SciStarter Blog http://scistarter.com/blog Covering the people, projects, and phenomena of citizen science Fri, 14 Nov 2014 18:41:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 SciStarter Hackfest Coming to CitSci2015!http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/11/part-scistarters-hackfest-citsci-2015-san-jose-california/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/11/part-scistarters-hackfest-citsci-2015-san-jose-california/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 18:41:14 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=10649 Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the CitSci2015 blog at the Citizen Science Association What: A hands-on 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 […]

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A hackfest to make citizen science easier for project managers and participants. Join us in San Jose!

A hackfest to make citizen science easier for project managers and participants. Join us in San Jose!

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the CitSci2015 blog at the Citizen Science Association

What: A hands-on 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 a VERY interactive, “roll-up-your-sleeves!” hackfest designed for anyone interested in building connections and interoperability between projects and communities!

Will you join us?

Citizen Science participants and project owners face barriers – multiple types of logins for projects, coupled with an inability to track contributions and understand  motivations, retention, and learning outcomes across silo-ed projects/platforms, are some examples. We know that people do-and want to-participate in more than one project. Let’s make it easier!

In the process, we may help improve efforts to recruit and retain volunteers. At the very least, we believe a single login, smarter GIS tools, consistent project taxonomies, and a personal “dashboard” will most certainly provide much-needed support for those awesome citizen scientists.

With the incredible growth in the number and types of projects, we believe these barriers need to be addressed now…and in collaboration with you! Consider this your formal invitation to join our hackfest as a citizen scientist, practitioner, researcher, designer, programmer, student, educator, cheerleader, concerned citizen…you name it. You are invited!

During this hackfest, we will build upon what we learned at our workshop in February 2014 at the Citizen Cyber Science conference in London (organized by SciStarter, and NYU with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation) and a follow-up workshop in April 2014 at Drexel University (also funded by Sloan). We’ll also share preliminary plans for a new match-making prototype we are sketching out to help connect the people who have data/information to the researchers and reporters looking for that data/information (this work is supported by the Knight Foundation Prototype Fund).
At CitSci2015, we want to work with you to bring these things together.

The hackfest also provides space for new ideas to emerge. Perhaps you’d like 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. This is your chance to bring your ideas to the table and connect with people who can help you advance your idea, too!

Where do I sign up?

First, make sure you have registered for the Citizen Science 2015 Conference

Then, fill out this form to let us know you’re coming so we know how many people to expect.

Bring your creativity, enthusiasm and talents and we’ll make sure you’ll have fun!

–Arvind Suresh a science communicator and the Social Media Editor at SciStarter. He has an MS in Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology from the University of Pittsburgh. Before that, he received his and a BS in Biotechnology from PSG College of Technology, India. Follow Arvind on Twitter @suresh_arvind

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Help Us Support This Blog And Citizen Science Stories With Beaconhttp://scistarter.com/blog/2014/11/help-us-support-blog-citizen-science-stories-beacon/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/11/help-us-support-blog-citizen-science-stories-beacon/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 16:00:57 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=10636 Citizen science runs on the sweat of volunteers — that’s one of the things that makes it so incredible. And for a long time, so has the SciStarter blog network. This has been great for us, and we would love to keep doing that. But if we’re going to expand and bring you more stories, […]

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Citizen science runs on the sweat of volunteers — that’s one of the things that makes it so incredible. And for a long time, so has the SciStarter blog network. This has been great for us, and we would love to keep doing that. But if we’re going to expand and bring you more stories, deeper stories, we need to be able to really let our contributors focus on creating. So, we’re hoping to change raise funds with this new campaign from Beacon Reader, and we’re asking you to help make that a reality.

Like every editor and contributor at the SciStarter blog network, which includes the Discover magazine “Citizen Science Salon” and Public Library of Science Cit Sci blog, I have another job. I’m a freelance reporter, editor, and radio producer. Some of our contributors are scientists and experts, and some of them are, like myself, professional journalists and writers.

One of the greatest pleasures in my professional life is getting to write and edit for these blogs.That’s why we’re still here. The stories we can find and create with citizen science are some of the best, and we’re about to make this blog even better. Not that it isn’t already pretty awesome, but with your contributions, we’re going to be able to tell citizen science stories that are more in depth, better reported, and have a wider reach of topics and ideas.

I believe that information is precious, that stories about science are a perfect complement to citizen science, and that they help us learn something that we would otherwise never have learned. I believe that our people have told great stories which I’ve loved, and I believe you have too. All the money will go directly to our contributors and our editors for the blog only, letting us dedicate more of our time to covering these stories.

That’s why we’re asking you to join us and the hundreds of other talented storytellers on Beacon. You’ll improve the quality and depth of the stories we create on this blog. You’ll get a subscription to every story by every writer on Beacon Reader, on science, politics, art, and more. And if you support us at $80, we’ll send you an awesome robot t-shirt in the mail. But most importantly, you’ll be supporting something that matters to you and to thousands of other people.

With my sincere thanks,

Angus Chen

Managing Editor SciStarter Blog Network

Discover Magazine “Citizen Science Salon”, PLoS “Cit Sci”

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5 Citizen Science Projects to Keep You Healthy!http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/11/five-citizen-science-projects-keep-healthy/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/11/five-citizen-science-projects-keep-healthy/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 17:27:52 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=10630 These projects are sure to go viral!   Flu activity is expected to increase in the coming weeks. What can you do about it? For starters, get your flu vaccine (the CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older). Then, get involved in our editors’ list of citizen science projects designed to study viruses and […]

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These projects are sure to go viral!  

Flu activity is expected to increase in the coming weeks. What can you do about it? For starters, get your flu vaccine (the CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older). Then, get involved in our editors’ list of citizen science projects designed to study viruses and bacteria, including a couple that track sickness in wild animals and plants.

GoViral
Sign up for a Do-It-Yourself saliva collection system to use at home when you feel sick. Samples will be analyzed at a central laboratory that checks for 20 different viral infections. Log on to see your own lab results and those of people near you. Get started!

FluSurvey
Help scientists monitor the flu as it spreads across the UK and nine other European countries. Report your flu-like symptoms on a weekly basis, online. Get started!

The Wildlife Health Event Reporter

Report sightings of sick or dead wildlife to help prevent wildlife disease outbreaks that may pose a health risk to people, too. These researchers hope to harness the power of the many eyes of the public to better detect wildlife disease phenomenon.  Get started!

Clumpy

Plants get sick, too! Help scientists identify plant cells that “clump” together by looking at these online images. Clumping usually means there’s a bacterial infection which can be devastating for plants and seriously compromise crops.  Get started!

 

FightMalaria@Home

Malaria is a prevalent and killer disease in poorer countries. Scientists are trying to discover new drugs to target new proteins in the parasite. This project aims to find these new targets.Donate your computer power to aid in antimalarial drug research. Get started!

 

Project Image Credits (In order): GoViral, DOD, Wildlife Data Integration Network, Clumpy, Wikimedia Commons

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Groundbreaking Air Quality Study Demonstrates the Power of Citizen Sciencehttp://scistarter.com/blog/2014/11/fracking-air-quality-study-power-citizen-science/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/11/fracking-air-quality-study-power-citizen-science/#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 17:38:16 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=10619   Editors Note: This is a guest post by Gwen Ottinger, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Drexel University.  She has done extensive research on community-based air monitoring and community-industry relations around oil refineries.  She is author of Refining Expertise: How Responsible Engineers Subvert Environmental Justice Challenges (NYU Press […]

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Air Sampling in Progress (Courtesy: Global Community Monitor)

Air Sampling in Progress (Courtesy: Global Community Monitor)

 

Editors Note: This is a guest post by Gwen Ottinger, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Drexel University.  She has done extensive research on community-based air monitoring and community-industry relations around oil refineries.  She is author of Refining Expertise: How Responsible Engineers Subvert Environmental Justice Challenges (NYU Press 2013).

 

A study released last week in the journal Environmental Health breaks new ground in our understanding of the environmental effects of fracking—and shows the power that citizen science can have in advancing scientific research and promoting political action.

Unconventional oil and gas (UOG) production, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking), can affect water and air quality.  Researchers, including citizen scientists, have studied its impacts on water extensively.  But we don’t know a lot about how air quality is affected, especially in nearby residential areas, according to the study, “Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas production.” Part of the problem is where most academic researchers take samples.  Too often, they choose monitoring locations based on the requirements of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which look for regional, not local, effects of pollution.  When looking at air quality around UOG production operations, they may select sites opportunistically, based on where they can gain access or where they can find electricity for their monitoring equipment. This approach, however, may not produce data that is representative of the actual impact of fracking on air quality.

The recently released study pioneers a new approach to choosing sites for air quality monitoring: it mobilizes citizens to identify the areas where sampling was most likely to show the continuous impact of fracking emissions. Citizens chose places in their communities where they noticed a high degree of industrial activity, visible emissions, or health symptoms that could be caused by breathing toxic chemicals.  They took samples themselves, following rigorous protocols developed by non-profit groups working in conjunction with regulatory agencies and academic researchers.

The result – we now have a lot more evidence to show that UOG production can have a big impact on local air quality.  And, as a result of citizens’ involvement in selecting sampling sites, scientists and regulators now have a better idea of where to look to start studying those impacts systematically.

The study demonstrates once again the power of citizen science to improve scientific research. But it also shows the political power of citizen science.  In a companion report released by the non-profit Coming Clean, the study’s citizen-authors use their finding that air quality is significantly affected by UOG to argue that governments need to be cautious when issuing permits, and to call for more extensive monitoring that includes citizen scientists.

Next week, several of the study’s authors—and many other citizen scientists—will convene in New Orleans to cultivate the scientific and political power of citizen science.  At the Community-based Science for Action Conference, November 15-17, citizens dedicated to protecting their community’s environment and health will have the chance to try out new technologies for environmental monitoring, share best practices for successful collaboration between scientists and citizens, and learn about the legal and political issues where their science can make a difference.

Want to get involved?  Registration is still open at the conference’s website. Can’t attend but want to support your fellow citizen scientists? Consider making a donation to help send someone else to New Orleans.

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Tracking Rogue Earthworms With Citizen Sciencehttp://scistarter.com/blog/2014/11/tracking-rogue-earthworms-citizen-science/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/11/tracking-rogue-earthworms-citizen-science/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 21:00:08 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=10614 Can’t get enough creepy crawlies? Check out our Halloween themed citizen science projects handpicked from SciStarter’s project database! The humble earthworm. Familiar and easy to forget, except perhaps after a rainy day, these benign wriggly creatures are undeniable environmental do-gooders, gently tilling the soil beneath our feet. They are the crux to a health ecosystem. […]

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Can’t get enough creepy crawlies? Check out our Halloween themed citizen science projects handpicked from SciStarter’s project database!

The invasive Asian 'jumping' earthworm. (Image Credit: Modified from Tom Potterfield / Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The invasive Asian ‘jumping’ earthworm. (Image Credit: Modified from Tom Potterfield / Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The humble earthworm. Familiar and easy to forget, except perhaps after a rainy day, these benign wriggly creatures are undeniable environmental do-gooders, gently tilling the soil beneath our feet. They are the crux to a health ecosystem. That is the popular notion anyway. Unfortunately, some members of class Oligochaeta are tarnishing that good reputation.

In their native habitats, earthworms play a crucial role as decomposers and are an important food source for other animals. Unfortunately, researchers at the University of Minnesota have found that  earthworms in the Great Lakes Forest are quite the vandals.

Earthworms are newcomers to the Great Lakes region. They were inadvertently brought over in the soil carried on European ships.  Prior to European settlement, earthworms had not been present in the area since the last ice age, approximately 14,000 years ago. In this time, the region developed an ecosystem dependent on fungi and bacteria for decomposition. With their arrival, earthworms have changed the structure of the native ecosystem. They churn through organic litter faster than fungi and bacteria, destroying a critical habitat for native Great Lake plant and animal species. Ryan Hueffmeier a junior scientist at the University of Minnesota and program coordinator of the Great Lakes Worm Watch, a citizen science project tracking earthworm populations, says the effects are in plain sight. “Earthworms are removing the nutrient dense ‘duff layer’ of fallen organic matter. We are seeing areas that are just black dirt with very little plant diversity or density. As earthworms alter the nutrient cycle and soil structure, there are cascading effects through the Great Lakes Forest.”

Animals that nest and forage in the healthy understory (left) are being threatened by habitat loss after earthworm invasion (right). Image credit: Great Lakes Worm Watch.

Animals that nest and forage in the healthy understory (left) are being threatened by habitat loss after earthworm invasion (right). Image credit: Great Lakes Worm Watch.

To help preserve the Great Lakes Forest, researchers need to identify the species, behavior and population growth of these foreign earthworms. “Knowing where and what species are present, and perhaps more importantly not present, across the landscape can aid in efforts to slow their spread into currently earthworm-free regions,” says Hueffmeier. “Of particular [importance] in the past five years is the spread of the Asian species Amynthas, also known as the ‘Alabama jumper’ or ‘crazy worm’. Our work helps track their movement and as we all know the best way to handle invasive species is to avoid their introduction in the first place.”

Citizen scientists can make important contribution to the research by helping scientists conduct landscape surveys. Individuals can choose from three different studies depending on their experience and commitment level. The simplest is the ‘Document and Occurrence’ study. Participants count the number of earthworms present in a specific area and report back to the Great Lakes Worm Watch researchers. The remaining two studies require participants to collect and mail in preserved earthworm samples so the researchers can identify the species. Protocol sheets, equipment, web tutorials and additional information are all available on their website.

“Citizen scientists help track earthworm movement at a scale otherwise impossible with our current resources. Plus it is a chance for citizens to learn more about forest, soil, and earthworm ecology that has the possibility to increase ecological and environmental literacy,” says Hueffmeier. “And of course it is fun.”

There is a lot of work to be done. If you are interested in helping or learning more, visit SciStarter’s link to the Great Lakes Worm Watch.

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Two days left to apply to participate online! Informing NASA’s Asteroid Initiative: A Citizen Forumhttp://scistarter.com/blog/2014/11/two-days-left-apply-participate-online-informing-nasas-asteroid-initiative-citizen-forum/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/11/two-days-left-apply-participate-online-informing-nasas-asteroid-initiative-citizen-forum/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 20:47:51 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=10609 In August, we shared information about NASA’s Asteroid Initiative and Cooperative Agreement with ECAST (Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology), to enable everyday citizens to have a say in the future of space exploration. How does the online citizens’ forum work? Two in-person deliberations will take place on 11/8 in Phoenix, AZ at Arizona […]

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What do you think NASA should do about asteroids? (Asteroid Capture, Artist Rendering Image Credit: NASA)

What do you think NASA should do about asteroids? (Asteroid Capture, Artist Rendering Image Credit: NASA)

In August, we shared information about NASA’s Asteroid Initiative and Cooperative Agreement with ECAST (Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology), to enable everyday citizens to have a say in the future of space exploration.

How does the online citizens’ forum work?

Two in-person deliberations will take place on 11/8 in Phoenix, AZ at Arizona State University and on 11/15 in Cambridge, MA at the Museum of Science. To make sure anyone, anywhere can participate, SciStarter (a founder partner of ECAST) created a three tiered online deliberation platform which will be ready for YOU next week! But you’ll need to sign up by Thursday, 11/6 to be eligible.

As a registered participant in the online deliberation, you will have access to the same background information as the folks at the in-person events will have and you’ll be able to ask questions, and weigh in with thoughts and opinions while guided by an online facilitator. AND, you will have three days to drop in and out at your convenience.

All responses will be aggregated and included in a formal report to NASA. If you can’t make the in-person or online deliberation next week, don’t worry! You’ll  still have a chance to weigh in on the outcomes of deliberations in the coming weeks!

Who can participate?

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to participate. You also do not need to know any information about the Asteroid Initiative as all the background information required will be provided.  In fact the forum is centered around the idea that every citizen who is interested in contributing will be able to do so. So your interest in participation is all that counts!

Why should you act now to be a part of this?

The online deliberation is scheduled for next week and in order to participate, you have to register quickly as the deadline is fast approaching. Sign up on the ECAST website before November 6th and complete the required demographic and opinion survey to access the online deliberation platform. This is your chance to help NASA make the next giant leap in space. Don’t miss it!

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Halloween Citizen Science in the Classroom: Answer the Bat Call!http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/10/halloween-citizen-science-classroom-answer-bat-call/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/10/halloween-citizen-science-classroom-answer-bat-call/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:04:33 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=10570 Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Citizen Science in the Classroom Series where we explore the use of citizen science projects to teach science in the classroom by aligning them with Common Core and Next Generation STEM standards . For more such projects check out the resources page for educators on SciStarter!   Did […]

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Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Citizen Science in the Classroom Series where we explore the use of citizen science projects to teach science in the classroom by aligning them with Common Core and Next Generation STEM standards . For more such projects check out the resources page for educators on SciStarter!

 

Mexican Free Tailed Bats in Texas exit their ‘bat cave’ to hunt for flying insects

Mexican Free Tailed Bats in Texas exit their ‘bat cave’ to hunt for flying insects (Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service CC BY 2.0)

Did you know? This week is Bat Week! There are many exciting online resources and activities for Bat Week. Visit Bat Week’s virtual host, BatsLive Project Edubat for additional Bat Week information and resources on how you can help bats!

Bat Detective

Grades: 4th-12th

Description:

Have you ever wondered about the secret lives of bats? Their adaptations, what and when they eat, where they sleep, how they communicate, their migration and hibernation patterns, and more? As a mostly nocturnal mammal species, we don’t often see them.

Bat Detective is a citizen science project that enables you and your students to explore bats like never before. All you will need is a computer with internet access. On the Bat Detective site, you’ll find resources to learn more about bats, areas to discuss bats and bat calls, as well as the area where you’ll engage in classifying actual bat vocalizations.

Bats mostly communicate in a range that our human ears are not able to hear. But scientists record and convert high frequency bat sounds into a range that we can hear. Bats communicate to locate food (echolocate, like sonar) and they also communicate with other bats, such as mothers to their babies, male bats calling for female mates, and also when bats are exhibiting territorial behaviors. Scientists have also learned that female to female bat ‘conversations’ sound differently than female to male bat ‘conversations’- wonder what they are saying?

As you can probably guess, there is a lot still to be learned about bat communication and vocalizations. We hope you’ll help in this exciting area of research by participating in Bat Detective, and perhaps by learning more about bats, we’ll also learn more about social communication in mammals as well as global ecosystem services provided by bats!

Ready to get started?

On the Bat Detective website, you can start classifying right away, or if you prefer, you can read background information before getting started.

To start classifying, you’ll click “Classify” on the page’s menu to begin a walk through of how to play the audio sound and mark the sound you’d like to help analyze further. A main goal in Bat Detective is to have citizen scientists identify the sounds they hear- a lot of the sound in recordings is background noise (such as car sounds, insect sounds, machines, bird sounds) and so one aspect of the project is to sort the sounds by what you hear and identifying what you perceive as the source of what you are hearing.

In addition, the Bat Detective website walks users through the classification process in a very user friendly way.  Bat Detective has also provided helpful resources to serve as a field guide with useful information.  While you can do the project without creating an account, signing up allows you to save your work go back to at any time.

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

Interest: Bats are a great organism to study in the fall- students are naturally curious about this critter and their unique adaptations, especially during this season!
Authentic Science: Bat Detective allows students to use skills such as listening, differentiating, processing, and classifying on data collected in the field, all without leaving the classroom!
Cultivates 21st century skills: Students will use technology to engage in real world inquiry and analysis just like a scientist would do; in addition, students will have the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with peers in the classroom as they work on bat call classification.
Materials: Can’t beat the cost (free!)- Bat Detective has provided everything you need on their website- no additional materials to gather or provide!

 

Materials You’ll Need:

• For Bat Detective all you will need is a computer with internet access and sound/audio capability (so that you can listen to the bat sounds)

Teaching Materials:

• Materials on the Bat Detective website
BatsLive Lesson Resources

 

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Met:

Fourth Grade:
Next. Gen. Science:

Life Science Disciplinary Core Idea LS1.D: Information Processing

• Different sense receptors are specialized for particular kinds of information, which may be then processed by the animal’s brain. Animals are able to use their perceptions and memories to guide their actions. (4-LS1-2)

Fourth grade science and engineering practices:

Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Engaging in argument from evidence in 3–5 builds on K–2 experiences and progresses to critiquing the scientific explanations or solutions proposed by peers by citing relevant evidence about the natural and designed world(s).
• Construct an argument with evidence, data, and/or a model. (4-LS1-1)

Middle School (6-8):
Next. Gen. Science:

Middle school life science disciplinary core idea LS1.D: Information Processing
• Each sense receptor responds to different inputs (electromagnetic, mechanical, chemical), transmitting them as signals that travel along nerve cells to the brain. The signals are then processed in the brain, resulting in immediate behaviors or memories. (MS-LS1-8)

Middle School science and engineering practices: connections to the nature of science

Scientific Knowledge is based on empirical evidence

• Science knowledge is based upon logical connections between evidence and explanations. (MS-LS1-6)

High School (9-12):
Next. Gen. Science:
High School science and engineering practices: connections to the nature of science

Scientific Investigations use a variety of methods

• Scientific inquiry is characterized by a common set of values that include: logical thinking, precision, open-mindedness, objectivity, skepticism, replicability of results, and honest and ethical reporting of findings. (HS-LS1-3)
High School cross cutting concepts: connections to the nature of science
Science is a Human Endeavor

• Technological advances have influenced the progress of science and science has influenced advances in technology. (HS-LS3-3)
• Science and engineering are influenced by society and society is influenced by science and engineering. (HS-LS3-3)

 

Other Bat Citizen Science Projects on SciStarter:

Continue and extend your bat related activities with two additional bat related citizen science projects found on SciStarter:

Bat Watch
Bat Surveys

Further ideas:

• You can have your students engage in authentic project based learning (PBL) to study real world issues faced by bats, such as white-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal infection that can affect (and spread easily) among hibernating bat colonies
• And you can always work to provide local habitat (such as bat boxes) to study bats in your area- a bonus is that bats provide free, natural insect control services!

Online Safety for Children:

• Be sure to always follow your campus/district policies for internet use and safety in the K-12 classroom.

 


Jill Nugent is completing a PhD degree from Texas Tech University with a focus on citizen science, and she concurrently works full time in online higher education, where her team recently launched an online environmental science program. Jill’s BS degree is from Texas A&M University where she rode on the university equestrian team, and her MS degree is in Biological Sciences where she studied carnivore conservation and behavior. She holds teacher certification in science and life science/biology, and was honored to be a part of the writing team for the NSTA Press publication, ‘Citizen Science: 15 Lessons That Bring Biology to Life’. She is excited to explore citizen science especially at the confluence of areas including science education, conservation biology, animal behavior, and global science collaboration. You can connect with her on twitter @ntxscied 

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Citizen Science in the Rocky Mountains – Celebrate Halloween with the Colorado Spider Surveyhttp://scistarter.com/blog/2014/10/citizen-science-rocky-mountains-celebrate-halloween-colorado-spider-survey/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/10/citizen-science-rocky-mountains-celebrate-halloween-colorado-spider-survey/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 16:25:21 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=10580 Love Creepy Crawlies? Check out our Halloween Picks! Editors Note: This post was written by Aditi Joshi, a freelance science writer and a new contributor at SciStarter As a kid, I avoided houses that had spider decorations during Halloween. Even today, I find spiders scary. Spiders add an extra ounce of spookiness to Halloween.  Spiders […]

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Love Creepy Crawlies? Check out our Halloween Picks!

What are you looking at? Family: Araneidae Genus: Neoscona - An orb weaving spider from Colorado

What are you looking at? Family: Araneidae Genus: Neoscona – An orb weaving spider from Colorado

Editors Note: This post was written by Aditi Joshi, a freelance science writer and a new contributor at SciStarter

As a kid, I avoided houses that had spider decorations during Halloween. Even today, I find spiders scary. Spiders add an extra ounce of spookiness to Halloween.  Spiders might be scary for some, but they’ve always fascinated Dr. Paula Cushing, an arachnologist (spider biologist) at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Colorado.

Cushing hoped to get a better sense of what kinds of spiders existed around her and what role they play in the ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains. To do that, she needed a map of where the spiders were and what kinds of spiders exist in the area. But an area spanning 104,000 square miles has a daunting array of spider species estimated to be over 650 in number. It wasn’t something that she or a small staff or professional scientists were going to be able to do on their own. They needed help.

Earlier, a scientist named Dr. Richard Bradley had done a project in Ohio, where he had recruited volunteers to help capture and tag spiders across his state. That project was wildly successful, and sixteen years ago, Cushing decided to follow suit with the Colorado Spider Survey.

A spider survey had never been done in Colorado before Cushing. “We started from zero spider specimen vials, and today we have a collection of over 50,000 vials,” Cushing says. Survey volunteers have identified and classified specimens from the entire Rocky Mountain region even going as far as Montana.

Colorado Spider Survey volunteers on a field trip with their beat sheets, sweep nets and vials.

Colorado Spider Survey volunteers on a field trip with their beat sheets, sweep nets and vials.

The project has since helped scientists understand the impact of urbanization on spiders and the ecology and distribution of spiders across Colorado. But Cushing also uses the opportunity to teach locals about their environment. Every year during the spring and summer, Cushing leads spider survey trainings for teens and adults who are interested in volunteering for the survey. She’s been able to train over eight hundred people, many of whom volunteered to help the survey grab and tag spiders.

Nina Shilodon, who’s been able to take some the lessons she’s learned in Cushing’s trainings into the classrooms, says that her adopted pet spider, Blueberry, has been able to get her kids’ attention in “spider storytelling” sessions. “When Blueberry comes crawling out she’s the one that brings the fun… whether a child is fearful or fascinated, they’re interested,” Shilodon says. And “they listen when one tells them about the different hunting styles, body parts, and environments that spiders inhabit.”

Cushing says the spider survey is a great way for people to become more intimate with biodiversity “of which otherwise one would not have been aware.”

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If you loved reading about this citizen science project from SciStarter, use our project finder to search our database of more than 800 projects! What’s more, subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll send you handpicked citizen science projects once every two weeks!

Image Credits: Dr. Paula Cushing, Rick Teichler

 

Aditi Joshi, a freelance science writer, is an expert in the field of clinical psychophysiology. She holds a PhD in Human Physiology from the University of Oregon and has published several academic papers. Apart from science, she is interested in Native American art, and art history

 

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Five Halloween Treats for Citizen Scientistshttp://scistarter.com/blog/2014/10/five-halloween-treats-citizen-scientists/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/10/five-halloween-treats-citizen-scientists/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 18:33:28 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=10539  Zombees and spiders and bats, Oh MY! Drag your bones over, give these projects a TRY! Happy Halloween! From the SciStarter team. Here are  five projects to put a smile on your skull.    Want a free SciStarter Tshirt? Take our quick survey before Tuesday, 10/21! (Update: Limited Quantities Available!)   Loss of the Night Bring Citizen […]

Find more posts like Five Halloween Treats for Citizen Scientists by Angus Chen on the SciStarter Blog. Your source for citizen science and other science you can do.

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 Zombees and spiders and bats,
Oh MY!
Drag your bones over,

give these projects a TRY!

Happy Halloween!

From the SciStarter team.

Here are  five projects to put a smile on your skull. 

 

Want a free SciStarter Tshirt? Take our quick survey before Tuesday, 10/21! (Update: Limited Quantities Available!)

 

loss-of-the-night-scistarter

Loss of the Night
Bring Citizen Science with you to Trick or Treat this year! This App helps you learn constellations as you  contribute to a global real-time map of light pollution. Get started!

zombee watch scistarter

ZomBeeWatch
There’s a Zombie Fly threatening our honeybees! Learn how to set a trap, catch a bee, and see if it’s been infected by the Zombie Fly.  Get started!

bat-detectives-scistarter

Bat Detective
By sorting the sounds in recordings into insect and bat calls, you will help biologists learn how to reliably distinguish bat ‘tweets’ to develop new automatic identification tools.  Get started!

istock spider

Colorado Spider Survey
Little is known about the biodiversity of spiders in Colorado and the impact urbanization is having on species distribution. Learn how to collect and identify spiders, which will be sent to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Get started! BONUS! The L.A. Spider Survey needs your help investigating these issues in the L.A. area!

istock earthworm

Great Lakes Worm Watch
Not fazed by creepy crawlies? Then this wormy project is for you! Help monitor earthworm distribution and habitat from ANYWHERE! Collect earthworms and habitat data, and learn how to do soil surveys. Get started!

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Image Credits

Loss of the Night – NASA

ZomBeeWatch – US Geological Survey

Bat Detective – National Park Service

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SciStarter among 18 winners of Knight Prototype Fund!http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/10/scistarter-among-18-winners-knight-prototype-fund/ http://scistarter.com/blog/2014/10/scistarter-among-18-winners-knight-prototype-fund/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 21:36:57 +0000 http://scistarter.com/blog/?p=10526 The Knight Foundation today announced the latest winners of its Knight Prototype Fund. Eighteen projects will receive $35,000 to help them bring their concepts closer to fruition and one of the 18 projects is ours: SciStarter ‘s project will connect data journalists and researchers with citizen scientists who are interested in helping them collect data about […]

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knight-logo-3000

The Knight Foundation today announced the latest winners of its Knight Prototype Fund. Eighteen projects will receive $35,000 to help them bring their concepts closer to fruition and one of the 18 projects is ours:

SciStarter ‘s project will connect data journalists and researchers with citizen scientists who are interested in helping them collect data about specific issues (i.e. water quality in a particular neighborhood).

The fund, launched in 2012, also gives winners a support network and the opportunity to receive human-centered design training in an effort bring early stage media ideas to a formal launch.

We are very honored to be in such great company and will post developments here.

Learn more about the other winners and the Knight Prototype Fund.

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Image Credit: Knight Foundation

 

 

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