Archive for the ‘UK’ tag
This post is part of this week’s featured projects about other tree projects. Take a look!
Maps are everywhere these days. They have become as ubiquitous in our daily lives as they have in the science community. Citizen science projects that utilize maps are instantly familiar, easy to use, and enrich scientific data with a valuable spatial component.
Treezilla is a tree-mapping project based in Great Britain and hopes to enlist citizen scientists to map every single tree in the UK. Many of the trees in Britain’s forests have already been mapped (nearly 3.8 billion, in fact). However, the estimates of urban trees in cities, parks, and people’s yards have been poorly catalogued. These trees, although in much smaller number, still have a significant ecological value and are important to study.
Like other tree mapping projects, Treezilla offers an easy to use mapping website that allows citizen scientists to identify tree species and enter measurements, descriptions, and photos online. Treezilla even offers teaching materials, identification guides, and tips on how to measure large trees. If you don’t know the exact species of a tree, other community members can log on and help out based on your descriptions and photos. This allows for a very comprehensive set of data and gives participants a chance to interact with the scientists using the data.
In fact, the potential scientific contribution of this project is quite grand. The site offers built in tools for calculating the amount of CO2 captured and what total economic benefit is gained from the different types of species for a given area. Ultimately, the data will be used to help scientists identify important trends in certain tree species in response to climate change, disease, and land use patterns. You can help by heading to the SciStarter Trezilla project page.
Mapping is an increasing trend in citizen science. Many of these projects are easy – log on, add points to a map, enter your data, and that’s it!
Nick Fordes is a science enthusiast who enjoys doing, teaching, and communicating science. Nick recently graduated from the University of Idaho with an M.S. in Water Resources. His research involved creating a web-based participatory GIS application for use in watershed management. He has a true love for technology and appreciation for what the web-based communications can do for promoting science and increasing science literacy. Nick most recently worked with the Council for Environmental Education, developing K-12 environmental science based curriculum. In his spare time, Nick enjoys biking the bayous in Houston and fishing as often as he can. He has been known to use his scientific knowledge to make a pretty mean brisket.
This project is part of our Back to School 2013 round-up of projects. Read more about them!
Breast cancer is the single most common cancer in women worldwide with roughly 1 in 8 women developing the disease each year. Chances are, a friend or family member is coping with this diagnosis right now. Following Angelina Jolie’s announcement earlier this year about her family’s struggle with breast cancer and her treatment choices, advances in biomedical research and personalized medicine increasingly hold the promise of a day when cancer is cured. How do scientists find the clues buried within tumor samples?
Cell Slider, a collaboration between Cancer Research UK and Zooniverse, is the first citizen scientist project whose goal is to speed up cancer research by enlisting citizen scientists to analyze real tumor samples. According to Professor Andrew Handby, a CRUK scientist from the University of Leeds who helped develop Cell Slider, “Computers can only go so far – they can pick up obvious trends but only the human eye can spot subtleties that have, in the past, lead to important serendipitous discoveries… Cell Slider makes our data accessible – it’s not just for scientists and computer geeks – everyone can play their part in curing cancer.”
Ideal for secondary school science classes, Cell Slider is a real-life citizen scientist project that uses the same methods researchers use everyday in the laboratory to identify cancer cells. Students are introduced to some of the common core principles in life sciences, including basic cell types and shapes, while developing analytical and critical thinking skills. You don’t have to be a scientist to participate in this project; simple mouse clicks help researchers around the world find new cancer treatments buried in simple tumor samples.
During a brief tutorial, students are introduced to the three cell types typically seen on the microscope slides (white blood cells, tissue cells, and cancer cells), taught to identify normal and cancer cells based on shape and staining, then asked to analyze real images of breast cancer tumors. A special yellow dye that sticks to oestrogen receptor (ER) helps identify cells with excessive ER and candidates for cancer treatments using hormonal therapies such as tamoxifen. Once the irregularly shaped, yellow-stained, cancer cells are identified you estimate their number and how strongly they are stained through a matching game. Using this data, researchers are beginning to understand the connections between molecules found on cancer cells and the effects of common treatments on the outcome of the disease.
“Eventually, we hope to be able to identify different types of breast, and other, cancers and find out how these different types respond to different treatments,” said Professor Paul Pharoah, a CRUK scientist from Cambridge University who helped develop Cell Slider. “This will enable us to match up women with the right cancer drugs based on their tumor type. We hope that this personalized medicine approach would be a reality in years to come, but this computer program could make it a reality sooner than any of us had imagined possible.”
Since its launch in October 2012, more than 860,000 citizen scientists from around the world have analyzed over 1.7 million images. Could we be just your mouse click away from a cure?
Photo : Cell Slider
Dr Melinda T. Hough is a freelance science advocate and writer. Her previous work has included a Mirzayan Science and Technology Graduate Policy Fellowship at the National Academy of Sciences (2012), co-development of several of the final science policy questions with ScienceDebate.org (2012), consulting on the development of the Seattle Science Festival EXPO day (2012), contributing photographer for JF Derry’s book “Darwin in Scotland” (2010) and outreach projects to numerous to count. Not content to stay stateside, Melinda received a B.S in Microbiology from the University of Washington (2001) before moving to Edinburgh, Scotland where she received a MSc (2002) and PhD (2008) from the University of Edinburgh trying to understand how antibiotics kill bacteria. Naturally curious, it is hard to tear Melinda away from science; but if you can, she might be found exploring, often behind the lens of her Nikon D80, training for two half-marathons, or plotting her next epic adventure.
“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” –Victor Borges
Aristotle posed that laughter is what sets humans apart from other species. Think about it. We love to laugh—at jokes, movies, at each other. We laugh to ease tension, because others are laughing, or simply just because. All right, Aristotle may not have been completely accurate in his theory (given that other species like rats have been discovered to laugh), but there’s something embedded in the human spirit that thrives off of giggles, chortles, and chuckles.
“Scientists have also found a neural signature for laughter – when you hear a laugh you activate the same brain regions that you would use to move your own face into a smile. These ‘mirror’ responses to laughter reflect the fact that when we hear someone laugh, we are primed to join in (even during a brain scan, which is not very amusing!).” –Science Live 2012, Laughing Brains
I present to you The Laughter Project. The Royal Society has put together a playlist of different laughs that you can listen to. The tricky part is that some are real and some are fake. See if you can guess which laugh is real and which is posed. The results will help researchers at the University College of London learn how people react to different sounds.
Professor Sophie Scott, Chair of Cognitive Neuroscience, talks about laughter.
This project is part of the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition, which showcases a plethora of exhibits ranging from animal vision to epigenetics to robotic soccer. If you love the Laughter Project, you’ll also want to check out Musical Moods, where you can listen to various songs and decide which mood it best conveys.
Photo: Library of Congress