Enter EPA’s Smart City Air Challenge!

By Guest October 19th, 2016 at 10:30 am | Comment

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What if you had access to air quality data — minute-by- minute — from hundreds of locations in your community at the same time? How would you manage that data– and how would you share it with your local residents? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is offering two communities $40,000 each to help figure that out.

Currently, environmental agencies evaluate air quality using stationary monitors that measure pollutants in a few locations selected to be representative of air quality in each metropolitan area. But new technology is rapidly developing that make the devices for measuring air quality less expensive – and portable. While they’re not yet suitable for regulatory use, these new sensors offer communities several benefits. People can use these sensors –which generally cost less than $2,000 — to easily collect highly localized, real-time data. In addition, low-cost sensors can become a part of the “Internet of Things” (IoT), streaming data to the Internet so people can access it in real time. With this data, communities can harness analytical tools to understand local air pollution levels and their environment.

A factory smokestack in New Jersey emits pollutants into the atmosphere. Photo Credit: UN Photo/John Isaac (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A factory smokestack in New Jersey emits pollutants into the atmosphere.
Photo Credit: UN Photo/John Isaac (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Smart City Air Challenge invites communities to submit strategies that describe how they will deploy the sensors and manage the data. In order to qualify, a local government agency will need to partner with other parties that provide services, such as sensor manufacturers, data management agencies, environmental organizations, and citizen groups. Communities can range from neighborhoods to counties and tribes. Applications will have to describe the level of accuracy and precision of the sensors and how they will ensure these attributes.

Join the challenge today and use the power of big data and citizen science to understand local environmental conditions. The challenge launched on August 30 and applicants have until October 28 to submit their strategies. Winners will be announced in the fall of 2016. EPA will evaluate the strategies and award prizes of up to $40,000 each to two communities. After a year, EPA will evaluate the accomplishments and collaboration of the two communities and award up to an additional $10,000 to each community. To learn more, visit the Smart City Air Challenge website and submit applications by October 28.

GAO cites ECAST: “Practices to Engage Citizens and Effectively Implement Federal Initiatives”

By Darlene Cavalier October 14th, 2016 at 6:57 pm | Comment

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The U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) is the investigative arm of Congress charged with examining matters relating to the receipt and payment of public funds.

Today, the GAO published a new report to advise how the federal government can better engage citizens. Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST) is cited as one of seven effective practices.

ECAST was cofounded by the following institutional partners: Arizona State University, Loka Institute, Museum of Science, Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, SciStarter and Science Cheerleader.

Federal agencies are using “open innovation” tools to leverage the knowledge and skills of people outside government. Using dedicated websites and in-person outreach, agencies have worked with the public to rebuild communities after Hurricane Sandy, improve methods to find asteroids that could threaten the Earth, and reduce the amount of time required for highway construction projects.

We identified 7 practices that agencies can use to effectively engage the public when using open innovation tools. Example of Open Innovation Tools: NASA’s Asteroid Initiative In-Person Forum and Online Platform

Read full report.

Whenever, wherever, you and citizen science are meant to be together

By Eva Lewandowski October 13th, 2016 at 10:36 pm | Comment

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If you can see this, you can advance scientific research right now!
Below, our editors highlight five, digital citizen science projects you can do online now!  Find more with the Scistarter Project Finder.
Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

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Saving California’s Seals and Sea Lions

By Sharman Apt Russell October 11th, 2016 at 10:58 pm | Comment

We tend to think of famine in human terms. But animal populations also experience wide-spread hunger, and the hundreds of emaciated young seals and sea lions stranded on California beaches in the past year were a poignant example.

Fortunately, a large team of citizen scientists at The Marine Mammal Center—an animal hospital and research institute north of San Francisco—were ready for the challenge. Twenty-eight crews of 15-20 people worked day and night shifts to rescue and rehabilitate the starving pups and yearlings. By July, 2016, about 1200 volunteers and 50 staff members had fought to save 380 sea lions, 220 elephant seals, 120 harbor seals, and 20 Guadalupe fur seals.  Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen science pushes Hawai’i Department of Health to act on beach pollution

By Carolyn Graybeal October 7th, 2016 at 10:48 am | Comment

For the past seven years, citizen scientist volunteers with the Kaua’i chapter of the Surfrider Foundation Beach Watch Task Force have been testing the waters at 27 recreational sites along the Kaua’i coastline. This summer they achieved a victory when the Hawai’i Department of Health (HDOH) finally acknowledged the concerning levels of pollution in local streams and beaches. Read the rest of this entry »