Archive for the ‘Ocean & Water’ Category
Baby, it’s cold outside! To mark the first day of winter on December 21st, the SciStarter team put together this list of wintery Citizen Science projects. We bet you’ll feel warm and fuzzy inside when you participate.
Even if your local winter weather does not include ice and snow, you can take a virtual trip to Antarctica. Use satellite images to help scientists count Wedell Seals. Get started!
As an IceWatch USA™ volunteer, you observe a water body in your area over the winter, and report on weather (snow, precipitation, ice cover) as well as wildlife activity. Get started!
Transcribe Arctic and worldwide weather observations made by United States’ ships since the mid-19th century. Help scientists create accurate climate models. Historians will use your work to track past ship movements and tell the stories of the people on board. Get started!
You can complain about your flu symptoms (or boast about your health) while helping scientists measure influenza trends. Get started!
Contribute to real-time research by Tweeting your snow and ice depth measurements to researchers at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Get started!
Do you participate in more than one citizen science project? We’ll give you a free T-shirt if you let us pick your brain for 15 minutes! Email Carolyn@SciStarter.com
We are partnering up with WHYY-a National Public Radio station-to help share stories about citizen science projects and people in PA, NJ and DE. If you have a story to share, let us know! Contact Lily@SciStarter.com
If you’d like your citizen science project featured on SciStarter, email Jenna@scistarter.com
Drag your bones toward more Halloween-themed citizen science.
The snapper, the groper and the emperor—these are not synonyms for that nasty blind date you landed last month, nor do they form the lineup for a cast of Halloween characters. These are fish. In particular they are demersal species, which refers to a type of fish that thrives in the briny depths, living and feeding at the bottom of the sea. Along with the West Australian dhufish and the bight redfish, the pink snapper, baldchin groper and redthroat emperor are being monitored by the Western Australia Department of Fisheries.
Citizen scientists can help with the project Send Us Your Skeletons. In particular a breed of citizen scientists who are invested in the future of their pastime can help—recreational fishers.
The Fisheries Department needs to know if significant management changes they put in place a few years ago are helping stocks to recover. They are asking fishers to donate the frames of fish caught by anglers, for research purposes. A fish frame is more than a skeleton. It is the fish without the fillets, or conversely, the skeleton, head and guts.
The department is currently collecting skeletons along the whole of the West Coast Bioregion (between Kalbarri and Augusta as shown by a map). “This is to ensure that the samples are temporally and spatially representative,” said team leader Dr. David Fairclough. “The current collection period is this fiscal year—July 2013 to June 2014. The samples for this period will be used in our next stock assessment.”.
The department records the length, sex and reproductive stage of the fish, and then removes the otolith or ear-bone. Examination of the otolith enables them to determine the age of the fish. When scientists gather a large number of ear-bones, they are also able to calculate what proportions of fish of different ages there are in a stock. Age structure is an important indication of the health of a population, and knowing the age structure helps fisheries managers understand if the current fishing levels are sustainable. The short of it is: donate your fish skeletons to ensure good fishing in the future.
The number of demersal fish frames from the WCB donated by recreational fishers in 2010/2011 increased from the previous year with twice as many fishers taking part; up from 179 to 352. This was an important result—it indicated a greater awareness of the monitoring program. Over the three years from 2008 to 2010, the fisheries department also collected 1,562 dhufish, 3,392 snapper and 995 baldchin from the commercial sector. The number of frames donated has provided comprehensive data upon which stock assessments can be calculated.
The first assessment back in 2007 identified declining stocks of these three species. Significant changes to the way the department manages the West Coast Demersal Scalefish Fishery were introduced to help stocks recover. Since then, their most important objective has been to monitor the indicator species for signs of recovery. To assess the status of their stocks, the Fisheries Department relies on the recreational and commercial sectors’ support in donating fish skeletons. The more frames collected in each zone of the bioregion, the more confident they can be about the status of demersal species stocks. Previous assessments showed that overfishing of the demersal species had been occurring.
“We have just completed the stock assessments for our three indicator species for the west coast demersal scalefish resource—West Australian dhufish, Snapper and Baldchin groper. These assessments were based on fish frames donated by recreational and commercial fishers between 2008/09 and 2010/11. The results of the assessment will be released shortly,” said Fairclough. The science reports will also be available.
Recreational fishers can now contribute not only to the science-based setting of catch limits, but also to the fishing future of their children. A big fish isn’t always an old fish, and an old fish isn’t always a big fish. Donate the frames and you will not only be entered to win a prize—either fishing gear or a courtesy charter fishing trip—but you will be contributing to management of both the big fish and the old fish.
The department is also monitoring pink snapper, bight redfish and blue morwong in the South Coast Bioregion, and the nearshore species—Australian herring, tailor and whiting in both bioregions.
Watch the video below to see just how to remove the fillets from your fish.
Old Fish Table – West Coast Demersal Team, Western Australia Department of Fisheries
Tag – West Coast Demersal Team, Western Australia Department of Fisheries
Ian Vorster has a MS in Environmental Communications and most recently served as director of communications at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. Prior to that he worked in the health communications field. Ian has served as a designer, writer, photographer, editor and project leader in the field of science, and now works freelance in a blend of these roles.
Today is World Water Monitoring Day! Participate by ordering a test kit and submitting sample data through December of this year. Also, check out the ocean of other water citizen science projects on SciStarter.
Here at SciStarter, we spend a lot of time supporting citizen science, but we also happen to be citizen scientists ourselves. In the spirit of World Water Monitoring Day, I trekked to the Charles River in Boston to grab a water sample. Barring all potential parking and trespassing violations, it was a success! Still, you might wonder, why does this sample matter? Why care about water?
I’m glad you asked. But before I dive deeper (pun intended), here are some facts to consider. An adult human is made of ~60% water. About 70% of Earth is covered by water. We need water for our metabolic processes internally and for our day-to-day tasks externally. Water is there when you shower, brush your teeth, or guzzle down a drink after a run. Water is also essential for the productivity of farms, which, in turn, provide us food. You get the picture: we need water. Likewise, so do other animals and plants, especially those that live in or near aquatic environments.
Consequently, the sample data collected and submitted by millions of people on World Water Monitoring Day not only benefit us human beings. It also helps scientists better understand a multitude of aquatic environments around the globe.
Participating couldn’t be easier. World Water Monitoring Challenge, an education and outreach program, provides kits that you can purchase and use to sample the water in your area. Here are the main concepts behind what you can test and why it’s important to do so.
Turbidity, the measure of relative water clarity. This is important when producing drinking water for human consumption and for many manufacturing uses. Turbid water may be the result of soil erosion, urban runoff, algal blooms, and bottom sediment disturbances caused by boat traffic and bottom-feeding fish. (You can even make your own secchi disk to measure turbidity.)
pH, a measurement of the acidic or basic quality of water. Most aquatic animals are adapted to a specific range of pH level and could die, stop reproducing, or move away if the pH of the water varies beyond their range. Low pH levels can also allow toxic compounds to be exposed to aquatic plants and animals. pH can be affected by atmospheric deposition (acid rain), wastewater discharge, drainage from mines, or the type of rock in the surrounding area.
Dissolved oxygen levels. Natural water with consistently high dissolved oxygen levels is most likely to sustain stable and healthy environments. Changes to aquatic environments can affect the availability of oxygen in the water. High levels of bacteria or large amounts of rotting plants can cause the oxygen saturation to decrease, which affects the ability of plants and animals to survive in and around it.
Water temperature. If temperatures are outside an organism’s normal range, the organism could become stressed or potentially die. Temperature also affects the rate of photosynthesis in aquatic plants as well as their sensitivity to toxic wastes, parasites, and disease. Furthermore, water temperature can affect the amount of oxygen water can hold (cold water holds more oxygen than warm water).
This project is ideal for anyone who lives near a water source, educators who want ideas to teach students about water chemistry, or citizen scientists hoping to contribute to an increasingly important field of research.
It’s the perfect project to illustrate that when it comes to citizen science, you can dive right in.
“How Much Water is There On, In, and Above Earth?” USGS. Web. 9/18/13
“Importance of Turbidity.” Environmental Protection Agency. 9/18/13
“The Water in You.” USGS. Web. 9/18/13
World Water Monitoring Challenge booklet
“World Water Monitoring Day.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Web. 9/18/13
Images: Lily Bui
Lily Bui is the executive editor of SciStarter. She holds dual degrees in International Studies and Spanish from the University of California Irvine. She has worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; served in AmeriCorps in Montgomery County, Maryland; worked for a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter; and performed across the U.S. as a touring musician. She currently works in public media at WGBH-TV and the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) in Boston, MA. In her spare time, she thinks of cheesy science puns. Follow @dangerbui.
This post is part of this week’s featured projects about water quality monitoring. Take a look!
Despite over 70% of the Earth’s surface being covered in water, one in nine people do not have access to an improved water source.(1) Contaminated water kills more people than all wars, crimes and terrorism combined yet more people have a mobile phone than a toilet.(1,2,3) Every day, on our way to work or school or play, we encounter local water supplies, subconsciously noting their health. Could improving water quality be as simple as snapping a photo on your smart phone?
Creek Watch was developed by IBM research – Almaden, in consultation with the California Water Resources Control Board’s Clean Water Team, to empower citizen scientists to observe and monitor the health of their local watersheds. According to Christine Robson, an IBM computer scientist who helped develop Creek Watch, “Creek Watch lets the average citizen contribute to the health of their water supply – without PhDs, chemistry kits and a lot of time.”
Watersheds, land where all the water in creeks and streams drain into the same aquifer, river, lake, estuary or ocean, surround us. Conservation biologist Erick Burres of California’s Citizen Monitoring Program: The Clean Water Team explains, “Creek Watch as a learning tool introduces people to their streams and water quality concepts.”
Once the free iPhone application is downloaded, citizen scientists are asked to take a photo of their local waterway and answer three simple questions: What is the water level? (Dry? Some? Full?) What is its rate of flow? (Still? Slow? Fast?) And, how much trash is there? (None? Some? A lot?) The photo, GPS tag, and answers are then uploaded in real-time to a central database accessible to water experts around the world. Water resource managers track pollution, develop sound management strategies for one of our most valuable resources, and implement effective environmental stewardship programs.
Since its launch in November 2010, over 4000 citizen scientists in 25 countries have monitored creeks and streams, providing invaluable information to over-extended water resource managers; water quality data that would otherwise be unavailable. Watershed biologist Carol Boland is using this data to prioritize pollution cleanup efforts in San Jose, California. Similarly, local citizen scientists are comparing their observations to previous years as well as data collected around the world on the Creek Watch map to help inform local voluntary stewardship programs.
Creek Watch is increasing global awareness about watersheds and environmental protection. This is just the beginning. Future applications will allow citizens to monitor every aspect of their surroundings – from urban services to wildlife distribution, noise pollution to air quality and even global warming; in order to solve some of the biggest challenges of our day.
Join thousands of citizen scientists monitoring our planet’s water supply as you head to work, school, and play this week. Could your picture save a thousand streams?
Photo : IBM Research
1. Estimated with data from WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation. (2012). Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water, 2012 Update.
2. International Telecommunication Union (ITU). (2011). The World in 2011 ICT Facts and Figures.
3. United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). (2011). State of World Population 2011, People and possibilities in a world of 7 billion.
Dr. Melinda T. Hough is a freelance science advocate and writer. Her previous work has included a Mirzayan Science and Technology Graduate Policy Fellowship at the National Academy of Sciences (2012), co-development of several of the final science policy questions with ScienceDebate.org (2012), consulting on the development of the Seattle Science Festival EXPO day (2012), contributing photographer for JF Derry’s book “Darwin in Scotland” (2010) and outreach projects to numerous to count. Not content to stay stateside, Melinda received a B.S in Microbiology from the University of Washington (2001) before moving to Edinburgh, Scotland where she received a MSc (2002) and PhD (2008) from the University of Edinburgh trying to understand how antibiotics kill bacteria. Naturally curious, it is hard to tear Melinda away from science; but if you can, she might be found exploring, often behind the lens of her Nikon D80, training for two half-marathons, or plotting her next epic adventure.
Here at SciStarter, we’re learning something new every day. Last month, when we featured the World Water Monitoring Challenge as a great citizen science project for the classroom, we learned about World Water Monitoring Day. This is celebrated on September 18th and brings people together from around the globe to help keep an eye on our most precious natural resource. (Order your test kit, and get involved!)
On our homepage, and in our current newsletter (sign up to receive our newsletter!), we are featuring five additional water quality monitoring projects, but there are many more. Use our Project Finder or look for one near you on the list below.
Note: These are mostly web-based projects, so it doesn’t matter where you participate from. However, we highlighted which regions these projects benefit to help you choose!
- Lake Meade PA Environmetal Education Initiative - Pennsylvania
- Utah Water Watch - Utah
- Water Isotopes: Hurricane Sandy - East coast
- Illinois RiverWatch - Illinois
- Changing Currents - Toronto
- Boise Watershed Watch - Idaho
- Master Watershed Steward - Arizona
- Juturna – Ontario, Toronto
- River Source Watershed Monitoring - New Mexico
- Colorado River Watch Network - Colorado
- Great Swamp Watershed Association World Water Monitoring Day - New Jersey
- Yuba River Water Quality Monitoring – California
- Georgia Adopt-A-Stream - Georgia
- TraCkS: Traverse Creek Stewardship – California
- GSWA Stream Team – New Jersey
- Passaic River Environmental Education and Monitoring Organization – New Jersey
- Contra Costa Volunteer Creek Monitoring – California
- Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program – Missouri
- Yreka Creek Citizen Monitoring Project – California
- Willamette Riverkeeper Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring - Oregon
- Missouri Stream Team Program – Missouri
- Shermans Creek Watershed Monitoring Program – Pennsylvania
Dr. Jenna Lang spends her days exploring the various means by which microbes rule the world. She has worked with Jonathan Eisen since 2006, first as an employee of the DOE Joint Genome Institute, then as a Microbiology PhD student, and now as a permanent fixture in his lab at UC Davis. Jenna became hooked on Citizen Science while working with Darlene on Project MERCCURI, and now aims to include a citizen science component in all future research projects. For fun, she likes to play poker, at the Bellagio, in her wedding dress.
Image: Jose Manuel Suarez