes to the marine life on the ship enabling California coastal managers to evaluate the impact of artificial reefs on local marine species. Take a video tour of the Yukon and learn more about the project at SciStarter.
1. Ecological Assessment of the HMCS Yukon Artificial Reef
off San Diego, CA, Dr. Ed Parnell, 2004:
2. Wildbook: A Web-based Application for Wildlife Data Management
From shoveling the third heavy snowfall of winter to spotting the first crocus of spring, each day without fail we experience our environment. Meaning each of us is a potential wealth of information about our local environment. Information that if gathered could inform climate scientists about the local effects and potential indicators of climate change. This is the premise of iSeeChange, a crowdsourced journal of community submitted local weather and environment observations.
The variability of weather and environmental conditions is an inherent challenge in climate science. Is the current drought in California a result of climate change or just an extreme version of the state’s periodic droughts? Was the devastation of Hurricane Sandy a fluke event or foreshadowing of a future trend?
To address this variability, climate scientists collect and average data across large spans of time and space. But managing data this way poses its own issues. “Climate science has a difficult time drilling down and being relevant to everyday people making every day decisions,” says Julia Kumari Drapkin creator of iSeeChange. “We designed iSeeChange to bridge the gap between the big data that the scientists collect and the local experiences of individuals and communities. The project allows people to reach their hands up and meet the big data half way overcoming this problem of scale.”
Since its creation in 2012, iSeeChange has grown from a local weather almanac in Colorado to a nationwide environmental reporting network. Anyone can become a member and submit observations on the website. Viewers can sort through the data by date or season, refining their search through metrics such as humidity, precipitation or cloud cover. Ideally members submit data on a weekly basis but in reality participation can range from a single backyard photo to religiously gathered measurements. One iSeeChange member uploaded observations made in a journal kept by a Dust Bowl era fruit farmer, noted Julia.
But beyond a data repository, the purpose of the project is to encourage conversation between scientists, journalists and individuals. “We want people to be curious, ask questions about what they see and experience. Then scientists and journalists in our network try to answer those questions,” says Drapkin. “The posts help scientists and journalist as well. Member submissions call attention to interesting or unusual events, which get picked up by journalists, transforming a few individual’s observations into a larger story.”
And these stories will become informative climate data for the future. Already researchers are expressing interest in the data. The project’s growth and collaborations with scientific partners at NASA, UC Berkeley and Yale is setting the stage for a larger impact. Due out in summer, iSeeChange co-developed an app with NASA that will ping community members to send in local observations whenever satellites are overhead. “The app will allow for real time comparisons between what the satellite sees and what is happening on a local level,” explains Drapkin. “We will learn what the impacts are and why it matters. We will be able to take the quantitative data and match it to the qualitative data and see how they compare over time.”
Ultimately iSeeChange is about empowering individuals and communities to document and investigate their environment. “People are experts of their own backyards. The granular changes they observe add up to bigger picture changes,” says Drapkin. “Already, these community observations have given scientists and journalist new insights and heads up on environmental trends.”
If you collect data about your local environment, want to share an interesting change you have notice or have a question you, visit iSeeChange and become part of a large scale effort to document your environment. To learn more about iSeeChange view their trailer.
Thisi a guest post by Aaron Pomerantz, a version of which originally appeared on the author’s website The Next Gen Scientist. Search through hundreds of citizen science projects on SciStarter to find one that gets you buzzing!
A recent study has revealed thirty species that are new to science living in the bustling city of Los Angeles. This is really exciting news because we usually don’t think of urbanized areas as having biologically diverse environments. Our human-made habitat seems removed from nature; buildings and concrete replacing trees and earth. But our lack of information on urban environments has turned into an interesting research opportunity. A few years ago, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County initiated a project called BioSCAN to search for biodiversity, also known as the variety of life forms. Read the rest of this entry »
by Aditi Joshi
Are you a resident of the northern US or Canada? You can help scientists to spot amphibians!
Welcome Spring! As the temperature rises, the beauty of spring unfolds: snow melts, flowers bloom, and birds begin to chirp. In the amphibian world, spring marks the beginning of breeding activities. Among amphibians, wood frogs and spotted salamanders are usually the first to breed, laying eggs (spawns) in short-lived pools, ponds and wetlands.
Scientists like Dr. Stephen Spear, from the Orianne Society, are interested in monitoring amphibian breeding activity for further insight into the effect of climatic changes on certain ecosystems. For instance, a cold spell in spring may disrupt the breeding activities of amphibians. Additionally, the presence of commonly found amphibian species, such as wood frogs and spotted salamanders, indicates a relatively healthy landscape, which helps determine important conservation areas.
Monitoring the timing of breeding activity can be tricky. Wood frogs and spotted salamanders are found in wetlands across various states, including Alaska, southeastern states such as Georgia and Tennessee, northeastern states such as New York and Maine, and large parts of Canada. Realizing a small team would be ineffective in monitoring wood frogs and spotted salamanders widely distributed across the U.S. and Canada, the scientists sought support from citizen scientists.
Last year, the Orianne Society launched the citizen science project ‘Snapshots in Time’, providing participants with a unique opportunity to identify, observe, and photograph the various stages of amphibian life that they found near their homes. In 2014, citizen scientists contributed over 100 such observations. More observations reported from southern states as compared to northern states, likely due to the differences in the breeding season. In states such as North Dakota, Wisconsin and Michigan, breeding season spans from April to June, unlike southern states where breeding activity begins in January. This year, the project hopes for more observations from the northern states. Compared to the adult and egg stages of amphibian life, larvae are more difficult to spot, and only 15 percent of the observations were of the larvae and metamorphic stages. Some participants were able to see a fascinating courtship ritual – a well choreographed dance by salamanders to attract their partners.
According to Dr. Spear, spotted salamanders live on land but breed in wetlands. People who study spotted salamanders look forward to ‘mass migration’, an intriguing breeding activity where, on a rainy night, salamanders parade en masse from land to wetlands. That’s an exciting natural history experience.
Visit Snapshots in Time on SciStarter and learn how to participate.
If you loved reading about this citizen science project from SciStarter, use our project finder to search our database of more than 1000 projects! What’s more, subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll send you handpicked citizen science projects once every two weeks!
Aditi Joshi, a freelance science writer, is an expert in the field of clinical psychophysiology. She holds a PhD in Human Physiology from the University of Oregon and has published several academic papers. Apart from science, she is interested in Native American art, and art history.