Archive for the ‘Ocean & Water’ Category
With Hurricane Sandy looming large, weather’s the nation’s top news story. In case you’re at home sitting out the storm like the bulk of the SciStarter team, we’ve got you covered (no pun intended) with plenty of weather-related citizen science opportunities to help researchers and advance science.
Bonus: here’s a weather-appropriate, musical supplement to your citizen science project browsing below, an oldie-but-goodie from classic BBC.
While Sandy is currently moving across the east coast, it presents an opportunity for citizen scientists to help researchers at the University of Utah. Scientists studying the isotopic composition of rainwater and snow are enlisting the help of volunteers to develop an unprecedented spatial and temporal dataset documenting the isotopic composition of rainwater (and snow) associated with this major storm system. You can study the storm while it’s happening (with safety in mind first, of course!) by collecting rain and/or snow samples and logging information in a spreadsheet that you can download on the WaterIsotopes.org website!
This citizen science project allows you to help scientists recover Arctic and worldwide weather observations made by United States’ ships since the mid-19th century. Browse through online archival data of ship logs from decades past, then help transcribe and digitize them so that researchers can access them more easily. These transcriptions will contribute to climate model projections and will improve our knowledge of past environmental conditions. Historians will use your work to track past ship movements and tell the stories of the people on board. This nascent nautical venture is only 4% complete, so there’s plenty of work to be done!
The gorgeous, interactive website includes helpful tutorials on the transcription process and invites you to linger, browse, and imagine the history behind the documents you will be analyzing. Pick a vessel that suits your fancy, and dive into the vast sea of archives that come from it.
Beautiful videos like the one below illustrate the anthropological fingerprint and relevance in all the data:
Still craving more weather citizen science projects? Our SciStarter Project Finder is a library of hundreds of citizen science projects! Here are more of our favorite weather-related projects also featured on our home page today.
SkyWarn: During hazardous weather, SKYWARN volunteers report what is happening at their location. Reports arrive at the forecaster’s office via the telephone, fax, Internet, and amateur radio. The reports are combined with radar and satellite data to determine what the storms will do next.
CoCoRaHS: Rain, Hail, Snow Network: Each time a rain, hail, or snow storm occurs, volunteers take measurements of precipitation from their registered locations (reports of ‘zero’ precipitation are encouraged too!). The reports are submitted to the website and are immediately available for viewing. The National Weather Service, meteorologists, hydrologists, emergency managers, city utilities, insurance adjusters, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, engineers, mosquito control, ranchers and farmers, outdoor and recreation interests, teachers, students, and neighbors in the community use the data.
SatCam: SatCam lets you capture observations of sky and ground conditions with a smart phone app at the same time that an Earth observation satellite is overhead. Observe the earth’s weather from above.
RainLog: Live in Arizona? All of this week’s excitement about the weather doesn’t just have to be for east coasters. Join RainLog’s network of over 1,000 volunteers that use backyard rain gauges to monitor precipitation across Arizona and in neighboring states. Data collected through this network will be used for a variety of applications, from watershed management activities to drought planning at local, county, and state levels.
SnowTweets: How much snow is on the ground where you are? Cryosphere researchers at the University of Waterloo want to know! The Snowtweets Project provides a way for people interested in snow measurements to quickly broadcast their own snow depth measurements to the web.
Students’ Cloud Observations Online (S’COOL): a citizen science project in which volunteers make and report cloud observations from sites of their choosing, such as a field trip, vacation, or even a backyard. The project aims to collect data on cloud type, height, cover, and related conditions from all over the world. Observations are sent to NASA for comparison to similar information obtained from satellite.
Citizen Weather Observer Program: Are you a ham? The Citizen Weather Observer Program is a group of ham radio operators and other private citizens around the country who have volunteered the use of their weather data for education, research, and use by interested parties. There are currently over 8,000 registered members worldwide and over 500 different user organizations. Their weather data are used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and distributed to user organizations.
Though it may be that these citizen science projects require more rain than shine for full effect, we’re sure that they’re likely to help brighten your day or, at the least, provide plenty of distractions from the gloomy news reports.
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.”
You might not realize it, but it’s always out there. Planning. Growing. Waiting for the perfect time to strike. You never quite know when it will happen. Maybe July. Maybe August. But you know it’s coming, and you can’t escape it. In an awesome display of speed and power, it bursts from an otherwise calm summer sea and takes over. Terrifying though it is, you just can’t look away.
I’m talking, of course, about the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, the seven-day marathon of programming celebrating the world’s most feared—and revered—predator. Now, in the midst of it’s 25th year of sidelining would-be beach-goers, Shark Week enjoys ratings (drawing in 3.3 million viewers in its first hour in 2011) previously reserved for major television events and pop culture phenomena like the Super Bowl or American Idol.
Scientists, meanwhile, are hard at work studying these creatures, and they need your help! I know you’re thinking, and don’t worry. We saw Jaws too. But did you know that several of the over 400 species of sharks, including the iconic Great White, are endangered or vulnerable due to commercial fishing and shark finning?
Here’s a few citizen science projects from around the world enlisting the help of divers, fishermen and boaters to contribute data for scientific study or conservation purposes. Happy Shark Week!
Shark Trust invites everyone, especially recreational divers, to report their shark sightings and send in photos for inclusion in their global database used by scientists and conservationists to track and manage sustainable shark populations around the world. Shark Trust ensures the security of its data and safeguards local populations by listing only the region of the sighting, never the exact location, lest it be misused by hunters or fishermen.
According to Michael Bear of California Diver Magazine, divers in the waters off San Diego suddenly began reporting sevengill sightings in 2009. “So little is known about them and their [migration] habits,” said Bear, “[so I wanted to find out why] they began appearing and congregating in a specific spot.” Through his partnership with the Shark Observation Network, the Sevengill Shark Sightings data will contribute to a global database available to researchers and the general public. Bear also founded Citizen Scientists of the Ocean on Facebook, whose relatively modest (but active) membership includes “Her Deepness,” oceanographer and explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle. Like it!
Spot a fin and email it in! The Basking Shark Project from the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance invites fisherman, whale watchers, and boaters to report their sightings of the basking shark, one of the world’s largest fish at 39 feet long, second in size to only the whale shark. Their triangular dorsal fin often breaches the surface when they feed—a chilling image from an all-but-harmless beast. They’re filter feeders! Your data will help scientists better understand their local population size and distribution patterns.
If you’re lucky enough to spot or swim alongside one of these rare, majestic (and endangered) creatures, snap a photo and send it to ECOCEAN’s Whale Shark Photo-identification Library. Using the same algorithm that NASA astronomers use to analyze star patterns and thus compare photos of the night sky to guide telescopes, scientists can identify and track individual whale sharks by the unique spot patterns on their backs. According to Wired, the approach is not limited to whale sharks, having been adapted for tracking polar bears by their whisker patterns and humpback whales by the shape of their fins, and could revolutionize wildlife tagging and tracking as we know it.
Why Sharks Matter
If you find yourself in Charleston, SC, you can help David Shiffman from Southern Fried Science and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources capture, tag, and release their resident shark species. At least you’ll be on a boat. Anyone can volunteer, but beware of seasickness!
On September 18, 2011, people around the world will be taking a closer look at their local waterways during World Water Monitoring Day. Join in the project and help figure out whether the freshwater near you is clean.
Clean freshwater is an important resource for people. It keeps ecosystems healthy too. The water flowing through a small stream leads into larger rivers and lakes. All that water flows downhill together. It’s all connected in a watershed. Understanding the health of our watersheds is critical to understanding whether people, animals, and plants are getting the clean water they need. Volunteers with the World Water Monitoring Day seek to make measurements of freshwater to identify the health of the world’s watersheds.
Using a test kit, volunteers figure out what’s in their water. They measure the temperature, acidity (pH), clarity (turbidity), and dissolved oxygen (DO) of water and then report the findings online. The test kit costs $13 plus shipping, or you can use your own water monitoring equipment if you’d like. There are kits available at no charge for participants from low and middle-income countries thanks to support of sponsors. Test kit instructions are available in 17 languages.
As summer comes to a close, a young person’s fancy may turn to fretting at the thought of being cooped up in a classroom. But for fans of science and nature—and by that we mean kids who like to watch clouds, hunt mushrooms, prowl around graveyards, and check out what gets squashed on the side of the road—fall need not signal the end of fun.
To keep young minds entertained as well as enlightened, we recommend the following 10 back-to-school projects for student citizen scientists. Teachers and parents, please note: Many of these programs provide materials around which you can build lessons. And there are lots more where these came from. Visit our Project Finder for a full list of citizen science projects for primary and secondary school students.
World Water Monitoring Day: World Water Monitoring Day is an international program that encourages citizen volunteers to monitor their local water bodies. An easy-to-use test kit enables everyone from children to adults to sample local water bodies for basic water quality parameters: temperature, acidity (pH), clarity (turbidity), and dissolved oxygen. Though World Water Monitoring Day is officially celebrated on September 18, the monitoring window is extended to cover the period from March 22 (World Water Day) until December 31. Check out what one of our members said about the project.
School of Ants: Join North Carolina State University researchers in a citizen-scientist driven study of the ants that live in urban areas, particularly around homes and schools. Collection kits are available to anyone interested in participating. Teachers, students, parents, kids, junior-scientists, senior citizens and enthusiasts of all stripes are involved in collecting ants in schoolyards and backyards using a standardized protocol so that project coordinators can make detailed maps of the wildlife that lives just outside their doorsteps.
The Albedo Project: Wherever you are – anywhere in the world – on September 23th, contribute to science by taking a photo of a blank white piece of paper, outside in the sun, between 4:00 and 7:00 pm local time. Your photo will used to to help students measure how much of the sun’s energy is reflected back from the Earth — our planet’s “albedo.” It’s one way scientists can monitor how much energy – and heat – is being absorbed by our planet.
Students’ Cloud Observations On-Line (S’COOL): Report your observations of clouds—their shapes, height, coverage, and related conditions—so that NASA scientists can compare them with data from weather satellites passing over your area. Tutorials and observing guides are available for students. For teachers, the program provides lesson plans, charts, and advice on related educational standards.
Physics Songs: Physics Songs aims to be the world’s premier website devoted to collecting and organizing all songs about physics. It is managed by Walter F. Smith, Professor of Physics at Haverford College. Songs about physics can help students to remember critical concepts and formulas, but perhaps more importantly they communicate the lesson that physics can be fun.
Scientists want you to record and share rain measurements and other on-the-ground observations in part to help pinpoint hurricane Irene’s actions, determine her next steps, and better predict and react to future storms. In addition to your help recording on-the-ground rain precipitation, scientists rely on watershed volunteers to provide important clues about the effects of storm-water runoff, carbon cycles of waterways, etc. Here’s a list of opportunities to get involved in local watershed monitoring efforts. To help scientists record on-the-ground rain measurements, you will need a high capacity rain gauge.
Don’t have a rain gauge? Enter here to win a free one so you can join in next time! Through the Changing Planet series, a partnership with National Science Foundation, NBC Learn, and DISCOVER Magazine, we’re offering up to 20 of these gauges to our members, free of charge ($25 value).
(Note: Safety first. Please heed all evacuation recommendations issued in your area. )
This post was originally published on Citizen Science Buzz, a blog on TalkingScience that highlights science projects that are helping us better understand our planet and the Universe.
On June 1, 2011 at 11:51 PM, a group of people assembled on the beach in Northpoint, New York. There was no moon shining that night, not even a sliver. The people carried flashlights or wore headlamps. They held clipboards and paper.
Their mission: to report where horseshoe crabs were spotted along the beach.
This was just one of several places along New York’s shoreline where people collect data about horseshoe crabs. Volunteers also amassed on dark beaches in Stony Brook, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Westhampton. In all, volunteers monitored the comings and goings of horseshoe crabs at ten New York beaches that night.
They are a part of the New York Horseshoe Crab Monitoring Network, a group of citizen scientists who are documenting where horseshoe crabs emerge from the water to lay eggs along beaches in New York State. On specific dates through the spring and early summer, participants collect data about the number of horseshoe crabs and identify their size and sex. They attach tags to the horseshoe crabs bulky exoskeleton and look for tags from prior years.
Guest post by Kate Atkins
If your first thoughts when you hear the word “cruise” are fruity drinks with paper umbrellas, jet skis, and late nights in the hot tub: think again.
Replace the hot tub with Mendenhall Glacier, the fruity drink with test tubes of fresh stream water, and the jet ski with a whale watching boat, and you begin to get the picture. If you have the fortune to find yourself on a ship through Alaska’s Inside Passage, you’ll find an extra citizen science kick in Juneau. The Whales and Glacier Science Adventure, run by Gastineau Guiding, does not disappoint.
On the surface, the excursion seems little different from any One Day in Juneau itinerary: visiting the mighty Mendenhall, going whale watching. (I would add eating at Tracy’s King Crab Shack to the list as well, but you’re not here for menu tips.)
But on this excursion, participants collect real data that will be put to real use. On the day my family and I joined the tour, our guides were a PhD student in evolutionary biology, and a Juneau native on her way to her first biology degree. Jason and Annika did a great job engaging a group whose ages ranged from 7 to 70, which is no small feat in itself. Each of us emerged having learned something new and having gotten our hands dirty.
In the Mendenhall area, we stopped at a small fresh water stream to test water quality. Our guides provided us with kits to measure dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH and salinity. In a rapidly changing, successional ecosystem, these data are forming the baseline for tracking change as the glacier continues to melt, and as tourist infrastructure evolves around it. The data will be shared with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Juneau Watershed Partnership and other organizations for analysis in myriad projects. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
This post was originally published on Citizen Science Buzz, a blog on TalkingScience that highlights science projects that are helping us better understand our planet and the Universe.
It seems strange to mark the location of a fish, doesn’t it? They can swim and move away from the marker, right? I wonder while standing on a dock waiting for the boat that will take about ten of us out to a reef. There, we will scuba dive for fun and also mark the locations of lionfish, an invasive species in the Caribbean.
Volunteer divers on the Dutch island of Bonaire are helping Bonaire National Marine Park eliminate invasive lionfish from its coral reefs by marking the locations where the fish are found. A diver who spots a lionfish is instructed to attach a small flag, provided by the park, to a rock near the fish.
The answers to my questions about marking fish locations become clear once I splash into the water and see the fish and flag markers for myself. Swimming along sections of reef, I saw dozens of flags that had been placed there by divers and each had one or more lionfish hovering nearby. It turns out that lionfish don’t stray far from their particular nook of reef. They stay near the markers.
It’s illegal to hunt or in any way harm marine life in the waters surrounding Bonaire. Except, that is, for lionfish.