Measuring Environmental Stewardship

By Lily Bui - Executive Editor March 19th, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Comment

Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Environmental Behaviors Project seeks help in sorting and ranking environmental stewardship.


Many citizen science projects have been very successful in collecting high-quality scientific data through the participation of citizen scientists. However, less emphasis has been placed on documenting changes to citizen scientists themselves. In particular, many projects hope participants will increase their environmental stewardship practices, but few, if any projects, have been able to accurately measure or detect behavior change as a result of participation.

Beginning in 2010, our team of researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology set out to create a toolkit of resources for helping project leaders measure participant outcomes. This project, titled DEVISE (Developing, Validating, and Implementing Situated Evaluation Instruments), is the parent of the Environmental Behaviors Project. In fact, the EBP is one of the final elements of the toolkit to be developed. So far, the DEVISE team has created and tested valid tools to measure interest, motivation, self-efficacy, and skills related to both science and environmental action.

When completed, the Environmental Behaviors Project will result in a tool for measuring environmental stewardship behaviors in citizen science participants. We are looking for about 75 participants to sort a variety of stewardship activities into categories, and then rank those same activities by ease and importance. What makes this tool unique is that it will have input from a variety of people and be a weighted scale, informed by the degree of ease and importance that people assign to each item.

The environmental behaviors tool will be an exciting conclusion to the DEVISE project. It is very common for citizen science projects to list behavioral change and increased stewardship as main goals – but these can be very difficult to measure accurately! Hopefully, by making this, and the other DEVISE tools available to project leaders, we can go beyond anecdotal accounts of the power of citizen science and provide evidence-based outcomes of the importance of citizen science to the people who make it possible.

Image: Glacier NPS


Tina Phillips
Evaluation Program Manager
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Marion Ferguson
DEVISE Project Assistant
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Citizen Science in The Classroom: Monarch Migration

By Karen McDonald March 16th, 2014 at 10:16 am | Comment

Using Journey North’s Monarch Project to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards

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Journey North supports a variety of citizen science projects, including monarch migration. (Photo: Journey North)

Citizen Science and Monarch Migration as a Teaching Tool




Journey North (JN) is a citizen science project for the observation and tracking of seasonal weather changes and phenology or life cycle changes in animals and plants. This website is an amazing resource and interactive platform for teachers. There’s so much information that they provide that it’s almost jaw dropping. On their site you’ll find how your class can participate in tracking everything from seasonal changes in daylight to migrations of humming birds, whales, and even flower blooming. One of the most popular citizen science projects on their site is the monarch butterfly project. In this project students and teachers can learn about the life cycles of monarchs, their natural history, and migration. Students may look for monarchs in their local area and report observations of eggs, larvae, pupa, and adults. This project encompasses much more than just observations. The content provided on their site includes geography, historical and real-time data, ecological conservation, life cycles, reading comprehension and more.

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Journey North support real-time data and mapping of monarch sightings, which are useful geography tools for the classroom. (Photo: Journey North)

Materials You’ll Need:

  • A computer with internet access.
  • A printer that can print in color (preferably).
  • Optional: milkweed plants and flowers that may be conducive for monarch food, water, or shelter.

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

  • This project can be done either in or out of the classroom and in or out of urban areas.
  • It requires very little equipment or tools.
  • Usable data, graphs, maps, reading materials, and lesson plans, and identification tools are provided on the site.
  • You can meet almost every standard of Common Core and Next. Gen standards with this project and all the resources provided on the site.
  • Teachers can use the lessons provided even if they don’t participate in the project.
  • Students learn geography and science together.
  • Students obtain a “sense of place” by making local observations and contributing to a global observation effort that can be seen in “real-time” on the site’s maps.
  • Zero data can be useful, which teaches children about the importance of collecting all types of data.
  • Uploading data is safe and children remain anonymous, it’s put in as a class.
  • They have a free app that you can use in the field with a smart phone so you’re not tied to the classroom for uploading data. Students can put in their observations in real time.

Teaching Materials:

Supplied on Journey North’s Website you’ll find a while host of videos, reading materials, maps, slide shows, downloadable data, and more. There is also a teacher’s guide that can help you find introductory lessons and more information for your lessons. They also offer the ability to be monarch “ambassadors” and exchange cards with schools in South America through their “symbolic migration” butterfly card program.

Online Safety for Children

Teachers create one account for uploading data for their entire class so no specific student data is needed. They do ask that you put in your address and provide an e-mail. They also ask you what grade you teach and approximately how many students are in that grade.  After one initial registration you don’t need to do anything more except log in and begin recording observations. A log-in is not required to access all the free lesson support materials on the site.

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Journey North has a free mobile app for uploading your observations. (Photo: Journey North)

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Visionlearning: An innovative online resource for STEM education

By Carolyn Graybeal March 13th, 2014 at 8:37 pm | Comment 1

In recent years there has been a growing emphasis on improving STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.  A correlate of this is has been the increase in digital resources available to students and educators. An excellent example of this is Visionlearning.

Visionlearning is the brainchild of Dr. Anthony Carpi, professor of toxicology at John Jay College. What started as a small project for a natural science course has evolved into an open access STEM education tool for students and educators. Its mission: to provide “high-quality, accessible, educational content in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.”

Instead of simply being an encyclopedia of science terms and theories, Visionlearning organizes its content into a library of lesson modules. These modules are geared toward the introductory undergraduate level and are designed to be concise and engaging. Modules begin with a ‘pre-reader’ section introducing the topic, providing key terms and posing questions for the student to consider before launching into the main material. Comprehension check points and animations are embedding throughout the module to stimulate thinking and keep students engaged.

All content is written and designed by professional scientists and educators. And all content is peer reviewed for accuracy. Dr. Anne Egger, an assistant professor of geological sciences and science education at Central Washington University, is a senior contributor at Visionlearning. She shared her motivation for joining the project and the philosophy of the organization.

Being involved in Visionlearning is immensely rewarding. Early in my career, I was frustrated with the low quality and high cost of textbooks. Each year, I’d see my students purchase these subpar textbooks and only to watch them resell the books to recoup the cost. Joining Visionlearning was an opportunity to improve the reading material available to my students. Its a high quality, low cost resource that students can continue to use and refer back to again and again.

Visionlearning’s library includes modules in biology, chemistry, physics, and earth sciences as well as modules that focus on the philosophy of science and the scientific process. In each module, emphasis is placed on illustrating the nature of scientific inquiry and providing a context for scientific advancements. “We want to demystify who scientists are and how science is performed,” says Egger. “We want to show that it is a self-directed process. There is no predetermined direction.”

Currently Visionlearning is adding a series of “math in science” modules, which will be rolled out over the next six months. These modules explore the transfer and application of mathematical principles across subject matters. The goal is to encourage cross-disciplinary connections as a way to reinforce concepts and demonstrate their importance and utility.

As part of Visionlearning’s emphasis on accessibility, all lessons are available in both English and Spanish. In addition, audio files are available for streaming to assist aural learners. There is also a ‘Classroom’ feature where students can bookmark modules and glossary words for future reference and where teachers can assemble the materials into a learning management system.

Visionlearning is supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Education. The project welcomes new contributors and content reviewers. Inquiries can be made by contacting Heather Falconer at

Dr. Carolyn Graybeal holds a PhD in neuroscience from Brown University. She is a former National Academies of Science Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow during which time she worked with the Marian Koshland Science Museum. In addition the intricacies of the human brain, she is interested in the influence of education and mass media in society’s understanding of science.

Categories: Citizen Science

Meet Your Invisible Neighbors: Microbes in SPAAACE (and at home)!

By Jenna Lang March 12th, 2014 at 11:20 am | Comment

They’re all around us–microbes, that is! Think of them as the neighbors you’ll never really meet. Here are some projects to help you explore the microbiome on earth, in space, and inside our own bodies.

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It’s time! Microbes collected by citizen scientists are heading to the International Space Station this weekend! This project from UC Davis, SciStarter, Science Cheerleader, Space Florida and Nanoracks still needs your help collecting microbes from shoes and cellphone. Find out why, here. Get started!


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American Gut

Compare the microbes in your gut to those in the guts of thousands of other people in the US and elsewhere and help researchers learn more about the influence of microbes. American Gut is a project built on open-source, open-access principles. Get started!


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uBiome is the world’s first effort to map the human microbiome through citizen science. The microbiome are the bacteria that live on and within us. Take a look at yours! Get started!


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Think you have the flu? Join GoViral participants who report symptoms weekly using a website or mobile app and help researchers in the process. Get a Do-It-Yourself flu test kit, too. Get started!


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Help classify plant cell images by their “clumpiness” and give insights into the progression of bacterial infection in plant cells. Get started!


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.

Calling hackers and developers! SciStarter is organizing pop-up hackathons to develop open APIs and other tools to help citizen scientists. Contact the SciStarter Team if you’d like to join us in Boston, Philly, NYC, or Washington, DC in April! Email

Want your project featured in our newsletter? Contact “Feature Friday” Webinar on 3/7/14: Viewing Data: Observation list and Map

By Lily Bui - Executive Editor March 7th, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Comment

This is a citizen science webinar opportunity from


Greetings from! Please join us for our sixth “Feature Friday” webinar. These webinars invite you to offer your ideas and thoughts about improvements to The first Friday of each month these webinars will focus on a specific topic / feature of We will demonstrate how to use the website feature and take feedback.
The March webinar will focus on “Viewing Data: Observation list and Map,” this discussion will include ways to display the data you and and your volunteers have collected.  Together, we hope to guide the future of this exciting platform in support of your collaborative citizen science / community based monitoring efforts.
WHAT: March“Feature Friday” webinarWHEN: March 7th, 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 participate:
Dial: +1 (213) 493-0601
Access Code: 590-048-005
Join this meeting