Archive for the ‘climate change’ tag

From the Redwoods Forest to the Gulf Stream Waters: Mapping Redwoods Helps Conservation Efforts

By September 16th, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Comment

This post is part of this week’s featured projects about other tree projects. Branch out into citizen science and take a look!

RedwoodsStanding among Redwood trees is truly a humbling experience – driving amidst these giants of the plant kingdom, I couldn’t help imagining I had time-travelled back to Earth’s Mesozoic Era when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Yet, in the throes of climate change, even these titans are threatened as their ecosystem changes. To address this, Save the Redwoods League (SLR) has launched the Redwoods Watch project to harness the power of citizen scientists to map these trees across the globe.

By understanding the climate in which redwoods currently exist, the scientists at SLR can figure out how their habitat has been altered in the last century and predict where it will shift as a result of climate change. This is critical information for SLR, as their Science Director Dr. Emily Burns states, “If we know where the trees are, we’re going to make better decisions as we’re doing our other conservation activities.”

To participate, citizens need only to download the easy-to-use iphone app, snap a photo of the specimen, and submit the evidence. The app uses the phone’s GPS to record the location of the tree, and this info is correlated to produce a map of the redwoods. To help new users, SLR has produced a short video informational video:

Dr. Burns describes that one of the reasons for taking the citizen science approach to tree mapping is that SLR is “hoping to get folks out into corners of the redwood forest that we don’t visit frequently.” However, you can still help even if do not live near a native forest – SLR is curious about horticultural redwoods too, the data are just used differently. Whereas redwoods mapped in their natural areas help with climate modeling predictions, the redwoods mapped in horticultural settings help to understand the extremes in which the trees can exist.

So don’t worry if you’ve never stepped foot in a redwood forest. Dr. Burns asserts, “We encourage people to, when they see a redwood, let us know about it.”


Emily Lewis is a PhD candidate in chemistry at Tufts University, where she analyzes industrially important catalysts on the nanoscale. She received her BS and MS degrees from Northeastern University, and her thesis work examined fuel cell catalysts under real operating conditions. She loves learning about energy and the environment, exploring science communication, and investigating the intersection of these topics with the policy world. When she’s not writing or in the lab, you’ll probably spot Emily at the summit of one of the White Mountains in NH. Follow her: @lewisbase,

“Changing Planet” Town Hall: clean energy, green jobs

By July 20th, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Comment 1

On Tuesday, July 26 at 9pm ET, The Weather Channel will air the “Changing Planet” Town Hall focused on clean energy and green jobs. Science for Citizens is a partner in this three-part series.

Here’s more information from NBC News:

This town hall broadcast is the second in a 3-part series that brings together scientists, thought leaders and students for a discussion on the issues of climate science.

The Weather Channel announced that it will air a “Changing Planet: Clean Energy, Green Jobs, and Global Competition” on Tuesday, July 26th at 9 PM/ET. NBC News Chief Environmental Affairs Correspondent Anne Thompson moderated the event, which was hosted by George Washington University. The town hall meeting is the second in a three-part series produced under a partnership between NBC Learn (the educational arm of NBC News), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Discover magazine.

The “Changing Planet” town hall series is intended to encourage student learning and to open a dialogue about climate change by gathering scientists, thought leaders, business people, and university students to discuss the facts of climate science, understand their implications, brainstorm solutions and even get involved in real research through citizen science projects on

“Today’s technology allows us to think about new energy options that impact the planet less and help the economy more,” said Thompson. “It is critical that we have these important discussions about how clean energy and the economy can go hand in hand, in order to bring the best solutions to the spotlight.”

This edition of “Changing Planet” brings together over 100 students and features four leading experts from the science and business communities: Chris Busch, Director of Policy and Program at Apollo Alliance; Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Chief Executive Officer of Green For All; Timothy Juliani, Director of Corporate Engagement at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change; and Ken Zweibel, Director at the GW Solar Institute.

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Beyond Gloom and Doom: Young Citizen Scientists Address Climate Change

By June 30th, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Comment

How are museums getting young people involved with citizen science? Guest blogger Katie Levedahl tells the story of how her museum, the Sciencenter in Ithaca, NY, is helping kids become citizen scientists while they learn about climate change.

It is becoming more apparent that people of all ages want to learn more than just the facts about climate change—they want to know what they can DO to address this problem.

Students at Ithaca's Sciencenter built nestboxes and installed them around their school and homes. (Courtesy of Katie Levedahl)

Students at Ithaca's Sciencenter built nestboxes and installed them around their school and homes. (Courtesy of Katie Levedahl)

The Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York, has been working on projects that go beyond learning the facts about climate change, empowering children to use science to shape a better future. Sure, we still encourage kids to save energy by turning the lights off and riding their bikes whenever possible, but a recent collaboration with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO) has allowed us to start exploring citizen science as an avenue of climate change education.

Three years ago we embarked on a project to engage middle school students in CLO’s NestWatch program, which contributes to our understanding of how climate change affects nesting birds. Studies have already shown that some bird species are nesting earlier in the year, which impacts important timing considerations such as food availability. With funding from the National Science Foundation, great support from scientists at CLO, and a group of middle school volunteers, we began using citizen science to explore the link between climate change and nesting birds.

After building and installing our nestboxes around school grounds and in our backyards, we waited for the birds to arrive. Within days, the middle school volunteers were observing and recording bird behavior, including adhering to NestWatch data collection protocols such as discretely sneaking up on the nestboxes. We recorded our observations on the NestWatch data sheet and entered them online into the growing continent-wide database. We also completed activities and research that helped us understand our own local ecosystem and its vulnerability to climate change.

In general, citizen science, or “regular, normal, average people helping with science” as our middle school participants would say, involves people of all ages learning how to collect data, make observations, and contribute to research projects. There are many citizen science projects with implications for understanding climate change — from monitoring frogs through FrogWatch to observing the timing of plant behavior with Project Budburst.

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The Cloned Plants Project: contribute to climate change research

By May 11th, 2011 at 10:59 am | Comment

lilacs-mlIt’s spring — time to get outside and contribute to science!

The Cloned Plants Project needs citizen scientists to observe the leafing and flowering of cloned plants, like lilacs and dogwoods, and submit their findings to researchers. These observations will help researchers better understand the interaction between the atmosphere (weather and climate) and the biosphere (living organisms).

The project is part of the USA-National Phenology Network (USA-NPN)’s nationwide effort to make phenology data available to researchers and decision-makers. Phenology is the study of  life cycle events of plants and animals and how these events impact the climate. Science for Citizens is currently offering a phenology project on Robins through our partnership with USA-NPN, NBC Learn, the National Science Foundation, and Discover Magazine. (If you spot a robin, let us know here!)

I had a chance to chat with Erin Posthumus, an outreach assistant at the USA-NPN’s National Coordinating Office. She gave me all the details on the Cloned Plants Project, including how you can contribute and what will happen with all the data.  Off we go!

First things first: what’s a cloned plant?

Erin: Cloned plants are genetically identical individual plants.

Why would you use a cloned plant to conduct a study?

Erin: Making observations on plants that have the same genetic make-up (clones) allows us to separate environmental responses from genetic responses. If we monitor a cloned lilac in New York and a cloned lilac in Georgia, we can look at differences between them, such as later bloom time, and better detect the climate change signal.

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It’s Earth Day! Five ways to help the planet

By April 22nd, 2011 at 11:25 am | Comment

Spot Robins, Help the PlanetToday is Earth Day, a perfect excuse to get out and help the planet!

Researchers need YOUR help tracking the presence of American robins, so they can compare your observations with other environmental data, including climate and weather changes.  American robins are arriving in the Colorado Rockies 14 days earlier than they did 30 years ago and have been spotted in parts of Alaska for the first time. Because robins consume a wide variety of foods, an increase or decrease in their population may indicate (or impact) changes in other animal and plant species. It’s time for you to get involved and help the planet!

All you have to do:

1. Spot a robin
2. Record the date and location
3. Take note of its activity (what is it doing? what is it eating? is it near other birds?)
4. Share your results

This project is part the Changing Planet series, presented by the National Science Foundation, NBC News, Discover Magazine, Science For Citizens and Planet Forward. Changing Planet” is a series of three televised Town Hall meetings, hosted by Tom Brokaw of NBC News, on what climate change means. The first event, held at Yale, airs on the Weather Channel tonight at 8pm ET. We’ll also post the video here on Monday, April 25.

Here are four other awesome projects to start on Earth Day:

2011 IGES Earth Day Photo & Essay Contest for Grades 5-8 Earth Day Photo and Essay Contest: Celebrate Earth Day with middle school students (grades 5-8) across the country by taking a photograph of something changing in your local environment. Then, research and write an essay about the photograph. The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies will award a variety of prizes, including a digital camera, digital photo frame and digital photo keychain, and more. Send in your pictures by April 29, 2011!
Sound Around YouSound Around You: Help researchers build a sound map of the world as part of a study into how sounds in our everyday environment make us feel. Just use your mobile phone (or other recording device) to record 10 to 15 second clips from different sound environments, or “soundscapes” – anything from the inside of a family car to a busy shopping center. Then, upload the clips to a virtual map!
Cloned Plants Project Cloned Plants Project: Plant a lilac and contribute to a phenology monitoring project over 50 years in existence! Participants plant a lilac clone and record observations of recurring life cycle stages such as leafing and flowering on the USA National Phenology Network webpage. Observations of cloned plants help predict crop yields and bloom dates of other species, control insects and disease, and assist with monitoring the impact of global climate change.
BeeSpotterBeeSpotter: Get out there with your camera and capture some good pictures of bees! Researchers need your help better understand bee demographics in the state of Illinois. You’ll help BeeSpotter researchers establish a baseline for monitoring bee population declines and learn about bees in the process.

Looking for more citizen science opportunities? Sign up for the Science for Citizens newsletter!