Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.
Alan Turing, perhaps best known for helping crack Germany's Enigma Code during World War II, was fascinated by how math works in nature. Turing noticed that the Fibonacci sequence, often occurred in sunflower seed heads. (By definition, the first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two.) He hoped that by studying the plant it might help us understand how plants grow but died before he could finish his work.
MOSI (Museum of Science & Industry, Manchester), the Manchester Science Festival and The University of Manchester are paying tribute to Turing in a mass experiment to grow 3,000 sunflowers. If enough people grow, researchers can collect sufficient data to put Turing's and other scientists' theories to the test.
All participants in the Turing's Sunflower's project need to do is grow a sunflower, keep the seed head and take part in the head count in September and October. For that, participants will be able to take their seed head to one of our special counting locations, or post their 'spiral counts' online. Researchers at The University of Manchester will then collate the data, and the results will be announced during the Manchester Science Festival, which runs from October 27 through November 4. Everyone who submits data from their sunflower will be included as part of the Turing's Sunflowers group and referred to in academic publications that result from the experiment.
Texasinvasives.org is a statewide partnership to manage non-native invasive plants and pests in Texas that includes state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, green industry, academia and other private and public stakeholders who share in the common goal of protecting Texas from the threat of invasive species.
Because this is no small endeavor Texasinvasives.org has established a citizen science program called Invaders of Texas. Volunteers participating in the program are trained to detect the arrival and dispersal of invasive species in their own local areas. That information is delivered into a statewide mapping database and to those who can do something about it.
The Invaders of Texas Program supports the creation and perpetuation of a network of local citizen scientist teams who seek out and report outbreaks of selected environmentally and economically harmful invasive species. These teams, coordinated by the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, contribute important data to local and national resource managers who will, in turn, coordinate appropriate responses to control the spread of unwanted invaders.
The National Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is an early-winter bird census, where thousands of citizen scientists across the US, Canada and many countries in the Western Hemisphere, go out over a 24 hour period to count birds.
Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 24-kilometer diameter circle, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a species tally—all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day. All CBC’s are conducted in the period from December 14 to January 5 each season, and each count is conducted in one calendar day.
The data collected by observers over the past century allow researchers, conservation biologists and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent's bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.
There are about 9,000 species of birds in the world, which, in spite of being a very diverse group of animals, all share certain traits. Beaks, wings, flight, eggs, hollow bones and, especially, feathers are all adaptations that help birds survive. Citizen scientists participating in The WildLab will search for birds in their local areas, view these birds through binoculars and, using an iPhone app, record observations about its shape, size, color, pattern and behavior.
The WildLab iPhone app enables citizen scientists to select which bird they are observing. If the citizen scientists are in doubt, they can select from a number of bird silhouettes and colors and even listen to bird songs to be sure they identify the correct bird. Once they are sure of their identification, they count the number of that species seen and enter the sighting in the WildLab database. The phones use GPS to log sightings with accuracy to within a few meters. These observations can be viewed online and submitted to databases such as Cornell's eBird Database, and then used by scientists to track bird numbers and distribution.
Deadline: Jul 15 2013
Reward: $5,000 USD
SciBX: Science-Business eXchange, a joint publication from the makers
Deadline: Jun 30 2013
Reward: $1,000,000 USD
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