Call for Citizen Science Abstracts: American Geophysical Union

By Catherine Hoffman August 2nd, 2016 at 2:30 pm | Comment

Consider submitting abstracts to two exciting education sessions being offered at the Fall American Geophysical Union (AGU) Meeting in San Francisco, December 12-16, 2016 ( Abstracts may be submitted at The deadline for abstract submission is August 3, 2016 at 23:59 EDT. If you are not a member of AGU, an AGU member may sponsor you to submit an abstract.

Session ID# 13679: “ED020. Educator/Student Programs Promoting Authentic Scientific Research:  Celebrating its 14th year, this session seeks to highlight programs and initiatives that provide authentic research experiences for educators and students at all levels from K-12 to undergraduate experiences.  Presentations can address the roles of scientists and education experts in bringing research experiences to the classroom. We welcome presentations from educators, scientists, and students as well as those who design, facilitate, evaluate or fund programs. Presentations can focus on designing and implementing research experiences that align with national, state, and/or local reform efforts in science education. Other topics may include recruitment strategies, program sustainability, internet and archival research projects, citizen science, mentoring, student outcomes, evaluation results, and lessons learned from past efforts. Additionally, we invite presentations from student-led research projects. Presentations are welcome from all scientific disciplines including astronomy, planetary and space science, geology and geophysics, seismology, biogeoscience, atmosphere and ocean sciences, and climate and environmental science.Session ID# 12673: “ED008. Citizen Science with Big Data: Intersection of Outreach, Crowd-Sourced Data and Scientific Research: The traditional method of outreach to formal, informal, science and non-science audiences has undergone a fundamental change with recent advances in technology, social media and crowd-sourced data, giving way to citizen science with many applications. With increasing “Big Data” projects, active partnerships between professional, amateur and data scientist communities are necessary. Innovative design, sustainability and evaluation of these projects is as important as the citizen science they generate. This session invites papers from scientists, educators and as well as those who design, facilitate, evaluate or fund such programs. Topics may include methodology, applications of citizen science to enhancing outreach, transformative approaches to science education, lessons learned, and the future of citizen science. Presentations are invited from all scientific disciplines including astronomy, planetary and space science, geology and geophysics, seismology, biogeoscience, and atmosphere and ocean sciences. Join us for our 8th year, to learn and share experiences.

Session ID #12794: “The Priceless Science of Citizen Science: Questions, Q-Values and QA/QC”: Citizen science data in Earth and Space Science is priceless, providing both invaluable information and effort beyond the means of the largest research budget. People with smartphone accelerometers capture earthquakes for USGS, while online astronomy enthusiasts count craters. Insights into the changing Earth system also come from biology. Outdoor explorers record phenological data at more sites than could ever be reached by university or government staffers. Projects like the century-old Audubon Christmas Bird Count allow citizen ornithologists to go from spotting birds to contributing invaluable data. This single project – one of over 1500 in the SciStarter database – has accumulated 25 million volunteer hours. Now Big Data approaches convert those records into transformational results on bird migration and climate. This session invites leading academic/agency researchers working in a wide range of disciplines to describe results from citizen science, and address questions of QA/QC and implications for professional researchers.
For more information, please feel free to contact the session conveners listed below.Sincerely,
Connie Walker, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, (both sessions)Sanlyn Buxner, UArizona Teaching, Learning & Sociocultural Studies, (Session ID# 13679)
Padma Yanamandra-Fisher, Space Science Institute,  (Session ID# 12673)
Edgar Bering, III, Physics Dept., University of Houston,  (Session ID# 13679)
Rachel Freed, Consultant, Educational Technology and STEM Curriculum Development, (Session ID# 12673)
Stephen M. Pompea, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, (Session ID# 13679)
Thilina Heenatigala, Galileo Teacher Training Program/NUCLIO,  (Session ID# 12673)
Pamela Gay, Southern Illinois University, (Session #12794)

Categories: Citizen Science

Citizen Science takes a bite out of Natural Disasters

By Eva Lewandowski August 2nd, 2016 at 9:19 am | Comment

Collectively, your small acts lead to big results.
Natural disasters, like earthquakes, tornados, and landslides, are frightening and deadly. There are small, but important, steps citizen scientists can take to help predict and respond to these occurrences.Our editors have selected five exemplary projects, below. Be sure to read the safety warnings when applicable.

Find even more projects with the SciStarter Global Project Finder.

The SciStarter Team

Read the rest of this entry »

Augmented Reality in Citizen Science to Connect with Reality

By Caren Cooper August 1st, 2016 at 7:25 pm | Comment

Illustration by Mark Catesby 1731

Illustration by Mark Catesby 1731

Fables are fun ways to accept insights into our own lives. Fairy tales are enjoyable ways to inspire hope. Augmented reality games that overlay fantasy directly onto reality are a blast, plus they create a powerful lens to understand ourselves and the world. Citizen science is a lens on the world too. The intersection of augmented reality technology and citizen science could turn science fiction ideas into science non-fiction.

The potential for overlap seems great because of the similarities between citizen science activities and Pokémon Go, the augmented reality game played on mobile phones. First, the resemblance between players of Pokémon Go and centuries old natural historians run pretty deep. Natural historians, today and in the past, have been obsessed with finding biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth. Children of the 21st century seek to find the variety of Nintendo creatures, let’s call them Pokéversity. “Gotta Catch ‘Em All,” the motto of the Pokémon series, is not different from the silent mantra, “one more bird,” resounding in the minds of birdwatchers keeping life-lists.

pokemonGo_pinkachuSecond, as mimics of wild animals, each Pokémon species is unique and has a backstory of its natural history. The Pokémon mascot, Pikachu, is a rotund rodent that dwells in forests. A Pikachu has yellow fur, long ears with black tips, rosey circles on its pouched cheeks, and tails shaped like lightening bolts.

Third, the official inventory, Pokedex, provides details about each Pokémon, its traits, behaviors, and life cycle, much like official species accounts in the Birds of North America. Plus, like John James Audubon, Pokémon fans have created illustrated books to help identify the little monsters, like the Field Guide to Kanto by Kari Fry, an illustrated natural history of Pokémon creatures.

Fourth, conservation biologists and environmental educators who add engagement goal to citizen science envy the capacity of Pokémon Go to stimulate the curiosity of children. When in danger, a Pikachu will release an electric charge from its glands. With traits like that, how can real wildlife compete for public attention? According to one study, by age 8, kids can identify far more species of Pokémon than common native wildlife. The researchers found that young children have enormous capacity for learning about flora and fauna, but that conservation biologists – or whoever we might assign this responsibility – are not inspiring kids to learn about real, living and breathing things. The study results motivated the creation of Phylomon, a trading card game with real animals instead of Nintendo creatures.

Despite the overlap, advocates for nature-based experiences are still steps behind Nintendo. It is Pokémon Go that is getting kids (of all ages) to leave their rooms, use their legs, and pursue and capture a menagerie of fantasy critters like Pikachu and Squirtle, Zubats, Paras, and Caterpies. Pokémon Go rouses people out of their homes and into city centers, historical places, and nature centers. As Pokémon Go and citizen science activities kindle the spirit of natural historians, both tap the human desire to search and discover, rely on the thrill of using gadgets to see what is otherwise invisible, and instill feelings of belonging that comes from being part of something bigger. The fantasy world of Pokémon Go, overlaid onto our real world, ignites human imagination. Could using augmented reality spark human imagination about the natural world?

One way citizen science can leverage augmented reality technology is recruitment. Pokémon Go gets people out and about where they might notice more about their real-world environment.  Players are encountering injured wildlife and delivering to rehabilitation centers. Morgan Jackson created the hashtag #PokeBlitz, modelled after BioBlitz which are citizen science events where people identify and catalog as many species as possible in a given place. Similarly, Kayte Smith created the hashtag #PokemonGoIRL (In the Real World). Both #PokeBlitz and #PokemonGoIRL are a foot in the door for more people to enter citizen science projects, like those with iNaturalist, the app most frequently used for BioBlitzes.pokemonGo_tweets1

Another area where citizen science can use augmented reality technology is with protocols for volunteer data collection. Many projects want observations from specific places, and it is possible to direct people to those locations with an augmented reality app. For example, FotoQuest is a gamified citizen science project focused on documenting land-use change by gathering geo-located photographs taken by volunteers. The app guides people to exact points where they take photos guided by augmented reality technology to position their camera. For example, in Austria, there has not been proper inventory of wetlands, and FotoQuest volunteers are making this possible.

Another area where citizen science can make use of augmented reality technology is data visualization. Imagine augmented reality apps allowing you to enter landscapes that are graphs of data. For example, imagine taking projections of sea level rise and making it possible to stand 30 miles from the coast and look at your feet and see via an augmented reality app whether or not your feet, ankles, or knees would be wet in that location in 30 years. Augmented reality apps could help us see the many features of our world that we cannot otherwise see, like radio, cell phone and wi-fi waves which are outside the visible spectrum. Architecture of Radio is an augmented reality app that allows you to visualize radio waves and cellular signals and other digital signatures.

In the next #CitSciChat, we’ll explore ways that citizen science projects can use augmented reality technology.  Join the conversation on Twitter during the next #CitSciChat on 3 August at Noon ET. During this 1-hour Q&A session, we’ll hear from the following guest panelists:

Kate Jones (@ProfKateJones) from UCL

Karen James (@kejames) from Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory

Lila Higgins (@lilamayhiggins) from Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Scott Loarie (@loarie) of iNaturalist (@iNaturalist)

Morgan Jackson (@BioInFocus) from University of Guelph, host of @BreakingBio

Lea Shell (@VeganBugLady) from NCSU @YourWild_Life

If you don’t use Twitter, you can follow the stream here:


Urban Citizen Science

By Catherine Hoffman July 27th, 2016 at 7:16 pm | Comment

A recent article in the New York Times highlights the way urban environments are affecting evolution in a variety of species. From European blackbirds with high-pitched calls to beat the sound of traffic to spiders adapted to build their webs closer to light poles, the dynamic and harsh urban environment is changing our biodiversity. Citizen scientists are crucial to understanding and documenting these changes. Below we highlight 5 citizen science projects that can be done in urban areas so you can help researchers across the world! You can find 1500 more projects and events on the SciStarter project finder.


Lauren Nichols


Urban Buzz

Collect cicadas and send them to scientists to learn how this insect is changing with climate change and habitat loss. Get started here.





Victor Loewen  



Celebrate Urban Birds

Observe birds in your area to help scientists learn how habitat improvement affects birds in urban environments. Get started here.




Urban Nature Research Center ProjectsNature_map

The UNCR out of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles runs several urban biodiversity studies on everything from squirrels to snails. Learn more about SLIME, RASCALS, the Southern California Squirrel Survey, and get started now!




Trees Please Trees Please

You can help improve Hamilton Ontario’s urban forests and air quality with Trees Please! You can collect data for an interactive database of urban tree health that will ultimately be compared with air quality data. Get started here.





DarkSkyMeter_-_Logo_-_Mockup_-_Web_-_3 (1)

Dark Sky Meter

Help measure light pollution in your area with the Dark Sky Meter app. You’ll help create a global map of nighttime light pollution. Get started here.


Want more citizen science? Check out SciStarter’s Project Finder! With 1100+ citizen science projects spanning every field of research, task and age group, there’s something for everyone!

An Unlikely Journey Into Citizen Science

By Darlene Cavalier July 26th, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Comment

I thought I’d share the introduction of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science with you in case you wondered how I ever got linked up with science or citizen science. My story may strike some readers as extremely unlikely. For others, I bet it bears some resemblance to your own journey. Regardless of your path here, I’m glad we’re all connected to this field that enables us to shape the future, together.

In celebration of each person’s journey, SciStarter is joining Caren Cooper (@CoopSciScoop) on Twitter at @IamCitSci where one guest a week will take over the account to spark conversations and share first-person insights. I’ll be sharing parts of my journey during the week of August 8 and I hope you’ll chime in to share your own journey into citizen science!

Here’s that introduction I mentioned…

An Unlikely Journey Into Citizen Science

By Darlene Cavalier

The American shad is Philadelphia’s fish. Like the far more celebrated salmon, shad live their adult lives in cold, salty ocean waters and swim back to freshwater rivers and streams only to spawn. They’re tasty like salmon, too, if bonier and less fleshy (the fish’s Latin species name, Alosa sapidissima, means “most delicious fish”). Unlike salmon, though, shad can undertake their freshwater return migration several times in their lives — they are a most determined little fish. Shad were once so plentiful in the Philadelphia region that the Lenape Indians could hunt the fish in the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers with bows and arrows, and the shad industry provided the name for Fishtown, one of Philadelphia’s archetypal neighborhoods. Philadelphians like me take pride in the shad’s hardiness and history—they fed our country’s Founding Fathers, after all, and were a dietary staple of city residents for generations.

By the mid-20th century, however, the people who lived along Philadelphia’s rivers — many of whom depended on shad for their livelihoods — noticed that the shad were not migrating upriver as they had before. They were being hampered by twin human-produced barriers, one chemical and the other physical. The industrialization that powered the city’s prosperity had created a river system that was one of the most polluted in the country. Reportedly, the stink was so bad that military pilots were told to ignore the smell as they flew thousands of feet overhead. Meanwhile, as pollutants like phosphorous depleted oxygen levels in the rivers, a series of dams blocked migration routes; they established walls through which the shad couldn’t pass and couldn’t leap in their desperate attempts to reach their spawning grounds upstream. Fishermen and other locals did not know all the details at the time, but they observed declining fish numbers with great concern, knowing that the disappearance of the shad would affect their own economic and cultural survival.

Those citizens used what they did know about their environment, however, to guide their observations and inform their collection of data about local shad populations. With their findings, they were able to form hypotheses about the causes of the shad decline and communicate them to policymakers to encourage action in cleaning up the rivers. It was a process that sounds an awful lot like science and science-based policymaking.

I am inordinately fond of the shad, and perhaps I identify with the fish a little too closely. But how could I not? They are stubborn, persistent, maniacally focused creatures, and a legacy of a city I have called home for decades. It took a long, long time before the efforts of all those concerned citizens began to reverse the shad’s fortunes — and only in very recent years has there been some real ground for optimism. Yet the shad’s story provides a shining (albeit at times smelly) example of what can happen when non-professionals become involved in a scientific problem near and dear to their hearts. In some ways, their story mirrors that of my own journey and that of the field to which I have become dedicated: citizen science.

This book is intended to demonstrate the value and vitality of citizen science, and its terrific potential for involving many more everyday people in a dynamic and responsive scientific enterprise. This book is also addressed to people like me: those who, as young students, were not especially interested in dissecting frogs or working out physics problems, and had little desire to become professional researchers or engineers — but who, as adults, find themselves drawn to science, and more than a little curious as to how it shapes the world we live in. In some people, maybe, that interest shows itself as an itch to read about theories on the origins of the universe, or the search for unknown worlds or undiscovered species. Maybe it’s a hunger to know more about what lies behind the ever-rising tide of technological wonders. Maybe the urge is for all things environmental: to know more about climate change or biodiversity or simply what kinds of birds are nesting in the backyard. Or perhaps it’s a quest for greater clarity about the billions of federal tax dollars being spent on scientific research. There are a great number of us with such interests, and citizen science opens up a way for us all to become more involved in following our passions into the realms of research and policymaking.

In the diversity of projects described throughout this volume, the term “citizen science” encompasses a range of activities and involvement on the part of the public, a range large enough to include amateurs searching for hidden galaxies and middle school students documenting microbes culled from their belly buttons. Citizen scientists are often driven by an unending passion, whether to protect a species they care about, to speak up for people suffering from diseases or toxic exposures, or to watch over an ecosystem nearby. As Caren Cooper and Bruce Lewenstein illustrate in Chapter 2, citizen science encompasses at least two main pursuits. One involves citizens voluntarily contributing observations  and data to scientists, who then use this information in research. The other encompasses democratic participation in science and science policy, to ensure that it meets the needs and concerns of citizens. These are not mutually exclusive pursuits; indeed, one naturally engenders the other.

Because of this, citizen scientists can serve in a wide range of roles. Sometimes they are an educated volunteer researcher, collecting data, recording observations, and performing basic analyses. These roles can be especially useful on projects that are difficult to automate, where the human eye can make rapid work of complex problems. While these kinds of involvement have historically often been in one-time or context-specific roles, citizen scientists today can be involved in dozens of projects around the world. Sometimes, for instance, citizens are more active in designing and developing projects from the outset. For others, citizen science may mean a lifetime of government lobbying with science based data. On other occasions, they’re involved in research that would have been impossible a decade ago — like launching cube satellites into orbit.

All these components of citizen science increasingly overlap — that is, engaged citizens participating in scientific research desire a greater voice in how that research is conducted and what goals that research seeks to achieve. My own journey to citizen science certainly bears this out. Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: Citizen Science