Boat Trips for Bat Monitoring: How Wisconsin Residents are Helping Bat Conservation

By Eva Lewandowski June 4th, 2016 at 10:36 pm | Comment

Bat Monitoring on Boats (Image Credit: WDNR, Wisconsin Bat Program)

Bat Monitoring on Boats (Image Credit: WDNR, Wisconsin Bat Program)

These volunteers are part of the Wisconsin Bat Program, a citizen science project run by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. There are three different ways that Wisconsin residents can contribute to our understanding of bat populations across the state. The most involved, and for many the most fun, is to conduct night time acoustic monitoring using special handheld bat detectors. Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen Science: How Communities, Scientists, and Libraries Can Engage Together in Scientific Discovery

By Darlene Cavalier June 3rd, 2016 at 12:58 am | Comment

Join us at the Special Libraries Association’s annual conference.

Citizen Science: How Communities, Scientists, and Libraries Can Engage Together in Scientific Discovery
Tue. June 14| 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM | Philadelphia, PA Convention Center, Room 204-A

Citizen science is scientific research conducted by amateur or non-professional scientists. Learn about how the general public is contributing to professional scientific research in their communities and beyond, as well as what roles are available for libraries and librarians, from bringing citizens and scientists together to participating in citizen science projects themselves.

Presented by: Environment & Resource Management Division, Biomedical & Life Sciences Division, Science-Technology Division

SPEAKERS
Darlene Cavalier, Founder, SciStarter
Patricia Dawson, Science Librarian, Rider University – Library
Lara Roman, Research Ecologist, US Forest Service

Learn more.

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Autoimmune Diseases Affect Millions of Americans: Here’s How Citizen Science Can Help

By Guest June 1st, 2016 at 1:33 am | Comment

Autoimmune Citizen Science is an app to help people with autoimmune diseases track their symptoms, lab tests, and treatments in order to see what’s working and what isn’t. Individual data is aggregated in order to see what’s working for the community as a whole. Check out the project on SciStarter and sign up for the beta testing phase of the app.

Autoimmune disease in the United States (Image Credit: AICS)

Autoimmune disease in the United States (Image Credit: AICS)

by Vivek Mandan

Despite the estimated 50 million Americans with at least one or more autoimmune diseases, public awareness is practically nonexistent. How could this be? 50 million individuals out of a national population of 320 million is almost 16%. With almost one-sixth of the nation suffering, autoimmune disease is present at epidemic proportions – yet, medical treatment remains limited and research scarce and disorganized. How did this happen silently and unnoticed when we have the most advanced medical knowledge in the history of the world?

Autoimmunity and Medical Specialization

The medical system is segmented into specialties. If someone has a hormonal issue, they go to an endocrinologist; kidneys, a nephrologist; digestion, a gastroenterologist. There are immense benefits to specialization – with a system as complex as the human body, it is impossible to make any progress without systematic specialization.

However, autoimmune diseases were only recognized as a class of disease around 60 years ago in 1957, long after the creation of medical specialties. Since autoimmune diseases tend to affect multiple biological systems and have a shared etiology, dividing autoimmune diseases by the primary physiological location in which the worst symptoms manifest is both inefficient and inaccurate with regards to treatment and research.

This mismatch between specialized providers and multifaceted diseases becomes clearer as we examine the numbers surrounding research and treatment. Currently, autoimmune disease related healthcare expenses come to over $100 billion per year, while cancer costs come to $57 billion. However, research funding for autoimmune diseases are a paltry $850 million, compared to the $5.4 billion for cancer. Why is the funding for cancer over 6 times that of autoimmune diseases, while the healthcare expense of autoimmune diseases is nearly double that of cancer?

Cancers have been grouped together as a class of disease when it comes to research and treatment. While individual treatments vary, investigating the common factors between various cancers has led to tremendous progress in understanding the mechanisms behind them. It’s time to do the same for autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune disease research is fragmented – Hashimoto’s is researched as a thyroid disease, psoriasis as a skin disorder, rheumatoid arthritis as a joint disease. In order to understand autoimmune diseases, the first step is to group them together.

Lab tests and the patient experience

The other major challenge in autoimmune disease research is the lack of comprehensive patient information. People with autoimmune diseases tend to have many symptoms that aren’t alleviated by standard medical treatment. As a result, many individuals start doing research on their own to see if diet, lifestyle changes, supplements, and more can make a positive impact on their quality of life.

Image Credit: AICS

Citizen scientists track key parameters on the AICS app, helping provide insight into autoimmune diseases (Image Credit: AICS)

The disconnect occurs because researchers and healthcare providers are unable to effectively access a scientific, well organized form of individual information. There is currently no lab test or combination of tests that can account for the myriad symptoms and treatments that patients experience throughout their time outside of the doctor’s office. The problem is somewhat cyclical – research is stifled by inefficient organization of disease information and patients can’t centralize their information without new research technology that addresses the entirety of their condition. How can we make progress?

Like a Pedometer for the 21st Century

With the AICS app, patients will be able to track everything they’re trying and study how it affects their symptoms and lab tests in detail. While they focus on tracking their daily progress, we’ll be aggregating the data across everyone who uses the app (anonymously and privately) giving them immediate access to real statistics based on real data. This app helps citizen scientists manage their autoimmune diseases right away, while applying the data they provide to make progress for the entire autoimmune community.

Citizen science can play a key role in finding cures to autoimmune diseases. Through seeing what people with autoimmune diseases are going through and trying on a daily basis, we take the first step toward understanding how to solve the mystery behind these illnesses. The AICS app is currently under development and our first beta release happened on May 22nd. Want to be a beta user? Sign up here. We hope to see you join us as a citizen scientist today.


Vivek Mandan is a software engineer by trade and helped design the Autoimmune Citizen Science app. He was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease at the age of 12. He understands what people with chronic illnesses go through on a daily basis and strongly believes in the power of tracking software and big data to help people with chronic illnesses on their journey to health.

Citizen Science for Bat Fans!

By Eva Lewandowski May 26th, 2016 at 7:36 pm | Comment

Photo: USFWS
Those Elusive Flying Mammals!

Bats can be tricky to spot and observe but let’s try because they need our help.  As disease, habitat loss, and climate change decimate some bat populations, we can help scientists monitor and protect them.

Below, our editors highlight five bat-related citizen projects from around the globe.

Find more than 1,600 projects and events in the SciStarter Global Project Finder.
Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen Science: Empowering a Robust National Effort

By Darlene Cavalier May 20th, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Comment

acs citizen science congress
Citizen Science: Empowering a Robust National Effort
Tuesday, June 7, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM EDT

with Honorary Co-Hosts
Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)

June 7, 2016, Noon – 1:30 p.m., Russell Senate Office Building, SR-385

Anyone can learn how to use the scientific method in ways that contribute to investigations of how nature works and applying that understanding to develop new technologies. As professional scientists explore the universe, they find instances and places where more hands, eyes, and voices are needed to collect, analyze, and report data: Examples include documenting the biology and chemistry around rivers and lakes, monitoring the weather in sparsely populated regions, or logging the daily course of a disease or exercise regimen. Citizen scientists are increasingly answering the call, be it as enthusiastic hobbyists, STEM students augmenting their learning, or empowered friends and family of medical patients. This panel will discuss how various citizens are enhancing the nation’s scientific enterprise as well as ensuring that the government maximizes its benefits while avoiding any negative impact on the progress of science.

Moderator
Jamie L. Vernon, Sigma Xi and American Scientist

Panel
Darlene Cavalier, Arizona State University, SciStarter
Sophia Liu, United States Geological Survey
David Rabkin, Museum of Science, Boston
Andrew “Andy” Torelli, Bowling Green State University

RSVP to http://bit.ly/acsscicon-citsciRSVP
www.acs.org/science_congress
science_congress@acs.org