Archive for the ‘discover magazine’ tag

Back To School With Citizen Science: A Conversation with Ben Graves

By September 14th, 2016 at 4:52 pm | Comment

In the next two posts, as part of our SciStarter in the Classroom collection, guest contributor Ben Graves will share his personal experiences and advice for using citizen science in the classroom. Graves is a fellow with the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, which supports a small cohort of early-career teachers across the United States with intensive professional development. He teaches AP Environmental Science and freshman environmental science at Delta High School, a rural school in western Colorado. Before moving to Colorado, Ben was deeply involved in environmental education and citizen science initiatives with youth in the national parks, including leading volunteer trail crews across Alaska and teaching inquiry-based science workshops for students and teachers at NatureBridge, an organization that provides environmental science programming in the national parks.

I spend lot of my summer outdoors—in my garden, running and biking in the mountains, learning new approaches to teaching outdoor and experiential science. As the end of the summer nears, I think about how to get my science students outside. Science doesn’t need to be contained inside a classroom, and I have found that citizen science projects are a great way to get students outdoors and keep them engaged throughout the school year.
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SciStarter, Discover Magazine, Astronomy Magazine and the Science Cheerleaders at AAAS Family Science Days!

By January 26th, 2016 at 11:40 am | Comment

aaas family science days
Saturday and Sunday February 13–14, 2016
11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel Washington, DC

Register now: Free, hands-on science fun for the entire family.

Explore interactive science exhibits, learn about cool science jobs, and have your questions answered by scientists, including these Science Cheerleaders!

Megan, Computer Scientist, Redskins alumni
Megan, Computer Scientist, Redskins alumni
Margaret, PhD Chemistry, Baltimore Blast alumni
Margaret, PhD Chemistry, Baltimore Blast alumni
Lauren, Mathematician, Redskins and Wizards Alumni
Lauren, Mathematician, Redskins and Wizards Alumni

We’ll also be joined by our pals at Discover Magazine and Astronomy Magazine to lead a Science Quiz Show on Sunday, 2/14 at 11:30 am sharp! Answer some questions about science and win cool prizes!

All weekend-long, guests will learn how to get involved in Snow Tweets, an awesome citizen science project to help cryosphere researchers calibrate the accuracy of weather satellites. We’ll even get you started with a free ruler complete with instructions to simply stick the ruler in snow and tweet your snow depth measurement and location to #snowtweets!

Grab your free ruler and ground truth snow measurements during the next snowfall!

Grab your free ruler and ground-truth snow measurements during the next snowfall!

My 10-year citizen science journey.

By December 23rd, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Comment

darlene bill nye

Earlier this month, I had the immense honor  of sharing the stage with Bill Nye and some fascinating thought leaders in space exploration from academia and industry, thanks to the leaders at Arizona State University’s New Space. We talked about colonizing Mars, mining asteroids, women in STEM and more. Amid all the exciting, forward-looking discussions, bolstered by the super-pumped-up audience of 3500 ASU students, I couldn’t help but think about the voice we needed to hear as we imagined YOUR place in space: YOUR voice. A decade ago, YOUR voice (and your tax dollars, your values, your informed opinions) would have been represented by your elected officials, or the noisiest advocacy groups, or industry.

I know this because exactly 10 years ago, I was wrapping up my master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania where I spent a lot of time learning about people like me, like us: people who are interested in science, who want to be part of science–of discovery, of shaping the future–but who don’t hold formal science degrees.
family graduation
The degree from Penn wasn’t what motivated me. I went back to school after a decade of working at Discover Magazine (and, believe or not, after a few years as an NBA cheerleader!) so I could learn more about my role in science and society. Where does someone without a formal science degree fit in? For all the investment in time and money we give to K-12 STEM education, what are we doing to support the majority of those kids who don’t go to college or, if they do, who choose non-STEM careers?

What are we doing to take seriously the fact that, while our nation’s students rank low on international STEM exams, year after year, our nation’s adults (US) fair exceptionally well when compared to our peers in other countries? This must seem impossible. How can that be when our country has resisted scientifically sound issues such as climate change, vaccines, GMOs and stem cell research? Because the resistance stems from all the factors that shape science and science policy: values, economics, personal benefits, etc. Teaching people more science via the all-too-common deficit approach does not work.

How do we start real conversations with–and tap the talents and interests of–adults who have demonstrated that they/we like science? Did you know that more Americans visit science museums, zoos and aquariums than sports events? I didn’t…read more about this here. What are we doing to support us and enable us to be part of these conversations we are absolutely every bit entitled to be part of, NOW?

Well, almost immediately upon starting graduate school, I learned about citizen science. This is often described as crowdsourcing, community science, or public participation in scientific research. It usually takes the form of a scientist asking the public to share observations or analyze data to help advance areas of research.

I couldn’t wait to jump in and participate in formal and informal research projects in need of my help! Back then, it was difficult to find these opportunities. This is how SciStarter emerged. It was a very simple, searchable database embedded in a blog called Science Cheerleader, created to help me organize projects I was going to write about in my Capstone paper. I invited people to add projects or find projects. Before too long, this database spawned its own start up, featuring 1100 projects and a community of more than 50,000 citizen scientists.

Today, SciStarter’s database is shared with Discover Magazine, Astronomy Magazine, the National Science Teachers Association, the U.N., PBS, AllForGood, and many other partners. Thanks to support from the Simons Foundation, anyone can add citizen science to their website via simple to use, embeddable widgets. We are coPIs of research projects; universities and agencies hire us to organize and manage projects and participants; we have a syndicated blog network and a series on an NPR radio station. We’re really happy with developments at SciStarter.

BUT, most of these projects either invite people to share observations about the natural world or analyze big data. Very few offer people the opportunity to impart their local knowledge, values, insights, etc, directly to inform science policy.
Things are starting to change a bit thanks to the efforts of a LOT of people spanning many fields, motives, and generations.

Ten years ago, I started pushing to reopen the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which I thought had the most potential to bring together the public and scientists in shaping science policy. While interviewing experts to learn more about the rise and fall of the OTA, I found some soulmates-of-sorts and five years later our merry band of renegades officially organized.

safe_image

Dr. Richard Sclove (left of me, pictured here with the cofounders of ECAST) wrote in Issues in Science and Technology, why it was high-time to formalize a mechanism to invite non-experts to both learn about and weigh in on the societal implications of emerging technologies and their related policies. Check out his essay:Reinventing_Tech_Assessment_-_Sclove_in_Issues_in_S&T_-_Fall_2010-1 

Earlier that same year,  Dr. Sclove, the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, Boston Museum of Science, Arizona State University, and I (as the Science Cheerleader and founder of what would become SciStarter), joined forces to launch the first-of-its-kind effort in the U.S. to realize this vision: ECAST, Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology. Read more on this, here. ECAST is taking the best of the defunct OTA and spicing things up by borrowing best practices from successful participatory technology assessment activities in the European Union.

Last year, ECAST worked with NASA to inform and then solicit input from people from all walks of life, to better understand what important questions were missing from science policy considerations. People involved in those deliberations sure had a lot to add to the conversations. I encourage you to read more about the effort and outcomes of Informing NASA’s Asteroid Initiative. You’ll see that space exploration-the future- is complex and absolutely needs your perspective. Thanks to forward-thinking Federal agencies, like NASA, NOAA and others with an authentic interest in soliciting informed input from YOU, ECAST is able to experiment with mechanisms to unite the public with policymakers and scientists.

Looking ahead, the SciStarter team wants to see more opportunities spanning a wider spectrum of engagement levels, like those we organize at ECAST. We want to help more people find and get involved in all of these opportunities. We want to help you keep track of your contributions and maybe even be rewarded for your efforts. Why not? Maybe you didn’t finish high school. Maybe you earned an advanced degree in business or the arts. You connected with science later in life (like me!). You had the courage to move from spectator to participant. Why shouldn’t your contributions be validated and rewarded with college credit or career advancements or a free cup of coffee from Starbucks? 🙂

These are the types of questions we will start to address thanks to support from the National Science Foundation. The NSF awarded a $300,000 Pathways grant to Arizona State University’s Center for Engagement and Training in Science and Society (of which I am a proud Professor of Practice!) for the development of SciStarter 2.0. The grant will advance the growing field of citizen and community science and help us build the capacity to be able to start to test some theories while scaling up our ability to engage and support more citizen scientists.

SciStarter 2.0 team at our kick off meeting last week

SciStarter 2.0 team at our kick off meeting earlier this month

So, now that government and the scientific community have stepped up to the plate to welcome you with open arms and now that SciStarter (and others!) have made it very easy for you to get involved, the question is, will you accept the invitation? Make 2016 the year you accept the challenge. Do a citizen science project. Go to a science festival or science cafe. Get involved in an ECAST project.

You’ve got 300 Science Cheerleaders (including me) rooting for you and ready to support you!

Science Cheerleaders break Guinness World Record for largest cheer (cheered for science!).

Science Cheerleaders break Guinness World Record for largest cheer (cheered for science!).

Contest unites citizen scientists with DIYers! (Win cool prizes if you enter by Monday!)

By January 17th, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Comment

This post originally appeared on PLOS blogs.

SciStarter, Instructables, and Discover Magazine - Citizen Science Contest

This post was originally published on CitizenSci, a PLOS blog about the projects, people, and perspectives fueling new frontiers for citizen science.

Hear ye, hear ye! This is an open call to artists, engineers, filmmakers, scientists, hobbyists, lobbyists, foodies, gamers, musicians, photogs, techies, adults, kids, dreamers, schemers, hackers, slackers, athletes, and everyone in between. This is a call to all—SciStarter needs you (yes, you)!

In case you haven’t heard yet, SciStarter has partnered with Instructablesand Discover Magazine to help researchers find solutions to real problems that they encounter in their projects. The Citizen Science Contest is your opportunity to help contribute to scientific discovery. (Prizes include a Celestron telescope, DISCOVER subscriptions, and time-lapse cameras!)

We’ve interviewed four citizen science project organizers and asked them to identify the greatest challenges in their work—challenges that you can help them overcome. Perhaps you’re a seasoned gardener and have tips for The Great Sunflower Project on how to prevent critters from eating plants before they flower. Have some ideas about how to use odds and ends around the household to construct inexpensive hail pads? The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHs) could use your help! Think your tech savvy is up to par? Maybe you can come up with suggestions for Project Budburst and Wildlife of Our Homes, both of which are looking for ways to improve the way their volunteers record and submit collected data.

Help researchers, in prizes!

The Instructables DIY community spans an unimaginably vast spectrum of disciplines. We’re hoping that this contest will help these citizen science project managers find creative, interdisciplinary solutions that come from outside of the box. We can’t do it alone, though. You can help make their experiences better by submitting a new citizen science project you’ve developed, present a tool that may be used for current/future citizen science projects, or help spark questions they might not have thought of by participating in discussion.

Here’s the thing, though. The contest ends this upcoming Monday, January 21st! If you have some ideas, navigate to the contest page to take a look. The clock is ticking!

Now LIVE! SciStarter Citizen Science Contest with Instructables and Discover Magazine!

By November 16th, 2012 at 11:02 am | Comment

Citizen Science Contest: Submit a solution that makes it easier for people to collaborate with scientists. Win great prizes!Millions of everyday people are helping scientists discover galaxies, measure climate change, track species, monitor air and water pollution, and more through citizen science projects featured on SciStarter. However, like all scientific research, project organizers and participants often run into challenges that can slow progress or limit data collection. Now, you can help!

SciStarter, in partnership with Instructables, and Discover Magazine, invites YOU to come up with solutions to the challenges faced by our community of citizen scientists, researchers and project organizers. Help make their experiences better by coming up with solutions to some real annoyances: stop critters from eating sunflowers planted to observe pollinating bees, help remind volunteers to reset rain gauges and report measurements, link activities to social experiences. Or, dream up your own home-based research project that involves public participation to advance a field of scientific research.

Entries will be accepted on the Instructables Contest Page now through January 21. Winners have a chance to win a variety of prizes listed below.

Prizes

  • Grand Prize (1 winner): Celestron Telescope, published in an issue of Discover Magazine, subscription to Discover, SciStarter Tshirt, Instructables Prize Pack
  • First Prize (5 winners): Bird Cameras, Timelapse Camera, subscription to Discover, SciStarter Tshirt, Instructables Prize Pack
  • Runners Up (10 winners): Hi capacity rain gauge,subscription to Discover, SciStarter Tshirt, Instructables Prize Pack

The Challenges

To get you started, we’ve listed four specific–and very real–challenges sent to us by project organizers. These problems impact the experience of the participants, and/or the ability of the project to reach its full potential. Select one or more to solve or come up with your own creative solution to a challenge you face as a citizen scientist! If you are the organizer of a citizen science project, you can post your own challenge to your SciStarter Project Page (see “Discussion” tab on the Project Pages). We’ll encourage communities to post their creative solutions to your challenges right on your SciStarter Project Page!

Create inexpensive hail pads

Create a new hail pad!Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) volunteers take and submit measurements of rain, hail, and snow precipitation. These observations are made available for use by the National Weather Service, meteorologists, emergency managers, and others.

The Problem: Hail pads are essential to the CoCoRaHS mission to measure, map, and study hail. Each pad consists of a 12″ by 12″square of Styrofoam covered in Heavy Duty Aluminum foil. However, in recent years, these materials have tripled in cost, which has greatly reduced the number of hail pads that can be produced and distributed.

The Challenge: Create a cheaper hail pad that can measure the number, size, and orientation of hail stones.



Stop critters from eating sunflowers

Stop those critters!The Great Sunflower Project uses data collected by citizen scientists to create an online map of bee populations. Participants grow sunflowers, observe how many bees visit those flowers, and then submit their observations.

The Problem: Critters, like mice and birds, often eat the sunflower seedlings before the bees are able to visit. As a result, some volunteers are unable to collect and submit data.

The Challenge: Create a safe, simple way to ensure the sunflowers are protected from critters and reach maturation.



Help participants submit their data

The more data, the merrier!Project BudBurst engages the public in making careful observations of phenophases, such as first leafing, first flower, and first fruit ripening. Scientists compare this valuable environmental information to historical records and learn about the prevailing climatic characteristics in a region over time.

The Problem: Prospective and current volunteers are often unsure if they have correctly identified plants and phenophases. This may lead to them not submit the data they’ve collected. Other volunteers simply forget to add their data.

The Challenge: Find a way to encourage and remind participants to submit data after making field observations.



Provide 1000 cheap, wireless climate data loggers

Wildlife of your homeWildlife of Our Homes provides an opportunity for citizen scientists to help researchers study the species that live alongside us everyday – bacteria, fungi, and insects. By using a sampling kit and answering a few questions, volunteers help researchers create an atlas of microbial diversity in homes across the country.

The Problem: Project organizers would love to collect climate data in each of the 1000 homes where volunteers are sampling microbes from 4 common surfaces. Unfortunately, climate sensors are expensive, and more importantly, project organizers don’t have an easy way to transfer data from those home sensors (temperature, humidity, etc) to an online database. Currently, they must physically retrieve and download the data.

The Challenge: Find a way to log climate data and wirelessly transmit the data to the project organizers.

Remember to submit ideas for solutions to these and other challenges on the SciStarter Citizen Science Contest Page!