Archive for the ‘nasa’ tag

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

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


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.

YLACES extends SciStarter grant to recruit, train, equip citizen scientists to ground-truth NASA satellite data.

By March 29th, 2016 at 9:04 pm | Comment


Earn your SMAP patch!

NASA scientists are on a mission to map global soil moisture, and through SciStarter, they’re teaming up with citizen scientists to gather valuable data from the ground to complement and validate what is seen from space.

Known as the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite mission, the satellite will help scientists understand links among Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles; reduce uncertainties in climate predictions; and enhance the ability to monitor and predict natural hazards like floods and droughts. SMAP data have additional practical applications for citizens everywhere, including improved weather forecasting and crop yield predictions.

In July 2015, Youth Learning as Citizen Environmental Scientists (YLACES)  announced a $50,000 grant to SciStarter ( to recruit, train, and equip teams to measure and report soil moisture measurements at regular intervals. Measurement protocols and data handling are made available through the GLOBE Program, and data are made available to local decision-makers and used to help validate and calibrate NASA’s SMAP satellite measurements.  The grant also made it possible for teams to receive instruments needed for this project including heat lamps, digital scales and graduated cylinders.  

On mornings when SMAP flies over a team’s site, citizen scientists take soil samples from the top 5 cm (2 inches) of soil, weigh it, dry it under a heat lamp, and weigh it again. The decrease in weight is equal to the mass of water that was in the sample – its soil moisture. Measurements are simple to take and appropriate for all citizen scientists, including youth. Each participating team committed to providing ten measurements .

Now, YLACES has committed to extend this SciStarter activity with an additional grant of $30,000. Funding will expand and enhance the existing network of citizen scientists and provide additional training and equipment to measure rainfall and surface temperature. A major El Ñino is underway. By taking these additional measurements participants will join in GLOBE’s El Ñino measurement campaign.

Brian Campbell, a member of the SMAP team at NASA, emphasized the importance of the measurements that will be taken on the ground. “Having citizen scientists collect data is vital to the SMAP Mission. Their data can be compared to the SMAP satellite data and used as a source of validation. This validation will allow for a much more robust and accurate dataset, giving an optimal understanding of global soil moisture.”

How to Participate in the SMAP Project

Science enthusiasts, people who are concerned about their environment and our global water resources, teachers, athletes, families, civic groups, gardeners – anyone who will commit to taking regular soil measurements – can become part of this important research. Indicate interest by completing a brief online form.  

To get started, send an email to


Categories: Citizen Science

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iSeeChange: documenting the weather around us

By May 9th, 2015 at 9:53 am | Comment

April in Redlands Mesa. Source: iSeeChange

April in Redlands Mesa. Source: iSeeChange

From shoveling the third heavy snowfall of winter to spotting the first crocus of spring, each day without fail we experience our environment. Meaning each of us is a potential wealth of information about our local environment. Information that if gathered could inform climate scientists about the local effects and potential indicators of climate change. This is the premise of iSeeChange, a crowdsourced journal of community submitted local weather and environment observations.

The variability of weather and environmental conditions is an inherent challenge in climate science. Is the current drought in California a result of climate change or just an extreme version of the state’s periodic droughts? Was the devastation of Hurricane Sandy a fluke event or foreshadowing of a future trend?

To address this variability, climate scientists collect and average data across large spans of time and space. But managing data this way poses its own issues. “Climate science has a difficult time drilling down and being relevant to everyday people making every day decisions,” says Julia Kumari Drapkin creator of iSeeChange. “We designed iSeeChange to bridge the gap between the big data that the scientists collect and the local experiences of individuals and communities. The project allows people to reach their hands up and meet the big data half way overcoming this problem of scale.”

Listen to farmers discuss the iSeeChange project. Source: iSeeChange.

Listen to farmers discuss the iSeeChange project. Source: iSeeChange.

Since its creation in 2012, iSeeChange has grown from a local weather almanac in Colorado to a nationwide environmental reporting network. Anyone can become a member and submit observations on the website. Viewers can sort through the data by date or season, refining their search through metrics such as humidity, precipitation or cloud cover. Ideally members submit data on a weekly basis but in reality participation can range from a single backyard photo to religiously gathered measurements. One iSeeChange member uploaded observations made in a journal kept by a Dust Bowl era fruit farmer, noted Julia.

But beyond a data repository, the purpose of the project is to encourage conversation between scientists, journalists and individuals. “We want people to be curious, ask questions about what they see and experience. Then scientists and journalists in our network try to answer those questions,” says Drapkin. “The posts help scientists and journalist as well. Member submissions call attention to interesting or unusual events, which get picked up by journalists, transforming a few individual’s observations into a larger story.”

And these stories will become informative climate data for the future. Already researchers are expressing interest in the data. The project’s growth and collaborations with scientific partners at NASA, UC Berkeley and Yale is setting the stage for a larger impact. Due out in summer, iSeeChange co-developed an app with NASA that will ping community members to send in local observations whenever satellites are overhead. “The app will allow for real time comparisons between what the satellite sees and what is happening on a local level,” explains Drapkin. “We will learn what the impacts are and why it matters. We will be able to take the quantitative data and match it to the qualitative data and see how they compare over time.”

Ultimately iSeeChange is about empowering individuals and communities to document and investigate their environment. “People are experts of their own backyards. The granular changes they observe add up to bigger picture changes,” says Drapkin. “Already, these community observations have given scientists and journalist new insights and heads up on environmental trends.”

iSeeChange_logo  If you collect data about your local environment, want to share an interesting change you have notice or have a question you, visit iSeeChange and become part of a large scale effort to document your environment. To learn more about iSeeChange view their trailer.

Project MERCCURI featured on NASA’s weekly update

By December 13th, 2014 at 8:54 am | Comment

What do Buzz Aldrin’s shoe, the Liberty Bell & sports arenas all have in common? Watch Space to Ground, your weekly update on what’s happening aboard the International Space Station.

SciStarter’s Project MERCCURI, a research project to compare microbes on Earth and in space (presented by the Eisen Lab and UC Davis, SciStarter and Science Cheerleader, with support from the Sloan Foundation, Space Florida and NanoRacks), was featured on NASA’s “Space to Ground,” a weekly update on what’s happening aboard the International Space Station. Click here to read more about the status of this project!

Astronauts Tracking Microbe Growth on the International Space Station This Week

By December 10th, 2014 at 11:03 pm | Comment

Microbe Growth Documented for Analysis and Interpretation by UC Davis Scientists

Davis, CA. (December 10, 2014) – This week on the International Space Station, astronaut Terry Virts is measuring the growth of microbes collected by citizen scientists across the United States.


This citizen science research, known as Project MERCCURI, investigates how microbes from different places on Earth compare to each other and to those found on the International Space Station.

The microbes shot into space on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in April of this year. The microbes rested in a freezer at -80°C until the testing began earlier this week. UC Davis has received confirmation that the microbes are now growing in space, and the team in the Microbiology Lab will soon analyze the data on the individual microbes to see which won the “Microbial Playoffs.” Scientists are looking for winning microbes in three different categories: Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: ISS

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