By Arvind Suresh (Editor) September 4th, 2015 at 9:00 am | Comment
By Guest September 2nd, 2015 at 6:00 am | Comment
This is a guest post by Monaca Noble, a biologist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s Marina Invasions Laboratory. For the last 10 years, Ms. Noble has worked on issues related to the transport of marine species in ballast water and the introduced parasite Loxothylacus panopaei.
This June, 49 enthusiastic volunteers came out to search for zombie crabs in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Together they searched through shells from 52 crab collectors distributed throughout the Chesapeake Bay’s tributaries. Volunteers found thousands of White-fingered Mud Crabs (Rhithropanopeus harrisii), hundreds of fish (Naked Gobies, American Eels, and others), and several parasitized zombie crabs at our site on Broomes Island, MD.
What are zombie crabs? Zombie crabs are mud crabs that have been parasitized with the introduced parasitic barnacle, Loxothylacus panopaei (Loxo for short). Loxo is a parasite native to the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and parts of Florida. It parasitizes at least nine species of mud crabs (xanthid crabs) throughout this range. Read the rest of this entry »
By Editorial Team August 31st, 2015 at 6:25 am | Comment
Researchers are trying to find out how your personality affects your dog’s behavior. Learn how you can participate in the largest citizen science project of its kind.
by Kristin Butler
When I adopted my dog Kia from a puppy rescue center three years ago, I became a member of a growing sub-culture of people who focus their time, money, and love on their dogs.
Once valued for their ability to perform work, dogs are now more often considered to be a part of the family. This trend is evidenced by an increasing number of pet friendly hotels, restaurants, and workplaces in our communities; by brain imaging research that indicates we love our dogs like we love our kids; and by economic statistics that show we are spending more money than ever on our four-legged friends. Read the rest of this entry »
By Caren Cooper August 25th, 2015 at 2:33 pm | Comment
Thank you, Lassie for saving my life! And thank you Rover, Spot, Fido, Benji, and Snoopy. We can all shout this refrain, not just those pulled from a burning building or comforted by slobbery kisses. Dogs may have saved the entire human race. Not recently, but back when our species was just starting out on the journey to dominate the Earth.
Neanderthals were in Europe and Asia for two hundred thousand years, but began their demise as our people, Homo sapiens, expanded beyond Africa. Like Neanderthals, humans hunted, used tools, were pyrotechnic, and social enough to have cliques. Some researchers suspect that humans had one advantage that Neanderthals lacked: the precursor to (hu-)man’s best friend, the domesticated dog. Less wild than wolves, more wild than today’s collie, early humans likely survived an epoch of environmental change with the help of furry friends that were eventually domesticated as dogs. Read the rest of this entry »
By Arvind Suresh (Editor) August 24th, 2015 at 1:58 pm | Comment
A Denver community/scientist partnership is launching a citizen science project to investigate local indoor air quality and new sampling methods. Read on to learn more, and check out the project page on SciStarter!
I never anticipated a career in science, let alone engineering. I began with dreams of being a professional ballet dancer and dedicated most of my young life to this goal. Now here I am, a first year PhD student in an Environmental Engineering program and I have found work that is truly engaging and meaningful in the way I had always hoped.
My research falls under the topic of air quality. To be more specific I work on testing low-cost sensors and examining their usefulness in research. I’m also interested in how new technologies can be used to further education, outreach and citizen science. I believe that communities and scientists must work together on appropriate methods, study design, and determining precisely how the data will be used. Our project which aims to study indoor air quality in Northeast Denver is designed to achieve these goals. It provides us the opportunity to both explore low-cost sampling methods and also understand how to effectively engage in community/science partnerships.
In implementing this project, I’m collaborating with Taking Neighborhood Health to Heart, a Denver nonprofit, that has a history of successful projects looking at health and nutrition within their community and the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange which not only provides funding but also supports us through their expertise in community-science.
Community-Driven Air Quality Project
This project began when residents of this Northeast Denver community saw examples of spills of perchloroethylene (PERC), a solvent commonly used in dry cleaning, potentially endangering health in other Denver neighborhoods. One resident for example observed, the vacant space left by a local dry cleaner who had been in business for over 30 was next to door to a Boys and Girls club. This observation then led the community to question, “could PERC be a problem for us too?”
Working with TNH2H and members of the community, we have designed a plan to collect data on perchloroethylene and radon levels in homes. Radon is another hazardous gas-phase pollutant, common across Colorado and considered the second leading cause of lung cancer. While these types of pollutants may not pose immediate threats, long-term exposure to low levels of pollutants like PERC and radon can lead to chronic health impacts.
As part of our effort each participating home will be provided with an Air Quality Test Kit containing the sampling devices (a high-quality PERC test, a low-cost PERC test, and a certified radon test), instructions, data sheets, surveys, and background info. Participants will sample in their own homes with the help of community coordinators and the data will be reported back to TNH2H.
Why Get Involved
Perhaps it is because I grew up outside of science, but I feel strongly about making the methods and tools of science more accessible so more individuals can collect meaningful data from which they can learn and possibly even take action to improve their communities.
Data that we collect on the two pollutants will be provided to project participants along with assistance understanding what the data means and advice regarding remediation actions where appropriate. Our team will also analyze the data spatially to look for hot-spots or perhaps particular types of homes that might be the most at risk. Overall results will then be disseminated throughout the entire community.
These community/science partnerships that we hope to establish are valuable because together these teams can share knowledge and tailor research and solutions that will have the greatest impact as the local level, leading to more sustainable changes. In addition to the local impacts, other communities, researchers, and possibly even regulators could benefit from both the new PERC sampling method and what we have learned about how to facilitate community/scientist partnerships.
How Can You Help?
Testing for PERC is currently costly and not very accessible. We will use field and lab data to test a low-cost method for PERC detection. If successful, the new PERC detection method would take the cost of a sample from $100 per sample to $8 per sample. There will be lower accuracy with the new method, but it could serve as a powerful screening method that could more quickly identify homes with PERC well above the level of concern.
Radon tests, on the other hand, are simple to use and relatively low-cost. However, not everyone is aware of the importance of testing your home, we hope to provide education and raise awareness through this project.
If you happen to live in Northeast Denver, you may be able to participate in the data collection. Check out the project page on SciStarter for more information!
Otherwise, please consider joining us through our crowdfunding campaign, where you can support the project, stay updated on our progress, and be among the first to see the results of our collaboration. Be sure to check it out soon, the campaign ends at 11:59 pm PDT on 8/26!
Ashley Collier is a PhD candidate in Environmental Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder and works in an air quality lab. Her work includes using low-cost technologies for research and education/outreach.