SciStarter Blog http://scistarter.com/blog Covering the people, projects, and phenomena of citizen science Wed, 25 Feb 2015 12:42:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Coop’s Scoop: Mind over Mainframe – next #CitSciChat discusses citizen science gameshttp://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/coops-scoop-mind-mainframe-next-citscichat-discusses-citizen-science-games/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/coops-scoop-mind-mainframe-next-citscichat-discusses-citizen-science-games/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 14:29:33 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=11087 The next time you get into an argument with your laptop or shake a fist at your computer, try to refrain from calling it “a stupid machine.” That would be gloating. We really are more intelligent than our computers. Case in point, the human mind can solve some puzzles better than computers. On this principle, […]

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The next time you get into an argument with your laptop or shake a fist at your computer, try to refrain from calling it “a stupid machine.” That would be gloating. We really are more intelligent than our computers. Case in point, the human mind can solve some puzzles better than computers. On this principle, using game elements in citizen science, called gamification, is a popular approach in biology. That’s the topic of the next #CitSciChat on Twitter.

The next time you want to argue against a group, think twice. Groups can be more intelligent than individuals. On this principle, some game elements often involve creating teams that compete against each other. Within group cooperation, in the context of competition across teams, is a powerful motivator.

The fields most gamified in citizen science – molecular, cell, and synthetic biology – are key to understanding, treating, and curing diseases. Studies of proteins, amino acids, RNA, and DNA can happen in silico (in computer models) and in vitro (in laboratory experiments), but are often too difficult in vivo (in a living cell). Now these serious topics of research are being carried out in gamo. (have I coined a term, in Latin no less?)

For example, figuring out DNA configurations presented researchers with problems that were computationally too intensive for a single computer. At first, molecular biologists looked for a solution with a type of citizen science called distributed computing. Volunteers help research by donating their unused CPU (Central Processing Unit) and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) cycles on their personal computers to causes like Rosetta@Home and Folding@Home.

screensaver of Rosetta@home

screensaver of Rosetta@home

Unexpectedly, when distributed computing volunteers saw the screensaver of Rosetta@Home, as it illustrated the computer stepping closer and closer to a solution of each protein-folding puzzle, they wanted to guide the computer. Volunteers came to the conclusion that they could solve these 3-D puzzles better than their computers. Researchers and game designers believed in the abilities of their volunteers and declared, “Game on.”

At the cellular level, human minds are important again. One doesn’t have to be a trained pathologist to identify cancer cells and help find biomarkers in these cells. Cancer Research UK takes games very seriously. In their newest game, Reverse the Odds, players identify bladder cancer cells before and after different treatments, which will help future patients know whether their best odds are with surgery or chemotherapy.

Why are people better than computers at protein-folding puzzles? Why is the human mind better than computer algorithms at figuring out how DNA regions align? Why is the trial and error approach of people better than formal techniques and alogrithms of bioengineering RNA? Why are teams smarter than individuals? Why is gamification so popular that, when the online game Phylo launched in 2010, the computer servers crashed, unable to handle the volume of thousands of simultaneous players? Why are there over 37,000 people working (meaning playing) at RNA design puzzle in an open, online laboratory called EteRNA?

For answers to these questions and more, join us for the next citizen science Twitter chat by following the hashtag #CitSciChat. The #CitSciChat are co-sponsored by SciStarter and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Anyone is welcome to join with questions, answers, comments, and ideas. Don’t be shy and don’t forget to include the hashtag #CitSciChat so that others in the conversation don’t miss your Tweets. I will Storify each session and post the recap on this blog.

The #CitSciChat guest panelists this Wednesday, February 25 at 7pm GMT (26th in Australia) include:

Phylo, nanocrafter and FoldIt were featured in a recent SciStarter newsletter, check out the rest of the projects here and sign up for the newsletter on the SciStarter homepage to get to know about more.

Citizen science chats take place on Twitter at #CitSciChat the last Wednesday (Thursday in Australia) of every month, unless otherwise noted. To involve people across the globe, chats take place 7-8pm GMT, which is 2-3pm ET in USA and Thursday 6-7am ET in Australia. Each session will focus on a different theme. To suggest a project or theme for an upcoming chat, send me a tweet @CoopSciScoop!

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Like your citizen science with a side of fun? Check out these gaming projects!http://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/11064/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/11064/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 06:00:58 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=11064 Citizen science makes serious contributions to our understanding of the world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun doing it! Here are five projects that combine science and gameplay to create an exciting experience for everyone. Cheers! The SciStarter Team Reverse the Odds   Want to fight cancer? This game lets you do […]

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Citizen science makes serious contributions to our understanding of the world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun doing it!

Here are five projects that combine science and gameplay to create an exciting experience for everyone.

Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

Photo: Channel Four

Reverse the Odds

 

Want to fight cancer? This game lets you do just that, and all you‘ll need is a mobile device! Each time you play you‘ll be contributing data and helping develop better cancer treatments.Get Started!

Photo: Center for Community Driven Research

Quantum Moves

 

When scientists at Aarhus University decided to build a quantum computer, they realized that the human brain might be better suited for solving quantum physics problems than a computer. When you play Quantum Move, you contribute to quantum physics with each swipe of the mouse. Get Started!

Photo: NOVA

NOVA Labs – Cybersercurity Lab

 

Cybersecurity is a hot topic these days, and this game will teach you to protect your identity and prevent cyber attacks. It’s great for both kids and adults and offers a guide for educators.Get Started!

Photo: Citizen Sort

Citizen Sort

 

With three different games, this project lets you match photos, classify images, or roleplay as an adventurer on an unexplored island. As you play, you‘ll be identifying real plants and animal images as part of scientific research. Get Started!

 

Photo: Age Guess

Age Guess

 

Everyone ages, but some people seem to age faster than others. You can add to our understanding of age and aging by uploading pictures of yourself and guessing how old others are. Get Started!

 

Don’t miss our #CitSciChat series! These Twitter chat sessions involve people across the globe in discussion about citizen science and take place the last Wednesday of every month at 7-8pm GMT, which is 2-3pm ET in USA and Thursday 6-7am ET in Australia. The chats are moderated by Caren Cooper,  @CoopSciScoop. Follower her on twitter for more updates.The next #CitSciChat is Wednesday February 25th, and the topic is gamification in citizen science to support research on diseases. We encourage you to participate and to pass along the invitation to your participants – the energy and enthusiasm for citizen science in the #CitSciChat will help sustain interest among your participants!If you‘d like your citizen science project featured on SciStarter, email Jenna@scistarter.com.

Contact the SciStarter Team

Email: info@scistarter.com
Website: http://scistarter.com

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Nanocrafter: Playing a Game of Synthetic Biologyhttp://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/nanocrafter-playing-game-synthetic-biology/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/nanocrafter-playing-game-synthetic-biology/#comments Sun, 22 Feb 2015 11:00:44 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=11050   On its surface, it looks like just another science puzzle game. In reality, the game is part of a broader goal to enable non-scientists to contribute to synthetic biology research. ‘It’ is Nanocrafter, a project created by researchers and game developers at the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington. They are […]

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Nanocrafter image

Image Credit: Nanocrafter

On its surface, it looks like just another science puzzle game. In reality, the game is part of a broader goal to enable non-scientists to contribute to synthetic biology research.

‘It’ is Nanocrafter, a project created by researchers and game developers at the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington. They are the same team behind the citizen science project FoldIt.

“Most citizen science games are designed to gather data for a specific research question. Players may need to be good at pattern recognition, abstract reasoning, or other cognitive skills. Our focus at Nanocrafter is different,” says Nanocrafter Project Lead Jonathan Barone. “The project isn’t intended to address any existing research. Rather, we are interested in developing a user community that is familiar enough with the principles and parameters of synthetic biology to generate new ideas, identify new questions and create their own solutions.”

Synthetic biology is an engineering discipline within a biological context. The field uses techniques and principles from a number of different disciplines to create biological devices and understand biological systems. Synthetic biologists use biological components like DNA, RNA or proteins as their building materials. For example, scientists can insert DNA or proteins composites into a bacterial host to increase or refine a biological pathways involved in drug synthesis. In other cases, the molecules are used in ways that are unrelated to their normal biological function. A DNA fragment can be constructed as a biosensor, fluorescing in the presence of a pathogen.  Or in a particularly wild example, DNA can be used to store data like a computer hard drive.

But these are complex tasks. Before users start working on these kind of problems, they must master the basics.

The Nanocrafter game teaches users about basic DNA biochemistry and how to manipulate DNA reactions, eventually enabling the player to create logic circuits or mechanized structures. Their video provides examples. In the game, players organize colored puzzle pieces to react in specific ways. The behavior of the puzzle pieces mimics the principles of DNA nucleotide-nucleotide pairing, nucleotide chaining and double helix formation. In the game, only certain puzzle pieces can pair up and pieces only form chains and double strands in a precise hierarchy of reactions.  This might seem overwhelming but the game eases player into the rules, step by step.

“Once users master the principles, they can try our biweekly challenges. Challenges might replicate existing research or be a problem the Nanocrafter team thought up,” explains Barone. “While replicating published data is always useful, it is when users create their own solutions that we start to see really interesting and exciting stuff.  If we can demonstrate that player submissions are theoretically sound, we can present them to scientists to try in their labs.”

Of course if that is too much structure, users can always play in the ‘sandbox’. The sandbox is a completely open ended format with no rules or defined goals. One player created a ‘flagellum’ from DNA, which ‘though not scientifically interesting (or even possible)’ says Barone, speaks to the creativity and fun people seem to have with Nanocrafter.   User designed solutions to past challenges include strands that assemble into a three-way junction or strands that form long repeating polymers.

Though they have a community of over one thousand individual users, posted challenges only get half dozen responses. Moving forward, the Nanocrafter team wants to increase their user base and are hoping to increase the computational and modeling capabilities of their online interface.

If logic, creativity and a little DNA pique your interest, be sure to check out Nanocrafter.

 

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Reports from the Hackfest at the Citizen Science Association conferencehttp://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/reports-hackfest-citizen-science-association-conference/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/reports-hackfest-citizen-science-association-conference/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 18:58:51 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=11033 Thanks to everyone who participated in the Citizen Science Hackfest on 2/11 at the Citizen Science Association’s conference in San Jose, CA! This hands-on and discussion-driven meet-up was a wonderful opportunity for participants to  dream up AND build creative tools to improve the field of citizen science! . Once we settled into our digs (conveniently situated […]

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Thanks to everyone who participated in the Citizen Science Hackfest on 2/11 at the Citizen Science Association’s conference in San Jose, CA! This hands-on and discussion-driven meet-up was a wonderful opportunity for participants to  dream up AND build creative tools to improve the field of citizen science! .

Once we settled into our digs (conveniently situated between the bar and food!) and after our ears adjusted to the noise around us, Arvind Suresh (SciStarter’s managing editor) kicked things off with introductions and each project owner pitched their ideas.
hackfest introductions

 

Steve Gano, our director of product development at SciStarter, organized the pitches into themes.

citizen science hackfest project ideas

We divided the projects into four groups:

1) Platform Interoperability. This team worked on what is needed to better support online data management for citizen science projects . There’s so much work to be explored here. Contact Greg Newman (Gregory.Newman at ColoState dot Edu) if you’d like to join the ongoing dialogue.

 

platforms

platform interoperability citizen science

2) Participant experience: finding projects, submitting and sharing individual points of data. We brainstormed ways to help researchers (biologists, in particular)  subscribe to fresh data alerts for their species and regions of interest from many (wildlife observation) citizen science platforms, and enable observers on those platforms to be notified if their observation was sent to someone. We also discussed the development of a simple, accurate representation of a project’s geographic area of interest which is important not only for validating the contributed data, but also for finding and recruiting potential participants who live or visit the area of interest and may be able to contribute. We’ve decided to continue these discussions and if you’d like to join us, email info@scistarter.com to indicate your interest. 

hackfest finding citizen science projects

 

3) Prototyping a data collection app.  S. Andrew Sheppard and Teal Wyckoff worked on Species Tracker, a concept for a mobile app for biodiversity monitoring, inspired by the WyoBio project.  They used the wq framework to create a simple prototype that allows anyone to upload photos and GPS coordinates together with species information.  The prototype and source code are available online at species.wq.io.

prototype citizen science

4) Updating Wikipedia definition of Citizen Science: Between 80-90% of Wikipedia editors are male, so Dr. Caren Cooper, particularly wanted to encourage women to participate. One concern raised at the hackfest was that there’s not much oversight on who can edit someone else’s contribution so it’s a frustrating experience when someone puts time and energy into a thoughtful definition only to have it wiped out and replaced by more self-serving definitions. Contact Caren Cooper at Caren.Cooper at naturalsciences dot org to get involved in this effort.

wikipedia citizen science

 

As these projects progress, we’ll post updates here.

Special thanks to @MarDixon for providing early guidance and support! She’s a pro at this…and she’s my sister!

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And the winners of the #spacemicrobes Microbial Playoffs are…http://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/winners-spacemicrobes-microbial-playoffs/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/winners-spacemicrobes-microbial-playoffs/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2015 14:00:27 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=10965 Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by David Coil a Project Scientist in the lab of Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis and a member of the Project MERCURRI team.  We’ve finished analyzing all the data from the “Microbial Playoffs” part of Project MERCCURI(described here).   Each microbe that was chosen to fly to the International Space […]

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bacteria plate

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by David Coil a Project Scientist in the lab of Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis and a member of the Project MERCURRI team. 

We’ve finished analyzing all the data from the “Microbial Playoffs” part of Project MERCCURI(described here).   Each microbe that was chosen to fly to the International Space Station (list of candidate microbes here) was plated out 6 times on the plates that were analyzed in space.   We looked at three categories; Best Huddle, Best Tip-Off, and Best Sprint.    Here are the winners for each of the three categories:

 

Best Huddle (The microbe that grew to the highest density, really packing into their space)

 

best huddleYuri’s Night, Los Angeles: The microbe “Kocuria rhizophila” was collected on a camera at a Yuri’s Night Party with Buzz Aldrin in Los Angeles. Here are some photos of the team swabbing Buzz Aldrin’s shoe. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.
San Antonio Spurs: The microbe “Kocuria kristinae” was collected on the court after a San Antonio Spurs game. Here are some photos of the team swabbing the court and a blog post about the experience. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.
Davis, CA: The microbe “Leucobacter chironomi” was collected in a residential toilet in Davis, CA. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.

 

Best Tip-Off (The microbe that got off to the fastest growing start straight out of the freezer)

 

best tip offPop Warner Chittenango: The microbe “Bacillus pumilus” was collected on a Porta-Potty handle by Pop Warner Chittenango Bears cheerleaders. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.

Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia: Bacillus stratosphericus: found in a butterfly water dish at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Here is a photo of the kids that participated in the swabbing. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.
Smithsonian Air & Space Museum: The microbe “Pantoea eucrina” was collected on the Mercury Orbitor at the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space. Here are some photos of the team swabbing at the Museum. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.

 

Best Sprint (The microbe that grew the fastest in any single 24-hour period in space)

 

best sprintParkway Middle School: The microbe “Bacillus horikoshii” was collected on a lobby banister at Parkway Middle School as part of a Broward County STEM teacher’s event. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.

Pop Warner Chittenango: The microbe “Bacillus pumilus” was collected on a Porta-Potty handle by Pop Warner Chittenango Bears cheerleaders. For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.
Mars Exploration Rover (JPL): Paenibacillus elgii: On a Mars Exploration Rover before launch (2004) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL- NASA, Pasadena, CA) For an image of the microbe and more information, see the trading card at the Space Microbes web site.
Shown here are the top three microbes from each category, a full ranking of all the candidates will soon be published at www.spacemicrobes.org

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Capacity Crowd for Citizen Science 2015 Conferencehttp://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/capacity-crowd-citizen-science-2015-conference/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/capacity-crowd-citizen-science-2015-conference/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 18:00:19 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=11027 SAN JOSE, CA – A global audience is gathering this week, intent on changing the way science is done. Over 600 people from 25 countries will convene February 11 and 12, 2015, at the San Jose Convention Center for “Citizen Science 2015,” the inaugural conference of the Citizen Science Association (CSA). In citizen science, members […]

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citsciassoc image
SAN JOSE, CA – A global audience is gathering this week, intent on changing the way science is done. Over 600 people from 25 countries will convene February 11 and 12, 2015, at the San Jose Convention Center for “Citizen Science 2015,” the inaugural conference of the Citizen Science Association (CSA).

In citizen science, members of the public participate in real scientific research. To date, participants in this rapidly expanding field have made significant contributions to the study of neurobiology, astronomy, ornithology, genetics, psychology, linguistics, and many other disciplines. At the same time, public knowledge and insights have helped bridge research and action in arenas such as environmental justice, public health, conservation, and engineering.

Dr. Alan Leshner, CEO of AAAS, comments: “AAAS is pleased that the Citizen Science Association is hosting their first conference near the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose. Our meeting offers scientist-citizens many ways to engage with public audiences; the Citizen Science Association offers additional strategies for scientist-citizens and citizen-scientists to connect in meaningful ways.”

In brief, citizen science stands to transform scientific research. To ensure integrity as it does, Citizen Science 2015 brings together scientists, volunteers, data managers, educators, and many others to addresses the frontiers, innovations, and challenges that are common across the diverse disciplines using this research approach. Over 350 talks and posters will address, among other things, data management and visualization, STEM education, novel technologies, industry partnerships, and strategies for addressing issues of ethics and inclusivity in participation. Sessions include:

KEYNOTE: A Place in the World–Science, Society, and Reframing the Questions We Ask. (Dr. Chris Filardi – Director, Pacific Programs, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History)

KEYNOTE: EyeWire: Why Do Gamers Enjoy Mapping the Brain? (Amy Robinson – Executive Director, EyeWire)

WORKSHOP AND OPEN SESSION: Developing a Framework for Citizen Science in STEM Education (Citizen Science Association Education Working Group, supported by the National Science Foundation; Session Chair Sarah Kirn, Gulf of Maine Research Institute)

PANEL: Biomedical Citizen Science: Emerging Opportunities and Unique Challenges (National Institutes of Health Citizen Science Working Group; Session Chair Dr. Jennifer Couch, National Cancer Institute)

SYMPOSIUM: Using a Citizen Science Approach to Change the Face of Environmental Public Health Research (Session Chair: Dr. Monica Ramirez-Andreotta, University of Arizona)

PANEL: Creating a Welcoming, Inclusive, Diverse, and Just Citizen Science Association (Session Chair: Tim Vargo, Urban Ecology Center)

SYMPOSIUM: Supporting Multi-Scale Citizen Science: Leveraging the Local, Addressing the Global (Session Chair: Mark Chandler, Earthwatch Institute)

Additional conference activities include a poster session and reception, a hackfest, and a BioBlitz of downtown San Jose.

This event is an official pre-conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting. Conference supporters include the National Science Foundation, National Geographic, and others.

For more information: please visit http://www.citizenscienceassociation.org/conference/

Conference blog: http://citizenscienceassociation.org/category/conference/citsci2015/

Follow us on Twitter: @CitSciAssoc and #CitSci2015

Additional contacts from the CSA Board of Directors:

Rick Bonney, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, reb5@cornell.edu
Darlene Cavalier, Arizona State University, darlene@scistarter.com
Mary Ford, National Geographic, mford@ngs.org
Muki Haklay, University College London, m.haklay@ucl.ac.uk
Greg Newman, Colorado State University, Gregory.Newman@colostate.edu

Contact: Jennifer Shirk, CSA Communications Coordinator (additional contacts below)
Phone: 607-342-0995
E-mail: JLS223@cornell.edu

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Propose or Join a Citizen Science Hackfest Project!http://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/propose-join-citizen-science-hackfest-project/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/propose-join-citizen-science-hackfest-project/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 16:20:59 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=10841 Propose or join a project or activity for the SciStarter Hackfest at the Citizen Science Association Conference! What: A hands-on and discussion-driven meet-up where everyone participates in dreaming up AND building creative tools to improve the field of citizen science! Where: Citizen Science 2015 Conference, San Jose, CA Who: The SciStarter team and YOU! Why: […]

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Propose or join a project or activity for the SciStarter Hackfest at the Citizen Science Association Conference!

Be a part of SciStarter's hackfest at CitSci 2015 in San Jose, California!

Be a part of SciStarter’s hackfest at CitSci 2015 in San Jose, California!

What: A hands-on and discussion-driven meet-up where everyone participates in dreaming up AND building creative tools to improve the field of citizen science!

Where: Citizen Science 2015 Conference, San Jose, CA

Who: The SciStarter team and YOU!

Why: To capitalize on the collective wisdom (and desire to act!) at the Citizen Science Association Conference

The inaugural conference of the Citizen Science Association will take place February 11-12 in San Jose, California and the SciStarter team is looking forward to soaking up new information during the scheduled sessions and talks!

We’ll also contribute to these conversations through a few presentations and an interactive, “roll-up-your-sleeves!” hackfest designed for everyone.

Will you join us? Learn more about SciStarter’s past Hackfests here.

First, make sure you have registered for the Citizen Science 2015 Conference if you want to participate in person. You can join us remotely, too. Just let us know how you plan to participate when you sign up.

Then, fill out this form to let us know you’re coming so we know how many people to expect. Remember, ALL contributions are valuable, and some projects may be discussion-based (no programming skills required). All projects should spark the start of something great! Just bring your creativity, enthusiasm and talents and we’ll make sure you’ll have fun!

Do you have a Hackfest idea or project you’d like people to know about or join at the event? Great!

Use this form to propose a project for the Hackfest at the Citizen Science Association meeting, February 11, 2015, 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm at the San Jose Convention Center!

Here’s the running list of proposed projects! Just click on the image to learn more about the proposed project.

 

scistarter robot
1.  Agile Citizen Science
Join this group to participate in a brainstorm session to generate ideas and examples of possible agile citizen science projects and of the design features for a digital platform that would support those projects. Click to learn more.

scistarter robot
2. Locating Citizen Science Activity
Having a simple, accurate representation of a project’s geographic area of interest is important not only for validating the contributed data, but also for finding and recruiting potential participants who live or visit the area of interest and may be able to contribute. Click to learn more.

wikipedia icon
3. Update Wikipedia Entry for Citizen Science
You’ll learn how to add content to Wikipedia! Between 80-90% of Wikipedia editors are male, so I, Dr. Caren Cooper, particularly want to encourage women to participate. Click to learn more.

 

scistarter fresh data
4. Fresh Data/Notify Me!
We want to help biologists subscribe to fresh data alerts for their species and regions of interest from many (wildlife observation) citizen science platforms, and enable observers on those platforms to be notified if their observation was sent to someone. Click to learn more.

 

scistarter fresh data
5. Hackfest for the world’s biggest fish!
Produce a mobile- and tablet-friendly spot mapping tool to allow whale shark researchers to quickly map the spots on a whale shark in the browser of their favorite device and then submit that pattern to our existing grid computer. In short, we need some help with JavaScript to create a simple tool for shark researchers all over the world. Click to learn more.

 

citsci hackfest
6. Citizen Science Web Platform Needs Activity
Help those who develop citizen science web platforms / websites design and create better solutions for your needs. Come to this brainstorm session to offer your insights into what is needed to better support online data management for citizen science projects. Click to learn more.

 

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Citizen Science for Your Genes and Proteinshttp://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/citizen-science-genes-proteins/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/citizen-science-genes-proteins/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 02:10:09 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=11011 DNA, proteins, and chromosomes are too small to be seen with the naked eye, but there are plenty of citizen science projects that make the building blocks of life accessible to us all. Here are some great projects that need your help to advance our understanding of what we’re made of and where we come […]

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dna

Photo: genome.gov

DNA, proteins, and chromosomes are too small to be seen with the naked eye, but there are plenty of citizen science projects that make the building blocks of life accessible to us all.

Here are some great projects that need your help to advance our understanding of what we’re made of and where we come from.

 

dna NIST

Phylo

Do you enjoy puzzles and finding patterns? Phylo letsyou compete against others to combine pieces of DNA, while helping researchers understand the evolution of genetic diseases. Get Started!

genes in space cruk

Play to Cure:  Genes in Space

Galactic journeys, spaceships, and asteroid fields- what could be more exciting? Cancer Research UK developed this incredible space adventure game that allows users to analyze genetic data while playing. The results are used to create treatments for cancer! Get Started!

nanocrafter

Nanocrafter

This cutting edge foray into synthetic biology lets participants create nanomachines using real DNA sequences. What will you make? Get Started!

genographic projectThe Genographic Project

This National Genographic study analyzes DNA samples from people across the globe to learn how humanity spread out and populated the earth. With a simple cheek swab, you can learn about your own genetic history and contribute to a larger body of knowledge. Get Started!

folditFoldIt

Humans have evolved to recognize patterns and solve puzzles, but can we do it better than a computer? That’s exactly what this project is trying to find out, by having players fold proteins into complex structures. Get Started!

Meet the SciStarter team in San Jose, CA: Family Science Days on 2/14-15 at the San Jose Convention Center.  We’re partnering up with Discover Magazine and Astronomy Magazine to bring you citizen science(free prizes, too!).If you‘d like your citizen scienceproject featured on SciStarter, email Jenna@scistarter.com.

 

Image Credits: NIST (Phylo), Cancer Research UK (Play to Cure: Genes in Space), University of Washington (Nanocrafter), DOJ (The Genographic Project), FoldIt (FoldIt)

Find more posts like Citizen Science for Your Genes and Proteins by Arvind Suresh (Editor) on the SciStarter Blog. Your source for citizen science and other science you can do.

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Declining monarch population means increased need for citizen scientistshttp://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/declining-monarch-population-means-increased-need-citizen-scientists/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/declining-monarch-population-means-increased-need-citizen-scientists/#comments Sat, 07 Feb 2015 17:00:06 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=10991                       With its striking orange and black coloring and transcontinental range, the monarch butterfly is probably the most recognizable insect in North America. All pollinators are important to maintaining our food supply, but monarchs also have a key role in education; for decades schoolchildren across […]

Find more posts like Declining monarch population means increased need for citizen scientists by Eva Lewandowski on the SciStarter Blog. Your source for citizen science and other science you can do.

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(Wendy Caldwell) adult monarch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With its striking orange and black coloring and transcontinental range, the monarch butterfly is probably the most recognizable insect in North America. All pollinators are important to maintaining our food supply, but monarchs also have a key role in education; for decades schoolchildren across North America have been raising and releasing monarchs as part of their science lessons. Unfortunately, while monarchs were once one of the most commonly seen pollinators in gardens and fields, in the past decade there has been a precipitous drop in the monarch population. Just last week the World Wildlife Fund, in conjunction with the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, released the latest monarch population estimate- a number that was the second lowest on record for the population1.

The annual estimates of the monarch population are taken at the monarch’s overwintering site in central Mexico. Most of the monarchs in North America live east of the Rocky Mountains, and each fall they migrate thousands of miles south to their overwintering location in Mexico, where they cluster together on oyamel fir trees. In the spring those same monarchs fly north, where they produce new generations that spread throughout the United States and Canada. Their vast summer range can make it difficult to get precise estimates of the population size, but in winter the monarchs are bunched tightly together, making population estimates more feasible. Instead of counting individual monarchs, scientists record the amount of land that the overwintering monarch population covers.

This year, the monarchs covered 1.13 hectares; that’s a little more than two football fields’ worth of land. That might sound like a staggeringly small size, but it’s actually a 69 percent increase over last year’s population, which was the smallest on record. This increase offers some hope to counterbalance the fact that the current population size is the second smallest on record, but there is still much concern about the monarch. In fact, the US Fish & Wildlife Service is currently evaluating the monarch for listing as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

A listing would provide the monarch with legal protections, but a decision is not expected for at least a year, and in the meantime, there are many things that the public can do right now to help monarchs!

Planting native nectar plants and native milkweed, the only plant on which monarchs will lay eggs, is an easy way to help, but people who want to get more involved will find a whole host of monarch citizen science projects in need of volunteers. These projects study monarchs as they migrate and reproduce in the United States and Canada, and provide insight into how disease, climate change, and habitat loss are affecting the monarch population. Citizen science is so important to monarch research that since 2000, almost two-thirds of the published results on monarch field research have used citizen science data2. University of Minnesota Professor Karen Oberhauser, who heads the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, emphasizes the need for continued participation in monarch citizen science projects.

“As the monarch population becomes smaller, it is important that we continue these efforts, even if it’s not as much fun to monitor something that we don’t see as often,” said Oberhauser. “We need to understand what’s driving the declines, and, hopefully, what drives future increases.”

If you’d like to help with the ongoing research into monarch conservation, check out these projects:

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project- Volunteers from across North America regularly monitor milkweed plants for monarch eggs and larvae, in order to understand variations in the monarch population. Some volunteers rear wild caught monarchs and record rates of parasitism.

Project Monarch Health- Participants carefully take scale samples from adult monarchs to test for the presence of a widespread parasite called OE. Sampling doesn’t hurt the monarchs, and it’s easy to do.

Journey North- People from across North America help track the monarch’s spring and fall migrations by entering observations online. Anyone who sees a monarch is encouraged to log the sighting with Journey North, which then creates interactive maps of the migration.

Monarch Watch- Volunteers with this project place small, lightweight tags on monarch wings. When monarchs with those tags are recovered, Monarch Watch can track how far monarchs travel.

Western Monarch Count- Most monarchs along the West Coast don’t migrate to Mexico; instead, they overwinter in California. Every November and December, volunteers are needed to count overwintering monarchs.

 

1Monarch Joint Venture. http://monarchjointventure.org/news-events/news/2015-population-update-and-estimating-the-number-of-overwintering-monarchs

2 Ries, L., and K. S. Oberhauser. In press. A citizen-army for science:  Quantifying the contributions of citizen scientists to our understanding of monarch butterfly biology. Bioscience.

Photo courtesy of Wendy Caldwell.

Eva Lewandowski is a PhD candidate in the Conservation Biology Graduate Program at the University of Minnesota. She is part of the Monarch Lab, where she studies citizen science and conservation education.

Find more posts like Declining monarch population means increased need for citizen scientists by Eva Lewandowski on the SciStarter Blog. Your source for citizen science and other science you can do.

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San Jose, we’re comin’ at ya with a TON of #citizenscience !http://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/san-jose-comin-ya-ton-citizenscience/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2015/02/san-jose-comin-ya-ton-citizenscience/#comments Fri, 06 Feb 2015 21:22:36 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=11003 Are you planning to attend the Citizen Science Association’s Conference and/or the American Association for the Advancement of Science Conference and Family Science Days in San Jose, CA? Let’s meet up! Here’s where you will find SciStarter: All events are at the San Jose Convention Center. Citizen Science Association Conference 2/11 11:50am The Crowd & […]

Find more posts like San Jose, we’re comin’ at ya with a TON of #citizenscience ! by Darlene Cavalier on the SciStarter Blog. Your source for citizen science and other science you can do.

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Are you planning to attend the Citizen Science Association’s Conference and/or the American Association for the Advancement of Science Conference and Family Science Days in San Jose, CA?

Let’s meet up!

Here’s where you will find SciStarter: All events are at the San Jose Convention Center.

Citizen Science Association Conference

2/11 11:50am The Crowd & The Cloud – Using Broadcast and Social Media to Advance and Support Citizen Science

Abstract: A November 2013 workshop on “New Visions in Citizen Science” at the Wilson Center concluded with a series of recommendations as to next steps, including (1) raising the visibility and impact of citizen science (CS); (2) broadening participation and lowering barriers to entry; and (3) developing and deploying training materials, including “success stories.” THE CROWD & THE CLOUD project (C&C), supported by NSF, is an ambitious transmedia initiative addressing each of those challenges. C&C includes 4 hour-long public television programs to air in Fall 2016, innovative social media resources, including a custom-designed 2nd screen app to help turn “viewers into do-ers,” and external evaluation to address the questions, “How, where, when, why and with whom can media, both broadcast and online, generate greater and deeper involvement in citizen science?” This session addresses conference Themes 1, 2 and 4 and invites creative collaboration by attendees in C&C’s work relatively early in project development.

Panelists will include C&C PI, Geoff Haines-Stiles (moderator), former NASA Chief Scientist, Waleed Abdalati, now director of CIRES, UC Boulder and host of the TV specials (on Big Science and the democratization of research), Darlene Cavalier, founder, Science Cheerleader and SciStarter (on maximizing awareness of innovative CS projects), Raj Pandya, Program Director of AGU’s Thriving Earth Exchange (on engaging underserved communities in CS) and Alexis de Belloy, Entrepreneur in Residence, Skoll Global Threats Fund, on SGTF’s support of participatory surveillance and “crowd-sourcing” for public health initiatives such as “Flu Near You.” This diverse panel will discuss C&C’s assumptions about how media—old and new—can mobilize broader awareness of, and greater participation in, CS by the public, and acceptance by professional researchers. It will present planned program content and invite feedback and new ideas, and the audience will even have a chance to boo or cheer episode working titles!

4:10 pm Aligning Next Generation Science Standards to Citizen Science

Abstract: The proposed session will feature several citizen science projects that have taken steps to bring their projects into the K-12 classrooms by aligning with the Next Generation Science Standards to make use of data that students can use to construct explanations and design solutions, engage in argument from evidence, and obtain, evaluate and communicate information.

Presenter/Panelists include (1) Andrew Collins with School of Ants, a citizen-scientist driven study of the ants that live in urban areas, (2) Leanora Shell with Your Wild Life and the Students Discover Project from North Carolina (NC) State University and the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, (3) Kristian Breton from the New York Academy of Sciences who is working with the Education team to design and build an online platform where youth can share and explore Citizen Science projects, (4) Sandra Henderson with NEON’s Project Budburst, a climate change focused citizen science program for educators, and (5) Jennifer Fee, from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdSleuth K-12 program, which engages students in schoolyard investigations and citizen-science projects. Moderated by Darlene Cavalier, Founder of SciStarter.

After a series of short talks, the speaker/panelists will solicit input from the community on how to use citizen science data in the classroom and gather citizen science from classrooms. Questions could focus on data mining, suitable research questions, available data sets, and analysis tools, as well as how best to engage teachers and students in the research. The feedback from participants in this session could help determine the direction and emphasis for the next phase of citizen science in education with respect to NGSS, including how to scale this for the 850 projects in SciStarter’s project finder.

2/11 5:30 pm Poster Session
Leveraging SciStarter to grow and sustain your citizen science project. Case Study: Project MERCCURI

Abstract: SciStarter is more than a searchable index of over 900 citizen science projects worldwide. Project leaders can work with SciStarter to promote their projects and recruit participants. In the workshop, we’ll cover the basics of SciStarter’s multi-media campaigns with Discover Magazine, Public Library of Science, WHYY and the National Science Teachers Association; highlight partnerships with broad and diverse audiences including national sports, culture, and hacker communities; and lead a brief “how to” session to implement free, open SciStarter APIs and other tools designed to make it easier for project owners to recruit, retain, and learn about participants, find and partner up with complementary projects, align NGSS with projects, and capitalize on opportunities to share and leverage existing citizen science data and participants, worldwide.

David Coil, coPI on Project MERCCURI, from the Eisen Lab at UC Davis, will kick off the workshop with a talk about this citizen science project to compare microbes on Earth and in space (citizen-collected samples are currently orbiting the Earth on the International Space Station!). He’ll provide updates on the findings, share successes and challenges, illuminate how working together with complementary communities (including SciStarter and Science Cheerleader) helped advance the field of microbiome research and share a glimpse into the future of citizen microbiome research.


2/11 5:30 – 8:30 pm Hackfest: Creating Interoperability Between Projects, Communities, and Data
(There’s still time to sign up for this event!)
Abstract: This hackfest will build upon lessons learned during a similar event at the Citizen Cyber Science conference in London in February, 2014 (organized by SciStarter, and NYU with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation). This hands-on hackfest is designed to be a collaborative working session to explore and design ways to create helpful connections between citizen science communities.
Participants and project owners face barriers: Multiple types of logins for many different projects or platforms coupled with an inability to track contributions across projects/platforms, are two examples.
This hackfest aims to tap the collective wisdom of San Jose’s programmers, designers, artists, program managers and others to design and create new or repurposed tools to help more people get involved in and track their contributions to citizen science projects AND to explore ways projects can share data, volunteers, tools and other resources to rise the tide of citizen science and enable better cross-platform analytics for project leaders while improving the experience for participants.

Daniel Arbuckle (lead developer, SciStarter); Steve Gano (director of product development, SciStarter); Arvind Suresh (managing editor, SciStarter) Greg Newman (CitSci.org); Russell Neches (UC Davis/Eisen Lab); Caren Cooper (North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences)

2/14 and 2/15 Join SciStarter, Discover Magazine, Astronomy Magazine and the Science Cheerleaders at Family Science Days (a free event presented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science):
Read more about this event, here.

2/15 10 am – 11:30 Room LL21D (San Jose Convention Center) at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Conference (paid registration required)

Citizen Science: Advancing Innovations for Science, Information, and Engagement

Abstract: Citizen science is now an established practice for scientific research and public engagement. However, the field is still maturing and ripe with innovation in areas such as image analysis, gaming, do-it-yourself science, large-scale data collection, visualizations, communications, and applications in public health, disaster response, and conservation. Moreover, the ability to engage directly with the public in research is changing the way we think about information — how we gather and work with it, who has access to and ownership of it, and how to collaborate to address social and scientific problems. A two-day pre-conference event at the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting will gather practitioners from across scientific disciplines and from around the world to share innovations in citizen science practice and theory. The event also marks the first meeting of the Citizen Science Association, a new organization that unites and serves this rapidly growing community of practice. In this session, representatives of the Citizen Science Association and architects of the field of citizen science will share major themes from the citizen science pre-conference, highlight exciting innovations that have impacts across disciplines, and provide a vision for citizen science as a growing field of research and practice.
Organizer:
Jennifer Shirk, Cornell University
Co-Organizer:
Meg Domroese, Citizen Science Association/Schoodic Institute
Moderator:
Jennifer Shirk, Cornell University
Discussant:
Meg Domroese, Citizen Science Association/Schoodic Institute
Speakers:
Abraham J. Miller-Rushing, Acadia National Park and Schoodic Education and Research Center
Facilitating Growth, Innovation, and Positive Outcomes in Citizen Science
Richard Bonney, Cornell University
Citizen Science: Organizing Information and Inquiries for Impact
Darlene Cavalier, SciStarter
Connecting Communities To Rise the Citizen Science Tide

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