SciStarter Blog http://scistarter.com/blog Covering the people, projects, and phenomena of citizen science Wed, 23 Apr 2014 15:00:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 What’s Invasive? Find Out With Citizen Science.http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/whats-invasive-find-citizen-science/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/whats-invasive-find-citizen-science/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 15:00:42 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=9479 Headed outside? Learn more about how you can help report invasive species with the What’s Invasive? smartphone app! Want more citizen science? There’s an app for that. I first visited Southern California in the spring. The hillsides were covered in emerald green grasses and spotted with great old Valley Oak trees—a landscape that is known […]

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Headed outside? Learn more about how you can help report invasive species with the What’s Invasive? smartphone app!

Want more citizen science? There’s an app for that.

California Hillsides

A photo of the savanna oak woodland with invasive grass in the spring.

I first visited Southern California in the spring. The hillsides were covered in emerald green grasses and spotted with great old Valley Oak trees—a landscape that is known as savannah oak woodland. After visiting a few national parks I soon learned that all the beautiful green grass was invasive—most of it imported as seed in horse feed during the Spanish period from other regions of the world: Mexican feather grass, pampass grass, fountain grass—the list goes on and on. Grass was also used from as early as 1500 as ship ballast, for trade and as food.

The invasive grasses took over the hillsides to such an extent that they changed the landscape. This conversion to non-native annual species was so fast and all encompassing that very little is known of the original composition of the perennial species. What we do know is that natural Californian grasslands are among the most endangered ecosystems in the United States.

What was lost? One example is that traditional perennial grass such as purple needlegrass did not blanket the ground. They grew in clumps or patches, leaving space for wildflowers to take root. The flowers in turn attract a wide range of insects, which in turn attract many predators… and so the food chain grows.

The National Park Service along with the University California Los Angeles and two other partners have created a website and an app called What’s Invasive? (official site) where you can record any invasive species. The website is set up for just more than 90 parks and it’s growing—largely because you can add your own site. Once you have logged the park you would like to record invasive species for, you just have to wait for it to be verified. You provide the name of the park, GPS coordinates, description, website, and logo or picture for the site.

Screenshot

Screenshot of the app (click to enlarge).

You can select from a range of plants, plant diseases, insects, and animals that are lodged in the system. If you don’t see a species you want to add, you can request that it be entered into the system. You can also use this to create custom species descriptions for your park or site! And if you’re not a specialist, there is no reason to tackle invasive species on your own. Most of us only learn to identify two or three non-native species by site once we learn that they are invasive. You can add other people you work with as managers to edit the species list, site information, verify reports, or work with users who have made reports. So there is no real reason to fear adding a native species by mistake, since an expert will check it.

Invasive species are a threat to native plants and animals, crowding natives, consuming food sources, or acting as fire hazards. The NPS has found that having groups such as schools run short-term “campaigns” is highly effective for locating invasive species, and a lot of fun. And even if you are planning to visit a local national park as a family, download the app and get your kids involved in the fight against invasive species.

Bugs: Some people have reported issues with registration and signing in, while there are some bugs with the Android app. The iPhone app is listed as being available but Apple doesn’t have it in their app store.

Images: Ian Vorster


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. You can see more of Ian’s work at dragonflyec.com.

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3 Citizen Science Projects You Can Do on Earth Dayhttp://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/earth-day-citsci-projects/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/earth-day-citsci-projects/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 14:00:16 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=9476 It’s Earth Day! Celebrate the planet we live on with these amazing environmental citizen science projects! The Earth Day Network records that in 1970 the average American was funneling leaded gas through massive V8 engine blocks, and industry was exhausting toxic smoke into the air and chemical slush into the water with little legal consequence […]

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African Elephants

African elephants in the Zuurberg Mountains, South Africa.

It’s Earth Day! Celebrate the planet we live on with these amazing environmental citizen science projects!

The Earth Day Network records that in 1970 the average American was funneling leaded gas through massive V8 engine blocks, and industry was exhausting toxic smoke into the air and chemical slush into the water with little legal consequence or bad press.

The nation was largely oblivious to environmental concerns, but Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962 set the stage for something new, as she raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and public health.

Earth Day was born in 1970 and it built upon a new sense of awareness, channeling the energy of a restless youth, and putting environmental concerns front and center. Now it is celebrated in some way in 192 countries across the world. As we celebrate Earth Day 2014, here is a selection of citizen science projects you can choose from, and they are perfectly suited to both the young and young at heart.

1. Mammal Map is a project that helps to update the distribution records of African mammal species. Based out of the University of Cape Town, you can add recent photos of animals photographed in Africa.

2. Based in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds in Forested Landscapes volunteers observe and record forest-dwelling birds in North America to help scientists better understand the birds’ habitat and conservation needs. As a volunteer, you will help answer the following questions: A) How much habitat do different forest-dwelling bird species require for successful breeding? B) How are habitat requirements affected by land uses, such as human development, forestry, and agriculture? C) How do the habitat requirements of a species vary across its range?

3. By 2050 we will need to feed more than 2 billion additional people on the Earth. By playing Cropland Capture, you will help improve basic information about where cropland is located on the Earth’s surface. Using this information, researchers will be better equipped at tackling problems of future food security and the effects of climate change on future food supply.

Image:  Ian Vorster


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. You can see more of Ian’s work at www.dragonflyec.com.

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Citizen Science in the Classroom: Monitoring Dragonflieshttp://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/citizen-science-classroom-monitoring-dragonflies/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/citizen-science-classroom-monitoring-dragonflies/#comments Mon, 21 Apr 2014 18:43:31 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=9297 Citizen Science in the Classroom:  Using the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership Pond Watch Project to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards Grades: K-12th Description: While most people are aware of the migration of monarchs and birds, most are unaware that there is also a large seasonal migration of dragonflies. The Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP) is […]

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Citizen Science in the Classroom:  Using the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership Pond Watch Project to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards
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Dragonfly captured during citizen science survey (Photo: Karen McDonald)

Grades:

K-12th

Description:

While most people are aware of the migration of monarchs and birds, most are unaware that there is also a large seasonal migration of dragonflies. The Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP) is an organization dedicated to developing a network of citizen scientists that monitor the spring and fall movements of dragonflies (five in particular). This includes monitoring migrations in Spring and Fall, Pond Watching, and collecting adults and shed casts (exuviae) for analysis of stable isotopes. The isotopes can help researchers identify how far dragonflies are migrating. The MDP projects span all of North America and can be conducted anywhere there is fresh water and dragonflies.

The migration study and Pond Watch are the two activities best suited for student participation.  This is because the dragonfly collection requires euthanizing adult dragonflies, which may be a sensitive activity for children. For those working with elementary to middle school students I would strongly suggest participating primarily in the Pond Watch project. The Pond Watch project allows continual monitoring of a pond, or body of water, for the five key species of dragonflies that MDP has identified as migrants. The migration studies occur primarily in Spring and Fall, and for those not familiar with dragonfly migration (teachers or students) identification of “migration” behavior may be too difficult to distinguish from behavior that is “hunting” or “patrolling” without proper training. For this reason I’m going to focus on the Pond Watch project for all three projects are similar (Note: for the isotope project you will need to order a kit from the MDP website).

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(Photo: Karen McDonald)

 Materials You’ll Need:

  • Computer with internet access.
  • Printer
  • Binoculars (optional, but helpful)
  • Clipboards and pencils
  • Data sheets downloaded from the MDP website
  • Access to pond or water with dragonflies (ponds, pools, landscaping, drainage areas, etc.)
  • Digital Camera(s) (optional but encouraged)
  • Meter Sticks (optional)
  • Insect nets (optional)
  • Dip nets and buckets (optional)
  • A printed guide for identification of 5 species of dragonflies (supplied on MDP site)
  • Field guide to dragonflies of your region (optional, but helpful)

Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:

  • Dragonflies are ubiquitous throughout North America and they are familiar to most school children.
  • You don’t have to be a dragonfly expert to participate, your class only needs to learn five key species of dragonflies and some basics of their behavior (egg laying, hunting, etc.).
  • This project requires very little materials.
  • Students develop natural observational skills and use quantification to measure population abundance.
  • The project can be done three seasons of the year.

Teaching Materials:  

There are a variety of teaching materials supplied on the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership website and the Oodonota Central website. On their home page you can find a “Projects Flyer” that describes their various projects, along with a 32 page instruction manual of “Monitoring Protocols.” On the MDP website they have a “Resources” tab that has helpful identification resources, anatomy guides, specific pages for the five focus species of their projects, behavior resources, and more. On the Oodonata Central web page you can also find checklists, maps, photos/ID, and resources. I found Oodonata Central to be geared towards professional in the field than teachers or educators, but it is a useful resource. There are regional trainings held by MDP, they suggest checking their website for dates, times, and locations.

As an educator, I have also found the following resources helpful, and I will reference some of these in the following standards section:

Online Safety for Children

To participate in this project the teacher will need to create a log-in for the MDP website, which can be used for the entire class. They may then control data entry. Students do not need to create their own accounts. To register, you will be required to provide the location of the site where you are collecting, including longitude and latitude.

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(Photo: Karen McDonald)

Common Core and Next Gen. Standards Met:

Kindergarten:

Next. Gen. Science:

K-LS1-1 Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals need to survive. K-ESS3-1 Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants and animals and the places they live. For the first two standards, teachers may introduce the life cycle of dragonflies to students using the books mentioned in the “teaching resources” section of this post. You may then have students describe what dragonflies need to survive during different stages of their life cycle. This may be done in categories such as food, water, shelter, and space (or ecosystem). K-ESS3-3 Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air and/or other living things in the local environment. Students may use what they learn about the needs of dragonflies, especially around ponds, and then draw or describe solutions for reducing human impacts in the area where dragonflies feed and reproduce. All of these standards may be supported by participating in the MDP Pond Watch project and going to your local pond to collect data about dragonflies, their habitat, and behaviors.

Common Core:

Literacy:  RI.K.1 With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text. W.K.1 Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell the reader the topic or name of a book they are writing about. W.K.7 Participate in a shared research and writing project. By participating in the MDP Pond Watch research project, students may conduct field research to support reading. The books mentioned in the “teaching resources” section of this post may also be used to help students meet all three of these standards with grade appropriate reading. See the NGSS description above for Kindergarten.

Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively. MP.4 Model with Mathematics. K.MD.A.2. Directly compare two objects with a measurable attribute in common, to see which object has “more of/less of” the attribute and describe the difference. By participating in the MDP Pond Watch project, students may count, observe, and quantify dragonflies (larvae, adult, and molts). Teaches may also have them count how many of the five different species, focused on by the MDP researchers, that they observe and quantify behavior such as hunting, mating, laying eggs, etc. This data may be recorded on the Pond Watch data sheet and submitted.

First Grade:

Next. Gen. Science:

1-LS3-1 Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents. Teachers may use the Pond Watch project to allow students to learn the life cycle of dragonflies.  The books, worksheets, and lesson provided in the “teaching resources” section of this post will provide supplementary materials. The class may then go out into the field to make real-time observations of adult and larval dragonflies.

Common Core:

Literacy:  RI.1.1 Ask and answer key details in a text. RI.1.2 Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text. W.1.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects. By participating in the MDP Pond Watch research project, students may conduct field research to support reading. The books mentioned in the “teaching resources” section of this post may also be used to help students meet all three of these standards with grade appropriate reading. See the NGSS description above for First Grade.

Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively. MP.5 Use appropriate tools strategically. By participating in the MDP Pond Watch project, students may count, observe, and quantify dragonflies (larvae, adult, and molts). Teaches may also have them count how many of the five different species, focused on by the MDP researchers, that they observe and quantify behavior such as hunting, mating, laying eggs, etc. This data may be recorded on the Pond Watch data sheet and submitted.

Second Grade:

Next. Gen. Science:

2-LS4-1 Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats. Teachers may focus on using the Pond Watch project as a springboard for comparing different types of ponds (ecosystems, water quality, and clarity) to meet this standard. The lesson plans provided by Utah State University may be useful in using aquatic insects (especially dragonflies) as bioindicators of ecosystem health.  K-2-ETS1-2 Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a problem. Teachers may use the lesson plan provided on insect wings and adaptations by PBS. They may discuss the shape and design of dragonfly wings, make models, create a flip book, and test a model design in a wind tunnel.

Common Core:

Literacy: W.2.6 Recall information from experience or gather information from the provided sources to answer a question. SL.2.5 Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories or recounts of experiences. Students may use their experience observing dragonflies and conducting experiments about dragonfly wings (see NGSS above) as a basis to answer a question (hypothesis) and to support their findings and experimental results.

Math: 2.MD.D.10 Draw a picture graph and a bar graph to represent a data set with up to four categories. Solve simple put-together, take-apart, and compare problems using information presented in the bar graph. By participating in the MDP Pond Watch project, students may count, observe, and quantify dragonflies (larvae, adult, and molts). Teaches may also have them count how many of the five different species, focused on by the MDP researchers, that they observe and quantify behavior such as hunting, mating, laying eggs, etc. Teachers may also have students make observations about average flight duration and the height of flight of the dragonflies observed. This data may be recorded on the Pond Watch data sheet and submitted. Students should also create bar graphs and picture graphs of this information.

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Dragonflies make great organisms for citizen science (Photo: Karen McDonald)

Third Grade:

Next. Gen. Science:

3-LS4-3 Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all. Teachers participating in the Pond Watch project may have students make observations of the number and types of dragonflies and aquatic insects found at their site. The lesson plans provided by Utah State University may be useful in using aquatic insects (especially dragonflies) as bioindicators of ecosystem health. By examining bioindicators teachers may have students quantify insect populations and discuss survivorship rates and water quality. 3-LS4-4 Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes and the types of plants and animals that live there may change. Students may discuss their findings about dragonfly and aquatic insect populations in relationship to what might happen if the local ecosystem water quality deteriorated or was made more clean. They may offer solutions for bio-remediation or community level-solutions. 3.LS1-1 Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles, but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death. Teachers may use the resources provided, in the “teaching resources” section of this post, to help students learn the life cycle of dragonflies. They may then have students draw and compare this cycle to frogs, beetles, butterflies, and grasshoppers while noting the differences between complete and incomplete metamorphosis.

Common Core:

Literacy:  W.3.9 Recall information from experience or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories. SL.3.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace. Teachers may have students research the life cycle and natural history of dragonflies as bioindicators (as well as other aquatic insects). They may have students report on their findings during the Pond Watch data collection period and their hypothesis concerning water quality and pond health (see the NGSS project above relating to aquatic insect bioinidicators).

Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively. MP.4 Model with mathematics. MP.5 Use appropriate tools strategically. 3.MD.B.3 Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. By participating in the MDP Pond Watch project, students may count, observe, and quantify dragonflies (larvae, adult, and molts). Teaches may also have them count how many of the five different species, focused on by the MDP researchers, that they observe and quantify behavior such as hunting, mating, laying eggs, etc. Teachers may also have students make observations about average flight duration and the height of flight of the dragonflies observed. This data may be recorded on the Pond Watch data sheet and submitted. Students may also quantify and graph the numbers and types of different aquatic insects discovered during their exploration of water quality/health (see lesson plans mentioned in NGSS standards above).

Fourth Grade:

Next. Gen. Science: 4-ESS2-2 Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features. By participating in Pond Watch students may learn about the needs of dragonflies and the five key species that tend to migrate. Teachers may use a topographical map of their local county or region and ask students to identify patterns on the map, and then to hypothesize possible migration routes for the dragonflies that live in their local pond. Students should consider wind, buildings, food sources, water sources, updrafts, thermals, and man-made obstructions. They may work in groups and then present their ideas to the class.

Common Core:

Literacy:  W.4.8. Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources. W.4.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. Students may use the project described above (see NGSS standards) as the basis for their research about local conditions such as weather and natural resources or man-made obstructions in an area. They may present their findings as a part of the research project on potential routes for dragonfly migration.

Math: MP.4 Model with mathematics. Students should be able to use scale bars from their topographic maps to estimate and model different migratory routes, and distances, for their hypothesized fly way for dragonflies (see NGSS standard above for description).

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(Photo: Karen McDonald)

Fifth Grade:

Next. Gen. Science:

5-LS2-1 Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment. Teachers may have students develop a visual model of the food web of the ponds which are being studied. They may then have students trace the flow of energy through primary, secondary, and tertiary consumers. 

Common Core:

Literacy:  RI.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text. RI.5.9 Integrate information from several texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information. SL.5.5 Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of the main ideas or themes.

Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively. MP.4 Model with mathematics. MP.5 Use appropriate tools strategically. Teachers participating in the Pond Watch project may have students make observations of the number and types of dragonflies and aquatic insects found at their site. The lesson plans provided by Utah State University may be useful in using aquatic insects (especially dragonflies) as bioindicators of ecosystem health. By examining bioindicators teachers may have students quantify insect populations and discuss survivorship rates and water quality.Teachers may have students research the life cycle and natural history of dragonflies as bioindicators (as well as other aquatic insects). They may have students report on their findings during the Pond Watch data collection period and their hypothesis concerning water quality, biomagnification, and pond health (see the NGSS project above relating to aquatic insect bioinidicators). Students may use quantitative data, relating to the different species observed in their habitats, and relate this to their findings.

Middle School:

Next. Gen. Science:

MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations. MS-LS2-2 Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems. Teachers may use Pond Watch as a platform to allow students to observe populations of invertebrates, specifically aquatic invertebrates and dragonflies, and then to discuss present day environmental factors affecting their populations as well as future predictions of how climate, water quality, ecosystem changes, and human influence may affect the location(s). This may be supported by studies of bioindicator species (such as dragonflies) using the lesson plans provided by Utah State University.

MS-LS4-2 Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships. Students may construct possible cladograms or time limes of evolution relating to modern day dragonflies (observed during Pond Watch studies) and fossil dragonflies. Resources such as the National Geographic article on paleo-dragonflies may be useful as well resources on ancient dragonflies found in “Google Scholar.”

Common Core:

Literacy:  RST.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts. RST.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions about a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions. WHST.6-8.2 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. Students may use the data they collected from the Pond Watch project to support ideas about ecosystem populations of invertebrates and water quality. They may also conduct research related to dragonfly tolerance of different levels of water clarity and quality and then relate this to their ideas about how changes in ecosystems may affect aquatic insect populations (food sources, rearing grounds, migration routes, etc.). Students may also conduct research on prehistoric dragonflies and then present their research related to modern dragonflies observed during their research projects.

Math: MP.4 Model with mathematics. 6SP.B.5 Summarize numerical data sets in relation to their context. By participating in the MDP Pond Watch project, students may count, observe, and quantify dragonflies (larvae, adult, and molts). Teaches may also have them count how many of the five different species, focused on by the MDP researchers, that they observe and quantify behavior such as hunting, mating, laying eggs, etc. Teachers may also have students make observations about average flight duration and the height of flight of the dragonflies observed. This data may be recorded on the Pond Watch data sheet and submitted. Students may also quantify and graph the numbers and types of different aquatic insects discovered during their exploration of water quality/health (see lesson plans mentioned in NGSS standards above).

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Dragonfly collection and citizen science (Photo: Karen McDonald)

 High School:

Next. Gen. Science: HS-LS2-2 Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales. Teachers may have students participate in the Pond Watch project and then use data from different seasons (possibly years) to quantify population observations of the five different species being studied, their behavior, life stages, and abundance. Students may wish to compare larval (nymph) populations to adult abundance to assess if there is immigration occurring in the ecosystem. HS-LS2-7 Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity. Students may assess the ecosystem that they are studying for biotic and abiotic factors that might affect aquatic insect (and adult) dragonfly populations. They may then develop management solutions and produce a management strategy plan for the class.

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3, 2, 1…Project MERCCURI Blasts Off to the ISS Today!!http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/project-merccuri-blasts-off-iss/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/project-merccuri-blasts-off-iss/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 15:40:47 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=9455 What happens when you combine professional cheerleaders, microbiologists, and astronauts? The answer is Project MERCCURI and the Microbial Playoffs… in SPAAACE! SPACE FLORIDA, FL — Today, something  amazing is headed toward the ISS—microbial life from earth!This moment is the culmination of a citizen science experiment called Project MERCCURI (Microbial Ecology Research Combining Citizen and University […]

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What happens when you combine professional cheerleaders, microbiologists, and astronauts? The answer is Project MERCCURI and the Microbial Playoffs… in SPAAACE!

SPACE FLORIDA, FL — Today, something  amazing is headed toward the ISS—microbial life from earth!This moment is the culmination of a citizen science experiment called Project MERCCURI (Microbial Ecology Research Combining Citizen and University Researchers on the ISS), a collaboration between NASA, UC Davis, SciStarter, and Science Cheerleaders.

Watch the launch LIVE today at 4:58pm ET / 1:58 PT on NASA TV!!

There were two main goals for the project. The first involves a huge competition that will take place on the ISS between 47 different microbes that have been collected by thousands of public participants from the surfaces of various public spaces (mostly sporting venues). The microbial competitors will face off against each other to see who will grow the fastest, and the race will be monitored by astronauts on the ISS, using standard laboratory equipment. Researchers at UC Davis will host an identical race using the same kind of equipment on Earth.

The second  goal involves sending 4,000 cell samples to Argonne National Lab to be sequenced by Jack Gilbert. The lab will identify which microbes are present on the surfaces of cell phones and shoes and compare them to other cell phone and shoe samples from around the country. While astronauts do not carry cell phones or wear shoes, they will be swabbing similar surfaces onboard the ISS, like foot holds that they strap their feet into while they are operating the external robotic arms and their wall-mounted communication devices.

You can get to know all of the microbial competitors, who they are, where they’re from, and why they are so cool on the official website. If you want, you can even print your own Microbial Trading Cards. Cell phone and shoe collections will continue through April!

The microbes are sailing into space today aboard Space X’s Dragon spacecraft. SciStarter’s founder, Darlene Cavalier, is on site today at the launch. She notes, “We’re here, in part, as representatives of the thousands of citizen scientists who participated in this important research project to study microbes on Earth and in space!”

 

Thank you to all who made this project possible. It’s pure proof that the sky is the limit for what we can do in science, together.

For more, follow #SpaceMicrobes on Twitter.

Image: Darlene Cavalier

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WildObs: Instagram for Nature Lovershttp://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/wildobs-instagram-nature-lovers/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/wildobs-instagram-nature-lovers/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 19:36:46 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=9448 Collect and share pictures of memorable encounters with nature using the WildObs app. Want more citizen science? Don’t worry. There’s an app for that. There are nature lovers, wildlife photographers, hikers, kayakers and birdwatchers who pursue their passion every day, and most of them do so in the hope of spotting an osprey, or catching […]

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Collect and share pictures of memorable encounters with nature using the WildObs app.

Want more citizen science? Don’t worry. There’s an app for that.

Gopher Snake

There are nature lovers, wildlife photographers, hikers, kayakers and birdwatchers who pursue their passion every day, and most of them do so in the hope of spotting an osprey, or catching a glimpse of a mountain lion or bear. As rewarding as these sightings are, there is an equally fulfilling joy to be found in identifying a clump of apple snail eggs, butterfly or a nighthawk chick. This is what WildObs (official site), a crowdsourced program that partners with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) does—it serves as a portal geared for enthusiasts rather than naturalists or scientists—users who want to gather, share and comment on their day to day sightings.

Adam Jack the creator of the program launched it in 2008. “As a nature lover with a glorious number of encounters, and a reasonably technical iPhone user, I wanted to be able to remember wildlife I saw; what, where and when I saw the wildlife, and ideally try to build a community database to identify good places to find critters,” he said. The idea to build WildObs came in part from Goodreads; the system for books you’ve read, books you’d like to read, and book discovery. “Why not be able to record what wildlife you’ve seen, mark species as favorites, and so on. Given that knowledge the system could inform you about what has been seen recently around you, educate you with the wildlife you might not know existed, and bring you local news from other wildlife lovers.” The idea was to connect people, places and wildlife.

You can record your encounters for your own studies, or enjoyment, use the records you produce to develop a personal wildlife calendar for the year, or maintain a life list as you learn about new species. The NWF uses the program as part of their Wildlife Watch initiative, to track the occurrences of natural phenomena. In addition you can share wildlife Stories online and join the NWF Flickr group. All of this is available to both first timers and professionals.

Western Snowy Plover Family

As a wildlife community, WildObs participants help each other find the nature (for a photograph or close encounter) and users learn about the species in their neighborhoods, so the app essentially offers a collaborative wildlife experience—it helps people connect people to wildlife. When asked if the project plans to publish any findings related to the user collection, Jack says, “The database only has tens of thousands of records to date. WildObs has become more a system of ‘interesting encounters’ than every encounter. It doesn’t have bioblitz-type data, but rather more individual sightings—a Moose here, or a Bobcat there.” There are currently a few thousand users.

WildObs Android

There is always at least one exciting thing about a participatory project—something that enthuses users or that sparked the first idea for it. For Adam Jack and WildObs that would be how the app shares encounters amongst the community. “The app send its users custom notifications tailored to their interests, location and species encounter history. The ultimate goal for WildObs is to connect and engage people with the wildlife around them, and to excite them to go explore and enjoy,” says Jack. It actually sounds a bit like Instagram for nature lovers, which seems to be a pretty neat idea. Join the WildObs community via your Android or iPhone and use technology to help you connect with nature.

Images: Ian Vorster

Android App: http://wildobs.com/about/android
iPhone App: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wildobs-observer/id309451803?mt=8
WildObs on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/services/apps/72157607039309200/


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. You can see more of Ian’s work at dragonflyec.com.

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[GUEST POST] UK Flooding – And What You Can Do About Ithttp://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/guest-post-uk-flooding-can/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/guest-post-uk-flooding-can/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 20:13:01 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=9410 Thames Valley Sewer System overwhelmed and instrumentation destroyed, how you can contribute to water monitoring with citizen science. Flooding is not just a problem for residents and local businesses; it is also a major issue for the UK’s water companies. Throughout the closing months of 2013 and the start of the current year, England was […]

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Thames_flood_level_markers_at_Trinity_Hospital_Greenwich

Thames Valley Sewer System overwhelmed and instrumentation destroyed, how you can contribute to water monitoring with citizen science.

Flooding is not just a problem for residents and local businesses; it is also a major issue for the UK’s water companies. Throughout the closing months of 2013 and the start of the current year, England was hit with torrential rain and areas of serious flooding; especially in the southern regions. The amount of flood water entering the sewage pipe network caused companies like Thames Water to lose all of their instrumentation and monitoring equipment. Floodwater effectively drowned the devices put in place by the company, meaning they had to replace them all.

This procedure involved turning water supplies off as engineers installed new monitoring equipment, costing millions of pounds to implement. The exact amount of money this cost Thames Water is uncertain and is hard to specify; it all very much depends on the type of monitoring equipment and the scale of repair. Whatever the cost, it is an expense Thames Water could have done without! So why didn’t the instrumentation in place warn Thames Water of the flood risk before it actually happened? What can the company do to avoid this problem in the future? This article aims to answer these questions.

Flood Management – Who is Responsible?

Nationally, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is responsible for flood policies and coastal erosion risk management. This organisation also provides funding for flood risk management authorities via grants from the Environmental Agency and other local authorities. There are other societies and authorities that share responsibility of flood management including:

  • The Environment Agency – Operational responsibility for overseeing the risk of flooding from main reservoirs, rivers, estuaries and the sea. This association is also a coastal erosion rick management authority.
  • Lead Local Flood Authorities – Responsible for creating, maintaining and applying strategies for local flood risk management and also keeping a register of flood risk assets. These authorities analyse the risk of flooding from surface water and groundwater.
  • District Councils – Working alongside Lead Local Flood Authorities and other organisations, these are important partners in planning local flood risk management schemes and carrying out operations on minor watercourses.
  • Highway Authorities – Responsible for supplying and maintaining highway drainage and roadside ditches. These must ensure road projects to not interfere with or increase the risk of flooding.
  • Water and Sewerage Companies – These companies are also responsible for managing flood risks, from both water and foul or combined sewer systems.

All of these mentioned authorities have a duty to co-operate with each other and to share information, under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010. This act ensures all flood risk management authorities work together to provide the best possible flood risk management for the benefit of the relevant communities.

What Causes Flooding?

Aside from the obvious, there are quite a few possible causes of flooding. Terrible weather with relentless rainfall is of course the main cause of most floods, but there are other contributory factors too.  Climate change, deforestation, population growth and paving over natural drainage areas are all putting increasing pressure on the UK’s sewerage network. This can be made even worse by individuals putting inappropriate substances and products into the drains, such as wet-wipes and food products.

But what caused such major flooding in the Thames Valley area? How did the company lose all of its instrumentation and why was this area affected so badly by the weather? Well, the majority of areas within England have divided sewers to take rainwater and foul waste separately; but in many areas of London the sewer system is combined. This means foul waste and rainwater is combined in one sewer system. During a heavy storm this can cause the sewer flow to be much greater than usual and can often reach maximum capacity; causing the system to overflow and destroy the monitoring equipment installed.

Citizen Science – Weather@home 2014

As UK water companies identify and implement a definitive sustainable solution to flooding, what can normal citizens do to help in the meantime? Well first and foremost, information on recent flooding events in your area will help experts further understand the processes and how best to avoid the risk. So photographs, measurements and any other kind of recorded information you can obtain will help towards this.

The University of Oxford currently have a team of scientists who are working on a new citizen science project, Weather@home 2014, designed to help better understand the 2013-14 floods within the UK. There are many arguments as to what causes flooding; including inundated drainage systems, inadequate flood defences and increased urbanisation of land. But perhaps the most consistent debate lies with the connection between climate change and extreme weather changes. Weather@home 2014 investigates how much effect climate change had on the UK winter storms and aims to answer this question via the use of climate models.

Running climate models can be extremely time-consuming, but more runs mean more comparisons and ultimately stronger trends.  With this in mind, scientists are asking anybody who is interested in helping out to sign up and help complete up to 30,000 climate model reruns of winter 2013-14. Each rerun will have different assumptions about the influences of climate change on weather patterns. This is an innovative approach as it uses citizens as contributors to scientific analysis, rather than simple data collectors. Results are still pouring in and live outcomes are being posted on the project website almost every single day.

Citizen Science – Doing Flood Risk Science Differently

Flood scientist Stuart Lane and a group of researchers have been participating in another citizen science project; taking a completely different approach. The published paper, Doing flood risk science differently: an experiment in radical scientific method, details the work of an interdisciplinary team of natural and social scientists attempting an experiment in flood management within the Pickering area. The project involves scientific experts and citizens with experience in flooding, without providing them with pre-defined roles.

Each group worked in unison to generate new knowledge about a particular flooding event and to negotiate the different assumptions and commitments of each group. Participants in each group were seen to have relevant knowledge and understandings and efforts were made to expand collective perceptions, which were not set apart between academics and non-academics.

This particular project supported scientific understandings of flood hydrology via the creation of fresh models and the compilation of qualitative insights and experiences of flooding. In addition to this, the project also helped to overcome an impasse in the management of floods in Pickering by reconfiguring the relationship between scientific experts and local residents. Previously, no decision had been made to combat the appropriate use of resources for flood risk management. Both of these opposing citizen science projects help to showcase the wide variety of methods in which non-scientists can involve themselves in important research projects.

[Find more weather-related citizen science projects using SciStarter's Project Finder.]

Thames Water Solution

In order to reduce the risk of sewer flooding in the future, water companies need to reduce the amount of rainwater entering the sewer network. Additional capacity and some new sewer systems would also largely help the situation too. Thames Water has already put some processes in place in many areas, such as installing new sensing devices to record water flow. This equipment has already proved helpful and allows the company to respond quickly to changes in weather and ground conditions. Thames Water also aims to spend up to £350million on a major programme of improvements before the year 2015, which includes:

  • A new storm relief sewer to be installed across the catchment area;
  • Enhancements to be made to the existing network;
  • A sustainable drainage system (SuDS) scheme;
  • Targeted installation of more anti-flood (FLIP) devices.

These plans were submitted to their regulator, Ofwat, with the aim of enhancing the sewerage network in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. All decisions and improvements made must be based on accurate data and balanced against the need for new investment, careful management and community education. Accurate instrumentation and monitoring can help to achieve this data; so I suppose the saying should go: if you look after your monitors, they will look after you!

Image: Wikimedia (Thames flood level markers at Trinity Hospital, Greenwich. The marker on the right is for 1928)


Hayden Hill is an environmental expert and an editorial coordinator for ATi-UK. He believes that before the torrential flooding in 2012, monitoring devices were not being instrumented or managed properly. With the introduction of newer, more efficient systems, Ian believes that UK water companies will have a clearer indication of potential flood risks before they actually materialise. 

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Science Festivals and Hack Days!http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/science-festivals-hack-days/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/science-festivals-hack-days/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 20:38:50 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=9430 April is the month for science festivals. Join the SciStarter team at a festival near you later on this month — bring yourselves, and we’ll bring the citizen science! Cambridge Science Festival Friday, April 18 – Sunday, April 27 Come check out the diverse spectrum of citizen science projects out there! On April 19th during […]

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April is the month for science festivals. Join the SciStarter team at a festival near you later on this month — bring yourselves, and we’ll bring the citizen science!

Cambridge Science Festival

Friday, April 18 – Sunday, April 27

Come check out the diverse spectrum of citizen science projects out there! On April 19th during the Science Carnival event, our friends at EyeWire, Games With Words, GoViral, NOVA Labs, Public Lab, and Project MERCCURI will be joining us and demonstrating how to participate in their projects.

cambridge-science-festival

 

USA Science & Engineering Festival

Saturday, April 26 – Sunday, April 27

SciStarter will be partnering up with PaleoQuest to demonstrate their Shark Finder project. The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center will also be coming by to tell you about their new citizen science initiatives! Project MERCCURI will also be on deck. Stop by and say hello!

HACK DAYS! SciStarter is hosting a hack event in D.C. (4/26 to 4/27) to develop open APIs for citizen science. If you’re interested in participating, sign up here!

USA_Science_Engineering_Festival_NewLogo

Philadelphia Science Festival

Friday, April 25 – Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Philly SciFest always brings a plethora of activities to choose from! SciStarter and Project MERCCURI will have a booth during the Science Carnival event on May 3rd. Come help us end this season of science festivals with a bang!

HACK DAY! SciStarter is hosting a hack event in Philly (4/9) to develop open APIs for citizen science. If you’re interested in participating, sign up here!

IAc8T


Interested in volunteering with us for any (or all) of these events? Shoot an e-mail to lily@scistarter.com!

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There’s an App for That! Citizen Science at Your Fingertipshttp://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/theres-app-citizen-science-fingertips/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/theres-app-citizen-science-fingertips/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 15:18:15 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=9422 If you think science is out of reach, think again! Here are some citizen science apps you’ll always have at your fingertips! SciSpy With this App from The Science Channel, you can spy on nature and contribute to science. Share photos and observations, contribute to research initiatives. Get started!   SatCam Capture and share observations of […]

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If you think science is out of reach, think again! Here are some citizen science apps you’ll always have at your fingertips!

Screen shot 2014-04-04 at 11.07.22 AM

SciSpy

With this App from The Science Channel, you can spy on nature and contribute to science. Share photos and observations, contribute to research initiatives. Get started!

 

Screen shot 2014-04-04 at 11.07.27 AM

SatCam

Capture and share observations of sky and ground conditions near you to help researchers check the quality of satellite data. You’ll receive the satellite image captured at your location! Get started!

 

Screen shot 2014-04-04 at 11.07.32 AM

What’s Invasive?

“Invasive” plants crowd out food sources for wild animals and create other headaches in nature. Use this app to help identify and locate them for removal. Get started!

 

Screen shot 2014-04-04 at 11.07.39 AM

WildObs

Capture wildlife encounters and use them to develop your own wildlife calendar. Partner of National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Watch working with scientific studies to extract citizen science from your recorded encounters. Get started!

 

 

Screen shot 2014-04-04 at 11.07.45 AM

SENSR

Want to run your own Citizen Science project? There’s an App for that, too! SENSR can help you create a mobile data collection tool for your project. Get started!


Calling hackers and developers! SciStarter is organizing pop-up hackathons to develop open APIs and other tools to help citizen scientists. Sign up to join us at hack days and science festivals in Boston, Philly, NYC, or Washington, DC in April!

Want to bring citizen science into the classroom? Check out our Educators Page to learn more about how to integrate projects into your curriculum.

SciStarter and Azavea (with support from Sloan Foundation) spent the last year investigating developments in software, hardware, and data processing capability for citizen science. Here’s what we found.

Want your project featured in our newsletter? Contact jenna@scistarter.com

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[WEBINAR] CitSci.Org “Feature Friday” webinar on 4/4: Plots, Subplots, Transects, and Protocols!http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/webinar-citsci-org-feature-friday-webinar-44-plots-subplots-transects-protocols/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/webinar-citsci-org-feature-friday-webinar-44-plots-subplots-transects-protocols/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 20:50:16 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=9412 Greetings from CitSci.org! Please join us for our next “Feature Friday” webinar. These webinars invite you to offer your ideas and thoughts about improvements to CitSci.org. The first Friday of each month these webinars will focus on a specific topic / feature of CitSci.org. We will demonstrate how to use the website feature and take feedback. The April […]

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citsci-org

Greetings from CitSci.org! Please join us for our next “Feature Friday” webinar. These webinars invite you to offer your ideas and thoughts about improvements to CitSci.org. The first Friday of each month these webinars will focus on a specific topic / feature of CitSci.org. We will demonstrate how to use the website feature and take feedback.

The April webinar will focus on “Plots, Subplots, Transects, and Protocols!” We will discuss the scientific value of using more sophisticated plot designs for your environmental monitoring efforts by sharing a few examples. We will then delve into how to use CitSci.org to create datasheets that support these plot designs, how to create custom species pick lists, and how volunteers can now report as many species as they happen to find at a given subplot for a specified monitoring location. We conclude by demonstrating how to view your subplot data online. Together, we hope to guide the future of this exciting platform in support of your collaborative citizen science / community based monitoring efforts.

WHAT: CitSci.org April “Feature Friday” webinar

WHEN: April 4th, 2014 (12:00 noon PST; 1:00 PM MST; 2:00 PM CST; 3:00 PM EST)

DURATION: 1 hour

Time: 1:00-2:00p (MST)

HOW TO JOIN

Use either your microphone and speakers (VoIP) or, call in using your telephone:

Dial +1 (786) 358-5420

Access Code: 557-036-925

Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meeting

Meeting ID: 557-036-925

Not at your computer? Click this link to join this meeting from your iPhone®, iPad®, Android® or Windows Phone® device via the GoToMeeting app.

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Citizen Science in the Classroom: School of Antshttp://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/citizen-science-classroom-school-ants/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/04/citizen-science-classroom-school-ants/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 20:48:31 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=9389 Using School of Ants Citizen Science to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards in the Classroom Discovering Ants Grades: K-12th Description: School of Ants (SOA) is one of many urban wildlife citizen science projects hosted through the Your Wildlife project. Your Wildlife and School of Ants focuses on biodiversity and citizen-scientist driven inquiry […]

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Using School of Ants Citizen Science to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards in the Classroom

School of ants alex wild photos

Discovering Ants

Grades:

K-12th

Description:

School of Ants (SOA) is one of many urban wildlife citizen science projects hosted through the Your Wildlife project. Your Wildlife and School of Ants focuses on biodiversity and citizen-scientist driven inquiry in urban areas around schools and homes.  Dr. Andrea Lucky is the director of the SOA project out of the University of Florida’s Entomology Lab and the Nematology Lab at NC State. The idea behind the project is for citizen scientists to collect samples of ants from paved and green spaces around their homes and schools. They then send in the samples to the lab in Florida for identification. This data is used to generate a North American map of ant biodiversity and distribution.

SOA used to provide kits for ant collection but now they ask project participants to provide the supplies. As you can see from the list below these are limited to zip-lock bags, cookies, and index cards with some postal shipping. You can find step by step project instructions for the kits and collection in their free online PDF. Due to limited resources schools may participate by submitting one sample from each address or school location (no more than one). However you may submit multiple samples from different addresses (from the same person or class). Sampling takes exactly one hour. NOTE: as a caution be sure to have a minimal understanding of the biting and stinging ant varieties around your school. Do not collect ants that might cause harm to students.

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Computer with internet and printer
  • Instruction page for collecting ants
  • 8 white 3”x5” index cards
  • 2 Pecan Sandies Cookies (contains nuts, but must be used for standard protocol)
  • 8 small zip-lock bags (1 qt.)
  • 1 large zip-lock bag (1 gal.)
  • 1 envelope for mailing ants by US post, and postage
  • Freezer
  • Book
  • Magnifying glasses (optional)
  • Dr. Elanor’s Book of Common Ants PDF (free online through iTunes, optional)

ant capture alex wild

Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:

  • Ants are ubiquitous and the project can be done anywhere in the US around schools or homes.
  • Ants can be observed three seasons of the year in most locations.
  • There are minimal supplies required to participate in this project.
  • This project is a one-time activity, lasting one hour, so the time required is minimal.
  • The project can be a springboard for lessons focusing on arthropods and invertebrates around the school.

Teaching Materials:

The SOA website offers links and resources for ant identification and pictures, but the content is geared more towards ant researchers and scientists. They have a “coming soon” section for teachers, which is promising. Their free PDF ant key called “Who Ate My Cookie” is also handy. I am including some resources that I’ve found useful when teaching about ants:

Dr. Elanore's book

Dr. Elanor’s book of Common Ants is a great free resources to help with SOA (Photo: SOA)

Books:

Online Safety for Children

This project requires an adult to create an online account to upload data. You will need to provide your address and location but students do not need to enter an account and student personal information is not required.

Common Core and Next Gen. Standards Met:

Kindergarten:

Next. Gen. Science: K-LS1-1 Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals need to survive. K-ESS3-1 Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants and animals and the places they live. Teachers may introduce the needs of ants through one of free books or suggested reading in the list above (under Teaching Materials). They may also have students participate in SOA and make observations of live ants as to their behavior and needs. Students may make a drawing of the different environments where they find ants and describe the food, water, shelter, and space available to the ants. K-ESS3-3 Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air and/or other living things in the local environment. Students should study ants around their local school yard and make observations about human influences that impact the ant colony. They may then provide suggestions for reducing this impact as a class discussion.

Common Core:

Literacy: RI.K.1 With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text. W.K.1 Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell the reader the topic or name of a book they are writing about. Teachers may introduce the needs of ants through one of free books or suggested reading in the list above (under Teaching Materials). They may also have students participate in SOA and make observations of live ants as to their behavior and needs. Students may make a drawing or write an opinion piece about their observations and the text they have examined. W.K.7 Participate in a shared research and writing project. By participating on SOA students can share their research, collection techniques, observation, and thoughts on the life cycle of ants through writing and drawing.

Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively. MP.4 Model with Mathematics Teachers may have students set up their SOA experiment, and while they are waiting for their 1 hour sampling period they may use magnifying glasses to observe ant behavior. Information may then be shared collectively and the teacher may generate a simple graph. Teachers may also have students conduct a basic survey of ant mound locations and then graph findings into simple categories such as sidewalk, bare dirt area, grass, sand, playground, etc. This activity may also be incorporated into a simple mapping lesson for geography.

First Grade:

Next Gen. Science: 1-LS3-1 Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents. At the beginning of the SOA project teachers may introduce the life cycle of ants through one of the free books or suggested reading in the list above (under Teaching Materials). Students may color in the sheets provided or make their own diagrams. Teachers may also use the plans listed above (or order a kit) for creating an ant farm for observation so that students may observe the adults and young.

Common Core:

Literacy: RI.1.1 Ask and answer key details in a text. RI.1.2 Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text. W.1.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects.  At the beginning of the SOA project teachers may introduce the needs and life cycle of ants. Teachers may use one of free books or suggested readings in the list above (under Teaching Materials). Students may also use these texts to answer key details about ants and answer/retell key details of the text.

Math: Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively. MP.5 Use appropriate tools strategically. Teachers may have students set up their SOA experiment, and while they are waiting for their 1 hour sampling period they may use magnifying glasses to observe ant behavior. Information may then be shared collectively and the teacher may generate a simple graph. Teachers may also have students conduct a basic survey of ant mound locations, and then graph findings into simple categories such as sidewalk, bare dirt area, grass, sand, playground, etc. This activity may also be incorporated into a simple mapping lesson for geography.

school of ants map.

School of ants provides an interactive map to help you find where ants have been recorded and their species (Photo: SOA).

Second Grade:

Next. Gen. Science: 2-LS4-1 Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats. By participating in SOA students will be making observations about the biodiversity of ants found in each location. Teachers may assign identification activities using Dr. Elanore’s free guide. Teachers may also have students draw or list all of the living organisms in the area as a part of biodiversity. Alternately students may draw a simple food web and label the producers and consumers.

Common Core:

Literacy: W.2.6 Recall information from experience or gather information from provided sources to answer a question. SL.2.5 Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories or recounts of experiences. For the SOA project students should use the resources listed above in the Teaching Materials section (Dr. Elanor’s free ID PDF is a great start).  They may then participate in the SOA project and collect data about the specific species of ant they collected, the habitats they were found in, and other observations. This may then be shared, along with their research, through stories, poems, drawings, or visual displays.

Math: 2.MD.D.10 Draw a picture graph and a bar graph to represent a data set with up to four categories. Teachers may have students set up their SOA experiment, and while they are waiting for their 1 hour sampling period they may use magnifying glasses to observe the number of ants they find behaving in one four categories; guarding, foraging, defending, and grooming. Students may then create a picture or bar graph of their findings. Teachers may also have students conduct a basic survey of ant mound locations and then graph findings into simple categories such as bare dirt, grass, pavement, or sand. This activity may also be incorporated into a simple mapping lesson for geography.

Third Grade:

Next. Gen. Science: 3-LS4-3 Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all. Using SOA as a platform, teachers may have students place their sampling containers in the two different types of habitats and observe which habitat has the highest species diversity or numeric response to the bait. If you’re going to count ants you may wish to use a simple grid on the index card to help with counting or estimating. The students may also be divided into groups to conduct a survey of the biodiversity of each study location (where bait was laid out) and then compare which habitat (grass or pavement) had the most biodiversity. Results may be graphed and discussed with the entire class. It may useful to ask students to compare whether vertebrate or invertebrate biodiversity was highest in each location as a discussion point as well.

3-LS4-4 Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes and the types of plants and animals that live there may change. By observing the locations and behaviors of ants in the SOA project students may discuss what they think might happen to the ant biodiversity of two sampling areas if conditions changed. For example, if the grass was paved over or the pavement was driven and walked over regularly.  They may also discuss the difference in how ants respond to rain (light or flooding) in paved v. grassy areas. Teachers may consider having students conduct a survey of biotic and abiotic factors in the ecosystems studied for further analysis. Students should propose solutions to maintaining biodiversity of ant colonies in their school yard and then discuss the merits of the solutions.

3.LS1-1 Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.  Teachers may use the resources provided, in the Teaching Materials section of this post, to help students learn the life cycle of ants. They may then have students draw and compare the ant life cycle to that of frogs, bees, butterflies, or grasshoppers while noting the differences between complete and incomplete metamorphosis.

Common Core:

Literacy: W.3.9 Recall information from experience or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories. SL.3.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace. For the SOA project students should use the resources listed above in the Teaching Materials section (the free PDFs and Dr. Elanor’s book are a great start).  They may then participate in the SOA project and collect data about the specific species of ant they collected, the habitats they were found in, and other observations. Textual information and research observations may then be shared through oral and visual displays.

Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively. MP.4 Model with mathematics. MP.5 Use appropriate tools strategically. 3.MD.B.3 Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. Teachers may have students set up their SOA experiment, and while they are waiting for their 1 hour sampling period they may use magnifying glasses to observe the number of ants they find behaving in one four categories; guarding, foraging, defending, and grooming. Students may then create a bar graph of their findings. Teachers may also have students conduct a basic survey of ant mound locations and then graph findings into simple categories such as bare dirt, grass, pavement, or sand. To make the activity more complex teachers may also have students quantify the biodiversity of the “green” and “paved” study site and graph the data that is collected. This activity may also be incorporated into a simple mapping lesson.

Alex wild ant photo

One of the ant species you may see in your study (Photo: SOA, Alex Wild)

Fourth Grade:

Next. Gen. Science: 4-ESS2-2 Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features. Although not the traditional study of geography students may use the SOA project as a platform to create their own maps of the topography and features around ant mounds found in their study sites. Students may use these maps to extrapolate patterns about the geographic location of ant mounds. Biotic and abiotic factors may also be examined and mapped; such as shade trees or bushes, moisture, temperature, plant biodiversity, nearby mounds, sidewalks, roads, etc. Students should create a proper map using keys, symbols, compass rose, scale bars etc.

Common Core:

Literacy: W.4.8. Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources. W.4.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.  Students may use the texts suggested in the Teaching Materials section of this post to help them explain their findings in the geographic survey from the Next. Gen. Standards listed above. They may use the keys to identify the specific species of insect and to support or refute ideas about mound location preferences of different species.

Math: MP.4 Model with mathematics. Teachers may have students use rulers or meter sticks to quantify distances of mounds, mapped in the activity listed above for NGSS. Students may make inferences about mound location to food sources, water, shade, protection or vulnerability to predators, or even substrate preferences.

Middle School:

Next. Gen. Science: MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations. Students may use the SOA project as a platform for collecting data about the biotic and abiotic similarities of the grass and paved ecosystems of the study, and the ant species they observe. They may construct and argument about ant biodiversity based on changes to the ecosystem brought about by urbanization and paving.

Literacy: RST.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts. RST.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions. Teachers may have students use Google Scholar to find scholarly articles related to ant distribution, feeding preferences, or other areas of interested related to ants that may be found in their local study sites for the SOA project (See Dr. Elanor’s Guide for more information). Students may develop a hypothesis, research their topic, and then provide a summary of their text and how it supports or refutes their hypothesis.

Math: MP.4 Model with mathematics. 6SP.B.5 Summarize numerical data sets in relation to their context. There are a variety of studies that may be conducted through the SOA project outside of the collection of the vials of ants. Students may use data from the geographic map provided by the site, comparing the species found in different North American regions. Alternatively teachers may have students set up behavior studies of ants or studies about ant mound locations and preferences. Data may be collected and analyzed. The Adult book Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration. Holldobloer and Wilson may also provide inspiration for more advanced studies and analysis.

High School:

Next. Gen. Science: HS-LS2-2 Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales. Teachers may use the SOA project as a platform for further study of biodiversity. They may assign students to develop a study question and hypothesis about biodiversity in different habitats and have students develop a system for collecting data about their study question. One suggestion would be to have students map the biodiversity of the SOA study sites. For the SOA project they only ask for paved and grass, but teachers may wish to expand the comparison to forested, paved, grass, or dirt. Students may collect data about biodiversity of flora and fauna as well as vertebrates and invertebrates (use Dr. Elanor’s ant ID book to help). They may also calculate distances to food sources, water, shade, other mounds. Students may quantify their findings and then discuss whether their data supports or refutes their hypothesis about biodiversity of ant species. They may also discuss how this might affect the macro scale of consumers that rely on ants and their ecological services.

Find more posts like Citizen Science in the Classroom: School of Ants by Karen McDonald on the SciStarter Blog. Your source for citizen science and other science you can do.

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