Archive for the ‘Syndicated’ Category

Liberty and Science for All: Project MERCCURI press release

By January 31st, 2014 at 8:52 am | Comment

Darlene Cavalier, founder of SciStarter, swabs the Liberty Bell for microbes in Philadelphia.

Darlene Cavalier, founder of SciStarter, swabs the Liberty Bell for microbes in Philadelphia.

Thanks to the Independence National Historical Park for giving me access to the Liberty Bell. I had a lot of fun collecting microbes from this national treasure in my hometown!

Happy to announce that the microbes from the Liberty Bell have been selected to fly on the International Space Station where their growth rates will be analyzed and compared to their counterparts back at the UC Davis lab! We will be announcing each selected microbe over the course of the next two weeks, with Philly first.

This research is part of Project MERCCURI, a citizen science project from UC Davis, Science Cheerleader and SciStarter, to examine the diversity of microbes on Earth and on the International Space Station.

Check out this particular microbe’s very own trading card! Here’s an excerpt:

Where we found it: On the Liberty Bell (Philadelphia, PA)

Why it’s awesome: This is an important industrial organism, used for the production of penicillin, vitamins, various drugs, and numerous enzymes

Fun fact: The species name of this microbe means “big beast” and it is among the largest bacteria ever discovered

In addition to the microbes from the Liberty Bell, six other microbes from Philadelphia were selected by UC Davis researchers to blast into space for research at the International Space Station. Here are links to images and more information about the microbes collected from the following sites in Philadelphia and selected to fly on the International Space Station:

Chemical Heritage Foundation
Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia 76ers
The Franklin Institute
The Academy of Natural Sciences (microbes collected by St. Peter’s School students)
St. Joseph’s Preparatory School
WHYY studio

A total of 48 samples were selected from across the country.

Here’s more information about this project:

Davis, CA. (Jan. 30, 2014) — Microbes collected from Philadelphia landmarks will soon blast into orbit for research and a microgravity growth competition on the International Space Station (ISS). This citizen science project, known as Project MERCCURI, investigates how microbes from different places on Earth compare to each other and to those found on the International Space Station.

Led by the Science Cheerleaders (current and former NFL and NBA cheerleaders pursuing science and technology careers), thousands of people across the United States participated in the project. Several Pop Warner cheer teams swabbed practice fields, shoes, and cell phones for microbes. Other people collected microbial samples at NFL, NBA, and MLB stadiums; from schools; from landmarks like the Liberty Bell, Sue the T-Rex, the statue of Ben Franklin in Philadelphia, and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum; and during events including Yuri’s Nights, a series of gatherings across the country to commemorate the first human in space.

The microbes they gathered were examined by the “microbiology team” in the laboratory of Dr. Jonathan Eisen at the University of California at Davis. The team selected 48 microbes (SEVEN of which are from Philadelphia!), which, with approval from NASA, are to ride the SpaceX Falcon 9 to the Space Station for further research. The rocket is scheduled to launch from the Kennedy Space Center in early March.

The public will be able to follow Project MERCCURI as it continues over the next several months via the web site The site will include updates from the research on the Space Station including results of the “microbial playoffs” growth competition. The site also features free interactive visualization tools, lesson plans for teachers, and even trading cards that include photos and the details of each microbe selected for the project, as well as their importance.

In addition to the research in space, thousands of additional samples collected by the public are being analyzed further at UC Davis and by the lab of Dr. Jack Gilbert at Argonne National Laboratory. The microbes found in these samples are being assayed using DNA sequencing technology, and the resulting data will be made available to the public and also integrated with results of the Earth Microbiome Project. Scientists hope to gain insights into what is living at the ISS, how microbes vary between different places on Earth and in space, and to compare growth of microbes on Earth and in microgravity. Philadelphia 76ers fans will have the opportunity to participate in this part of the research during Science at the Sixers night on 2/18 when the 76ers host the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“We are in the midst of a revolution in our ability to study the hidden world of microbes found throughout the planet,” said Jonathan Eisen, Professor at UC Davis and leader of the microBEnet (microbiology of the built environment network) team doing the microbiology side of Project MERCCURI. “One area of growing interest is in studying the microbes living right around us – in our buildings – on our phones – and elsewhere. The Science Cheerleader group has allowed us to get thousands of people to not only think more about the microbes among us, but to also participate in a microbial diversity research project. And those people have helped us get more samples than we have been able to obtain previously.”

“A lot of people ask us *why* we’re sending microbes into space,” said Dr. David Coil, a microbiologist at UC Davis. “Understanding how microbes behave in microgravity is critically important for planning long-term manned spaceflight but also has the possibility of giving us new insight into how these microbes behave in built environments on Earth.”

“This initiative is not just about significant research,” said Darlene Cavalier, a former 76ers cheerleader and Founder of Science Cheerleader and SciStarter, both based in Philadelphia. “It’s about engaging the public in that research. Microbes that were collected at Georgia Tech are taking a ride on the International Space Station. They’re the subject of research by microbiologists and astronauts. We hope that inspires youngsters as well as adults to become more aware of and involved in science.”

Project MERCCURI is coordinated by Science Cheerleader,, and UC Davis, in conjunction with the Argonne National Laboratory. The Project is made possible by Space Florida, NanoRacks, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.


Note to editors: To arrange interviews with the research team at UC Davis, members of the Science Cheerleader or SciStarter teams, or with local groups that participated in collecting the microbes, please email Claire LaBeaux,

Image: Courtey of Darlene Cavalier

This post originally appeared on the Science Cheerleader blog.

EPA Launches New Citizen Science Website; Resources Available to Conduct Scientific Investigations in Communities

By January 11th, 2014 at 1:56 pm | Comment


(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has revamped its Citizen Science website to provide new resources and success stories to assist the public in conducting scientific research and collecting data to better understand their local environment and address issues of concern. The website can be found here.

“Citizen Science is an increasingly important part of EPA’s commitment to using sound science and technology to protect people’s health and safeguard the environment,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “The EPA encourages the public to use the new website as a tool in furthering their scientific investigations and developing solutions to pollution problems.”

The updated website now offers detailed information about air, water and soil monitoring, including recommended types of equipment and resources for conducting investigations. It also includes case studies and videotapes that showcase successful citizen science projects in New York and New Jersey, provides funding opportunities, quality assurance information and workshops and webinars.

The EPA Region 2 Citizen Science Program, which covers New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and eight federally recognized Indian Nations within New York State, welcomes the efforts of citizen scientists to better understand and protect the environment. By providing the tools to increase the quality of the data collected and assist in its interpretation, the EPA is helping the public achieve greater levels of environmental protection.
Visit the website today to explore the new Citizen Science website and sign up for our mailing list to receive regular updates on Citizen Science from EPA Region 2.

Release Date: 01/09/2014

Contact Information: Jennifer May-Reddy,, 212-637-3658

This originally appeared on the EPA blog.

Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards All Birds: Christmas Bird Count

By December 24th, 2013 at 10:39 am | Comment

If you’re looking for more projects for the holiday season, we’ve got 12 Days of Citizen Science for you!

by Kenn Kaufman

Bird watching has been popular for a long time. It goes back at least as far as the 1780 bird-listing song so popular with carolers, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Certainly only birders would count 7 swans (a-swimming), 6 geese (a-laying), 5 golden rings (evidence of historic bird-banding practices), 4 colly birds (blackbirds), 3 French hens, 2 turtle doves, and 1 partridge (in a pear tree).

Even further back, roughly in the year 0 AD, odds are pretty good that at least one of the three wise men in the manger was a birder. It was exactly 1,900 years later in the United States when Frank Chapman turned a traditional Christmas Side Hunt into an event for counting birds and pooling their numbers instead of their carcasses. In so doing, he cultivated Christmas spirit towards sharing knowledge instead of consuming resources. Even more, he anticipated that the shared knowledge would be put to use towards conserving our feathery companions. The Christmas Bird Count, now run by the Audubon Society, is an iconic example of citizen science. To this day, many say “bah-humbug” to their holiday shopping list in order to make time for their species checklist.

And for many bird lovers, one annual tradition is not enough. People extend the Christmas spirit of the Audubon event by sharing their observations in other programs. These include Project FeederWatch (November through early April) run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada, and the Breeding Bird Survey (summer) run by the US Geological Service’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Several years ago, I realized that data from the Christmas Bird Count might shed light on a fundamental issue in ecology: competition between species in the wild. With enthusiastic colleagues, we analyzed trends of two very common species in Christmas Bird Counts for a research paper in the journal Ecology.

The Contestants

The hypothesized competitors were House Sparrows and House Finches. If you watch a bird feeder, you may even see these two common birds interact in ways that generated this initial hypothesis of competition. These two species fight for the same food.

by goosie~gander on Flickr

House Finches are small, brown streaked birds, and the males, when on the right diet, have lipstick red feathers on their heads and upper bodies. They are native to the western US and were introduced to the eastern US in the 1940s. House Sparrows are native to Europe and only introduced to the US in the late 1800s. You are probably familiar with them as they hop around to eat crumbs in parking lots or under tables at any outdoor café. These are rough-and-tumble little birds that don’t just challenge birds their own size: they also can out-compete their much larger cousin, the Eastern Bluebird, in battles over nestboxes.

We confined the study to the Midwestern US, where neither House Finches nor House Sparrows were in their native range, neither holding a home-field advantage.

The Match

For ecologists, seeing two species fight doesn’t qualify as sufficient evidence for competition; we need to see a population-level response. In captivity, researchers can see when two species of fruit flies cannot coexist, but how relevant is that to how competition influences wild populations? In field studies, when similar species are able to co-exist, the differences in their niches are often interpreted as evidence of past competition. Ongoing competition is hard to show in the wild because it requires experimentally altering one population and looking for a response in the other and then vice versa to validate. Thus, only through field experiments that manipulate populations can we find reliable evidence of competition. After the introduction of House Finches to the eastern US, researchers began to make a case for competition by noting subsequent declines in House Sparrows. But the vice versa was needed to confirm.

Opportunity for this confirmation presented itself when House Finches declined dramatically in 1994-96 in the mid-western US due to the spread of a conjunctivitis eye disease. The spread of the disease was tracked through citizen science efforts in the House Finch Disease Survey, and continues to be tracked directly through Project FeederWatch. The rise and fall of House Finch populations from invasion and then disease, in areas with House Sparrows, created a natural experimental test of competition. There are few opportunities to look for evidence of competition among wild birds, especially at such large scales. We couldn’t have taken advantage of this opportunity without citizen science.

The Winner

The long-term monitoring in the Christmas Bird Count revealed the vice versa: House Sparrows increased soon after House Finch declined from disease. And we found the same support from observations contributed to Project FeederWatch and the Breeding Bird Survey. This means that House Finches are the competitive winners, giving House Sparrows their come-uppance, except when other factors, like eye disease, turn the tables and decrease the House Finch populations.

Science is based on observation, as is bird watching. No wonder science and birding have been united by citizen science for over a century. Over 70,000 people participated in the Christmas Bird Count last year. I’m sure there will be even more this year. Let’s celebrate the holiday season with good will towards all birds.

Images: Kenn Kaufman (with permission), Flickr

This post originally appeared on the  PLOS CitizenSci Blog.

Dr. Caren Cooper is also a blogger for Scientific American and the Public Library of Science. She is a research associate at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and Senior Fellow in the Environmental Leadership Program. She is co-chair of the publications committee of the newly forming Association for Citizen Science and co-editor of an upcoming special feature on citizen science in the open-access journal Ecology & Society. She has authored over 35 scientific papers, co-developed software to automate metrics of incubation rhythms, and is co-creator of NestWatch, CamClickr, Celebrate Urban Birds, YardMap, and the House Sparrow Project. Follow her @CoopSciScoop. She likes to propel herself on one wheel, two wheel, and eight wheel devices. Webinar on 12/6/13 : Building Datasheets

By December 5th, 2013 at 11:39 am | Comment

This is a webinar opportunity from our friends at Details below!

Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 11.36.55 AM

Greetings from! We are pleased to announce our December “Feature Friday” webinar where you, as members of the growing community, are invited to offer your ideas and thoughts about improvements to The first Friday of each month these webinars will focus on a specific topic / feature of We will demonstrate how to use the website feature and take feedback. The December webinar will focus on “Building Datasheets.” Together, we hope to guide the future of this exciting platform in support of your collaborative citizen science / community based monitoring efforts.

WHAT: December “Feature Friday” webinar


December 6, 2013 (12:00 noon PST; 1:00 PM MST; 2:00 PM CST; 3:00 PM EST)


1 hour

Date: December 6, 2013
Feature: Building Datasheets
Time: 1:00-2:00p (MST)

Dial (267) 507-0003
Access Code: 613-600-397
Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meeting
Meeting ID: 613-600-397

Please see this page for more details.



Citizen Cyberscience Summit 2014: Call for Workshops, Papers and Participation

By November 22nd, 2013 at 10:36 am | Comment

This is an announcement from the Citizen Cyberscience Summit.


Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 10.30.19 AM

Following the successful Citizen Cyberscience Summits in 2010 and 2012, we are pleased to announce a third meeting in London on 20-22 February 2014.

By citizen cyberscience, we refer to the wide range of activities that enable people from all walks of life to join in scientific projects through internet-based applications such as contributing the unused processing power of their computers to help scientific computing, classifying information, using their smartphones to collect nature observations or building their own Internet-enabled sensors to collect environmental information.

The summit will be structured as a 3-day event that offers scientists, practitioners, enthusiasts, policy makers and citizen scientists the unique opportunity to meet and discuss citizen science and citizen cyberscience, participate in activities, and develop prototypes for new projects.

The first day (Thursday, 20th February 2014) will focus on the wide range of citizen science activities, exploring the engagement, creativity and participation, outreach of citizen science to the developing world, and the undertaking of citizen science projects in challenging environments (e.g. in a rainforest or the Arctic). We also welcome talks that deal with the growing policy and environmental management implications of citizen science.

For the second day (Friday, 21st February 2014) we are calling for presentations on the technical aspects of citizen science, such as: the need for suitable hardware and software; or panels discussing with citizen scientists about their perceptions, participation and engagement; or a showcase of citizen science projects. Based upon the success of this event in 2012, we will launch a ‘think camp’/’hackfest’, which will carry on to the next day and is aimed at developing demonstrations of hardware and software that can be used in citizen science projects or simply a concentrated discussion on a specific topic of interest.

The final day (Saturday, 22nd February 2014) will include further conference sessions, workshops and development of prototypes, with an afternoon talk, presentations and awards for the best prototypes.

Overall, we hope to cover a range of topics of relevance to citizen science research, including: technical aspects of citizen science such as use of sensors; applications of smartphones for data collection or in combination with external sensors; linking the Internet of Things (IoT) and citizen science – sensor networks to human sensors; motivations, incentives and engagement patterns; citizen science with indigenous and low-literacy communities; social science, ethnographic and anthropological aspects of citizen science and creativity and learning in citizen science.

During the summit, there will be an opportunity to present short papers, run panels, organise workshops or provide showcase demonstrations. We would like to invite anyone interested in participating in this way to submit brief proposals of up to 750 words using the form

Proposals should be submitted by 31st December 2013.

Registration will open in mid-December; full details will be available on our website soon.

We look forward to hearing from you and hope that you’ll be able to join us at the summit.

Best regards,
The Citizen Cyberscience Summit Organising Committee