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.
Snow and ice researchers at the University of Waterloo, Canada, ask you to tweet snow depths in your area, or wherever you are, as part of the Snowtweets Project. Sign in to your Twitter account (or sign up for an account) and write a message from your laptop, desktop or smart phone that includes the depth, as well as your location.
Measure the snow depth where you live, work or play. Ideally, you can easily do this with a simple ruler by poking it into the snow straight down (vertically) to the ground at a place you think is representative of the snow in your area (maybe in the middle of your back yard or at an undisturbed/undrafted place on the way to work, or in your school yard). There is a section opposite that explains in more detail some of the best ways to measure snow depth.
To view the snow depth measurements (or tweets), we have developed a data visualization tool called Snowbird that lets you explore the reported snow depths around the globe. After you submit your tweet, give the system a few minutes to process the data and you should see your tweet show up in Snowbird.
This is a two-part project originating in Australia. The first is a Melbourne-based effort to collect dog droppings and turn them into biogas for local use. The secondary effect would be to alert dog owners about the amount of uncollected dog waste that’s left in public areas, with the hope that this can be reduced with the aid of more conscientious dog ownership.
For the rest of the world, there’s a spinoff project and global competition for people to identify the most and largest dog poo 'hotspots' in their local neighborhood in the 'Poo Power! Global Challenge'. Participants use a GPS-enabled iPhone to download the free Poo Power! App from the App Store. Their task is to identify and map dog poo 'hotspots' in dog parks and public spaces from their neighborhood beginning Monday, November 25, 2013.
The collected information will be uploaded onto the Global Poo Map (warning: graphic images of rogue dog droppings) and provides a platform the discussion of the scientific, social and environmental issues of dog waste. The app is designed to send collated photos and locations of the dog poo to local council or city administrators with a "Clean up the doo doo" e-mail.
Description: Invasive species often threaten native plants and animals, and experts need to know where to find them. That’s the main idea behind the What’s Invasive app, a joint effort by UCLA’s Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS), the National Park Service and the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia.
The app displays local lists of invasive plants or animals that have been identified by the National Park Service and other management authorities. Users can help experts pinpoint invasive species by locating them and providing experts with GPS coordinates, accompanied by a photo and notes about the observation. The geotagged observations and photos are used to alert experts about the spread of habitat-destroying species. Users can also go online to whatsinvasive.com and set up their own site for invasive species data collection.
NoiseTube was created with the purpose of turning smartphones into mobile noise level meters. The app allows citizen scientists to participate in the collective noise mapping of their city or neighborhood. NoiseTube has three features: measure noise, localize it and tag it. Tags include the level of annoyance and the source of sound, such as an airplane. The collected data is wirelessly sent to the NoiseTube server in real time. Once the data has been uploaded to NoiseTube’s Web site, users can check their sound trajectory on Google Maps.
Just by taking photos and observing spiders, citizen scientists can help the Explorit Science Center in Davis, Calif., learn about which climates certain spiders live in and track the distribution of spiders over time. Use your camera or smart phone to take a photo of the spider and submit it online.
Spiders have long been thought of as a useful natural method of pest control, but how will expected temperature changes or other environmental changes affect the spider’s usefulness as pest-killers and their distribution? We don't yet know how climate change will impact spiders, and in turn impact agriculture such as crops and farms. When we understand where spiders are living today, we will be better able to predict what may happen to spiders and agriculture in the future.
Citizen scientists can use Treezilla to record the trees near them and to find out how they benefit the local environment. Upload photos of the tree when you enter the tree details on Treezilla. Include a general shot to show the whole tree, the trunk to show bark detail, close-up of the buds on a twig, then depending on time of year also give a picture of leaf, fruit and flowers. The community of users on Treezilla should then help out with the identification.
As a citizen science platform, Treezilla can be used to serve a wide variety scientific objectives. For example, studies of the epidemiology of new and emerging tree diseases, evaluation of ecosystem services provided by trees, effects of climate change on tree growth and condition and macroecology.
There are a number of Web sites that give help on tree identification. A sister project to Treezilla, iSpot.org, has a set of keys to variety of wildlife including trees. Treezilla’s site includes an FAQ with additional information about the project.
Treezilla is sponsored by The Open University, The OpenScience Laboratory, Treeconomics, iSpot, Forest Research and OpenTreeMap.
Creek Watch is a free iPhone application designed to help citizen scientists monitor the health of their local watershed. Whenever passing by a waterway, citizen scientists can spend a few seconds using the Creek Watch application to snap a picture and report how much water and trash they see. IBM, which created the app, aggregates the data and share it with water control boards to help them track pollution and manage water resources.
The Creek Watch App uses four pieces of data to help watershed groups, agencies and scientists track pollution, manage water resources, and plan environmental programs:
The amount of water: empty, some or full.
The rate of flow: still, moving slowly or moving fast.
The amount of trash: none, some (a few pieces), or a lot (10 or more pieces).
A picture of the waterway.
Creek Watch is a project developed at IBM Research - Almaden in consultation with the California State Water Resources Control Board's Clean Water Team.
World Water Monitoring Challenge (WWMC) is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizen scientists to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies.
The WWMC grew out of the World Water Monitoring Day program in 2012. While an official “day” continues to be observed each year on September 18, the broader “challenge” encourages people everywhere to test the quality of their waterways, share their findings, and protect our most precious resource. The program runs annually from March 22 (the United Nations World Water Day) until December 31.
The primary goal of World Water Monitoring Challenge is to educate and engage citizens in the protection of the world’s water resources, as many people are unaware of the impact their behaviors have on water quality. Conducting simple monitoring tests teaches participants about some of the most common indicators of water health and encourages further participation in more formal citizen monitoring efforts. Results are shared with participating communities around the globe through the WWMC Web site.
Coordinated by the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and the International Water Association (IWA), the WWMC sells individual and classroom water-testing kits for sampling local water bodies for basic water quality parameters: temperature, acidity (pH), clarity (turbidity), and dissolved oxygen. Each kit contains an informative instruction book and enough reagents to repeat up to 50 tests.
The School of Ants project is a citizen-scientist driven study of the ants that live in urban areas, particularly around homes and schools. Teachers, students, parents, kids, junior-scientists, senior citizens and enthusiasts of all stripes are involved in collecting ants in schoolyards and backyards using a standardized protocol to help make detailed maps of the wildlife that lives just outside our doorsteps. The maps created with these data say quite a lot about native and introduced ants in cities, not just in North Carolina, but across the U.S. and, as this project grows, about the ants of the world.
The School of Ants project accepts samples from anywhere. Right now they are prioritizing samples from New York, Wisconsin and Washington, where citizen scientists have recently found the invasive Asian needle ant. The project is also quickly going through samples more generally from Chicago, New York City or Raleigh-Durham. They will continue with samples from elsewhere too though, just more slowly. Forgive our speed, science takes time (as does gluing each ant onto a tiny, tiny, pin to identify them—people who choose to participate are electing to sacrifice animals for science).
The Shark Trust, a U.K. charity dedicated to the worldwide conservation of sharks, is promoting a citizen project called The Great Eggcase Hunt Project.
Since 2003, the Great Eggcase Hunt has engaged the public in hunting for spent shark, skate and ray eggcases (or ‘mermaid’s purses’) washed up on beaches throughout the year. This project asks members of the public to scour beaches for these empty capsules and then use an identification guide to discover which species they belong to. The waters around the British Isles support a diversity of shark, skate and ray (elasmobranch) species, many of which have experienced significant population declines in recent decades.
These empty eggcases are an easily accessible source of information on the whereabouts of potential nursery grounds and will provide the Trust with a better understanding of species abundance and distribution.
Not sure what to do with the cockroaches skittering across your kitchen counter? The Rockefeller University’s Program for the Human Environment will take one or two of them off your hands in the name of science. Researchers are using DNA barcoding to answer a number of questions about the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana), also known as the palmetto bug or waterbug.
Genetic diversity is a window into evolution and patterns of migration. American cockroaches originated in Africa and hitchhiked around the world on commercial goods. The National Cockroach Project asks:
Do American cockroaches differ genetically between cities?
Do U.S. genetic types match those in other parts of the world?
Are there genetic types that represent undiscovered look-alike species?
Shark Savers, a non-profit organization, works to improve protections for sharks. This requires information about local populations, yet even basic data is often absent or missing. Divers see sharks the most frequently and regularly and are often familiar with local trends but rarely have the training or tools to accurately and consistently record these valuable sightings in a way that can be useful to shark conservation and advocacy.
The SharksCount program seeks to close an important data gap by enabling divers to act as citizen scientists for sharks. Over time, these sightings will provide essential information about local shark population trends with the potential to improve protections for sharks.
Adult volunteers are invited to apply for an opportunity to participate in BioTrails, a citizen science project that will use genetic techniques to monitor animal and plant species in Maine’s Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park area.
The project’s goal is to establish practices for combining public participation in scientific research with DNA-based species identification (DNA barcoding) to scale-up and improve the accuracy of research projects that monitor animal and plant species in the sea and on land as they respond to climate change and other environmental changes.
There will be two BioTrails events in 2013. Each event will be held on two consecutive weekends as follows (participants are expected to attend both weekends):
Selected participants will collaborate with scientists in the field and in the lab, collecting, sorting and identifying invertebrates from either a forest on the Schoodic Peninsula or eelgrass beds in Frenchman Bay as part of an MDIBL restoration project, and helping create DNA barcoding reference libraries. In addition to generating data for addressing ecological research questions, participants will be expected to participate in surveys and interviews designed to evaluate the educational benefits of the BioTrails participant experience.
The marine phytoplankton—also called microalgae—account for about half of all photosynthesis on Earth and, through the plankton food web that they support, they both underpin the marine food chain and play a central role in the global carbon cycle strongly influencing the Earth’s climate.
Living at the surface of the sea the phytoplankton are particularly sensitive to changes in sea surface temperature. A recent study of global phytoplankton abundance over the last century concluded that global phytoplankton concentrations have declined due to rising sea surface temperatures as a consequence of current climate change.
Researchers at Plymouth University's Marine Institute in the U.K. need to know much more about these changes. That’s why they’ve created the Secchi citizen science app and are asking for citizen scientists for help. Citizen scientists can lend a hand by making a simple piece of scientific equipment called a Secchi Disk and using the Secchi App, available for both Apple iOS and Google Android devices.
Discarded metal, fishing gear, plastic, glass and other waste can both sully a beach and pose a health threat to its inhabitants. That’s why the NOAA Marine Debris Division and the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative (SEA-MDI), located within the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia, have developed the Marine Debris Tracker mobile app. This iPhone and Android software lets you check in when you find trash on our coastlines and waterways.
The project’s goal is to spread awareness of marine debris, as well as serve as an easy-to-use and simple tool for marine debris data collection. Citizen scientists can provide feedback individually or at email@example.com.
Given that the majority of debris tracking might take place in remote areas or even on the water, where there is likely no WiFi or even a cell signal, citizen scientists can log and track as many items as they want and store this info in their smartphones until they return to a place where they can wirelessly submit their findings.
Did you know you can print live cells from an inkjet printer? Companies like Organovo are developing ways to 3-D print human tissues and organs. But the basic technologies are so accessible that we wanted to play around with them ourselves.
BioCurious has built its own functioning bioprinter from a couple of old CD drives, an inkjet cartridge and an Arduino. We probably won't be printing human organs any time soon, but how about printing a leaf from plant cells? Or add a BlueRay laser to turn it into a miniature laser cutter to print "lab-on-a-chip" microfluidic devices.
BioCurious community projects are open to anyone, and are driven entirely by whoever wants to show up and participate.
Conducted in Partnership with the Road Ecology Center', The UC Davis Road Ecology Center’s Road Kill project brings together researchers and policy makers from ecology and transportation to design sustainable transportation systems based on an understanding of the impact of roads on natural landscapes and human communities.
Wildlife live almost everywhere people do, although we often take these creatures and their natural habitats for granted. As a result, we are also losing wildlife at an alarming rate. Roads crisscross many landscapes, providing a convenient place from which to see certain wildlife. Unfortunately, this is also where many animals die, hit by cars or trucks. The Road Kill project collects observations of wildlife along roads (and off them too) to create a better understanding of where they live and where they are moving to. In the case of road kill, researchers also want to understand what causes road kill, which animals are affected, whether or not there are road kill "hotspots" and what can be done to reduce road kill impacts on wildlife.
By contributing wildlife observation data, citizen scientists help researchers understand where wildlife live and the threats they face from (mostly) human activities. Don't worry if you can't identify an animal to the species level right away. A picture will help researchers to do it, and just saying "rabbit" or "hawk" is useful information too.
The inaugural Space Hacker Workshop on May 4-5, 2013, at the Hacker Dojo in Mountain View, Calif.—across the street (literally) from NASA Ames Research Center—will teach citizen scientists and hardware hackers how to do "space on the cheap." During the two-day event, participants learn how they can build and fly experiments in space, and even fly in space as citizen astronauts, through the Citizens in Space program.
The workshop is sponsored by Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, and the Silicon Valley Space Center. Citizens in Space is dedicated to citizen science and citizen space exploration.
Citizens in Space has purchased 10 suborbital flights on the XCOR Lynx spacecraft, now under construction by XCOR Aerospace at the Mojave Air and Space Port, which will be made available to the citizen-science community. Citizens in Space will also select and train 10 citizen astronauts to fly as payload operators for up to 100 small experiments. For information on submitting payloads, see the group’s Call for Experiments.
Project MERCCURI (Microbial Ecology Research Combining Citizen and University Researchers on ISS) is an investigation of how microbes found in buildings on Earth—in particular public buildings such as stadiums—compare to those on board the biggest building ever built in space: the International Space Station.
The project lets citizen and student scientists participate in the research using kits to collect microbes from surface areas in buildings. Amateur scientists can form a team or join a team to collect samples through September 2013. Collected samples will be mailed to the University of California, Davis, where they will be sequenced. Results will be shared on the SciStarter citizen science Web site so participants can compare their samples to those from other locations, including the International Space Station.
Project MERCCURI kicks off at the National Science Teachers Association conference in San Antonio, Texas, on April 11 where project leaders will distribute free kits and teach teachers how to collect samples. Participants will use a sample kit with a q-tip to swab surface areas. Samples will then be analyzed at U.C. Davis, for identification through DNA sequencing.
In addition, up to 40 samples will be selected to fly in September on the International Space Station, where their growth rates in microgravity will be monitored using a device called the microplate reader and compared to their counterparts in the U.C. Davis lab.
SciStarter is teaming up with our sister site, Science Cheerleader (an organization of more than 250 current and former NFL and NBA cheerleaders who are also scientists and engineers) and scientists at the U.C. Davis to conduct this research.
Public radio station WNYC invites families, armchair scientists and lovers of nature to join in a bit of mass science: Track the cicadas that emerge once every 17 years across New Jersey, New York State and the whole Northeast by building homemade sensors and reporting your observations.
Magicicada Brood II will make its 17-year appearance when the ground eight inches down is a steady 64 degrees Fahrenheit/17.8 degrees Celsius. Help predict the arrival by planting a homemade temperature sensor in the ground and reporting your findings back to WNYC. We'll put them on a map and share your observations of this once-in-a-generation discovery with our entire community.
The whole detector costs about $80 in parts and takes about two hours to build. You'll want it in the ground by mid-April, the earliest the cicadas are likely to emerge.
Formed in 2000, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) is an environmental health and justice organization working with communities that neighbor the state's oil refineries and chemical plants. The group’s mission is to support communities' use of grassroots action to create informed, sustainable neighborhoods free from industrial pollution.
The EPA-approved "bucket" is an air-sampling device that people who live next to industry—“fenceline” neighbors—use to document pollution in their neighborhoods. Air is drawn into a 19-liter bucket and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Though the bucket is an important part of the assistance the LABB provides, it is only one part of a toolbox that includes education, assistance with organizing, media and other types of sampling (water, soil, seafood).
LABB programs include the Refinery Efficiency Initiative, Environmental Justice Corps, Fenceline Neighbors Networks and Oil Spill Response.
UPDATE: Please send your video submissions to the researchers by March 31, 2013.
The Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab in NYC is investigating the different ways people and dogs play together, and we need your help (well, you and your dog’s help). We are cataloguing all the ways people play with their dogs and asking dog owners to submit short videos of their own dog-human play.
Project: Play with Your Dog is open to anyone, in any country. If you live with a dog, we want to see you play.
To participate, find or make a 30-60 second video of you and your dog playing in whatever way you like to play together, and then upload the video to our website and complete a short survey. You are also invited to add a picture of you and your dog to our Wall of Contributors.
By participating in Project: Play with Your Dog, citizen scientists are providing valuable information into the nuances and intricacies of our relationships with dogs.
In association with the Human Food Project, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder along with researchers at other institutions around the world are launching a new open-access project known as “American Gut” in which participants can get involved in finding out what microbes are in their own guts and what they are doing in there.
The project builds on previous efforts, including the five-year, $173-million NIH-funded Human Microbiome Project, to characterize the microbes living in and on our bodies. But unlike other projects that have focused on carefully chosen test subjects with a few hundred people, this project allows the public to get involved and is encouraging tens of thousands of people to do so.
The American Gut project is an opportunity for the citizen scientists working with a team of leading researchers and labs throughout the United States to help shape a new way of understanding how diet and lifestyle may contribute to human health through each person’s suite of trillions of tiny microbes.
Transportation researchers are asking the public for help this weekend in studying post-Sandy traffic patterns in New York City. Anyone with a smart phone can collect traffic data on Saturday, anywhere in Manhattan, using an application developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The researchers will analyze the data to learn about how traffic is affected by major disasters as part of the TrafficTurk project.
Researchers are hoping TrafficTurk can provide valuable, real-time information to police, emergency personnel, and the public, with the goal of helping traffic flow more smoothly during major events.
The University of Illinois team and transportation researchers from Columbia are collecting data in Times Square Friday afternoon, November 3. On Saturday, November 4, they will compile and analyze the data provided by volunteer members of the public.
Citizens in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy, is dedicated to citizen science and citizen space exploration. Citizens in Space is a nonprofit project working with (not for) the companies developing new commercial spacecraft. Our goal is to enable ordinary people to fly in space as citizen astronauts (citizen space explorers) and to enable citizen scientists to fly experiments into space. For the first phase of our project, we have acquired an initial contract for 10 suborbital spaceflights with one of the new space transportation companies—XCOR Aerospace.
We will be making payload space on these flights available to citizen scientists. Professional researchers will be eligible, too, if they play by certain rules. We will fly these experiments free of charge, but any experiment submitted to us must be licensed as open-source hardware. We expect to fly up to 100 small experiments in our initial flight campaign. Our hope is that the experiment hardware developed through this project will be replicated widely by citizen scientists and flown many times on a wide variety of vehicles in the future. For information on the rules for submitting payloads, see the Call for Experiments.
Along with the general call for experiments, we are offering a $10,000 prize for one particularly interesting experiment in the High Altitude Astrobiology Challenge. We will also have a $5,000 reserve prize for the best experiment which does not win the High Altitude Astrobiology Challenge.
Life on Earth started about three-and-a-half billion years ago. It's the tiny changes accumulating over a long, long time that got us here. Citizen scientists can see some of those tiny steps by joining the Evolution MegaLab.
The main focus of this research is the banded snails (Cepaea nemoralis and Cepaea hortensis), which can be found in almost any part of the U.K. where snails are generally present. Citizen scientists will seek out these snails and keep records of the locations where they are found using maps and satellite pictures on the Evolution MegaLab Web site.
The YardMap Network collects data by asking individuals across the country to literally draw maps of their backyards, parks, farms, favorite birding locations, schools and gardens. The network connects citizen scientists with their landscape details and provide tools for them to make better decisions about how to manage landscapes sustainably.
YardMap is also an interactive citizen scientist social network. Participants are instantly connected to the work of like-minded individuals in their neighborhoods, and across the country. Together they can become a conservation community focused on sharing strategies, maps and successes to build more bird habitat.
The project seeks to answer the following questions:
What practices improve the wildlife value of residential landscapes?
Which of these practices have the greatest impact?
Over how large an area do we have to implement these practices to really make a difference?
What impact do urban and suburban wildlife corridors and stopover habitats have on birds?
Which measures (bird counts? nesting success?) show the greatest impacts of our practices?
The Large Pelagics Research Center (LPRC), based in Gloucester, Mass., initiated its Tag A Tiny program in 2006 to study the annual migration paths and habitat use of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna. Through this co-operative tagging program, which uses tags from The Billfish Foundation (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) recreational anglers and charter captains catch, measure and release juvenile bluefin with conventional "spaghetti"-ID tags.
To date, 885 recreational fishermen have helped LPRC to tag 1,006 bluefin, mostly juveniles from one to four years old, and some "medium" size fish, nearing 180 centimeters. All of the records are entered into the Billfish Foundation, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) databases.
LPRC was established in 2003 at the University of New Hampshire and, in 2010, joined the Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the Graduate School of Marine Science.
Native Buzz is a Citizen Science project created by the University of Florida (U.F.) Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab. The goal is to learn more about the nesting preferences, diversity and distribution of native solitary bees and wasps, share the information gained and provide a forum for those interested in participating in the science and art of indigenous beekeeping (and wasp-keeping!). At U.F. Native Buzz, citizen scientists can keep track of their own native buzz nest site and see the results of other participant's nest sites.
325,000 Americans die each year of sudden cardiac arrest. Some of these deaths could be prevented through the timely use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). The inability to locate AEDs in such emergency situations greatly reduces their intended life-saving impact. Citizen scientists can help by reporting locations of AEDs throughout Philadelphia.
The University of Pennsylvania has developed a crowdsourcing mobile media contest called the MyHeartMap Challenge to find AEDs and raise awareness. Participants will use a free app to identify and record locations in Philadelphia county. The primary goal is to create a complete and up-to-date map of AEDs in Philadelphia.
The Monarch Larva Monitoring Project (MLMP) is a citizen science project involving volunteers from across the United States and Canada in monarch research. It was developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota to collect long-term data on larval monarch populations and milkweed habitat.
The overarching goal of the project is to better understand how and why monarch populations vary in time and space, with a focus on monarch distribution and abundance during the breeding season in North America.
This project should not be confused with Project MonarchHealth.
World Water Monitoring Day (WWMD) is an international education and outreach program that builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local water bodies.
Water monitoring provides basic information about streams, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters to provide a better understanding of whether they are safe enough to swim in, fish from, or use for drinking or irrigation purposes.
A test kit enables children and adults to sample local water bodies for a core set of water quality parameters including temperature, acidity (pH), clarity (turbidity) and dissolved oxygen (DO). Results are shared with participating communities around the globe through the WWMD Web site.
WWMD organizers are the Water Environment Federation and the International Water Association. They publish program data annually.
Citizen Scientists with an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch are encouraged to take these gadgets, loaded with the Meteor Counter app, along while stargazing. Start the Meteor Counter, lie down in a safe dark place, and be alert for shooting stars. Every time you see a meteor, tap the piano-like key corresponding to its brightness. Keys on the left correspond to dim meteors, which are barely visible to the naked eye. Keys on the right denote "jaw-dropping" fireballs.
With each keytap, the Meteor Counter records critical data such as the time you saw the meteor, the meteor's magnitude and your location. Users can also turn on an optional voice recorder to capture your own description of events. Afterward, these data are automatically uploaded to NASA researchers for analysis.
Bee Hunt! was designed to teach and learn about pollination ecology and other aspects of natural history. Citizen scientists can either choose to inventory bees and all other natural history at a site, or they can design an experiment that compares pollinators at two different patches of flowers.
When inventorying a site, choose a time when pollinators are likely to be out (a sunny day with some flowers present) and follow the steps listed on the Bee Hunt! Web site. Organizers also provide tips on how to design one's own experiment.
Bee Hunt is funded by the U. S. Department of Interior's National Biological Information Infrastructure and by the National Science Foundation. It is a partner of PollinatorLive, which is funded by the USDA Forest Service and other sponsors. Although organizers claim that Bee Hunt! is not citizen science, the project matches Scientific American's definition of a citizen science project. Bee Hunt!'s organizers seek to emphasize that the project follows "rigorous research protocols and error-checking methods and adhere to the highest quality methods of data collection."
Following up on this year's inaugural Nearby Nature GigaBlitz, which encouraged the submission of GigaPan images of local habitats, this follow-up project invites citizen scientists to start thinking about possible subjects, and then during the solstice week of December 19 to 25 get out and gigapan local animals and plants in all their biodiversity.
Gigapixel imaging can reveal a surprising range of animal and plant species in the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary settings in which we live, learn and work. Your challenge is to capture panoramas of Nearby Nature and share them with your peers at gigapan.org for further exploration. We hope that shared panoramas and snapshotting will help the GigaPan community more deeply explore, document and celebrate the diversity of life forms in their local habitats.
The event will take place over a seven-day period that aligns with the December solstice. Please capture and upload your images to the gigapan.org Web site between 6 A.M., December 19 and 11 P.M., December 25 (your local time). Panoramas are eligible for inclusion in the science.gigapan.org Nearby Nature collection. The best panoramas will be selected by a jury for publication in an issue of GigaPan Magazine dedicated to the Nearby Nature collection. For more about the selection criteria, click here.
NASA's Balloon Program Office and the Louisiana Space Consortium (LaSPACE) have created a balloon platform capable of reaching altitudes as high as 36 kilometers above the Earth's surface. Since 2006 NASA and LaSPACE have chosen student science projects to integrate into the balloon's High Altitude Student Platform (HASP).
Graduate and undergraduate students who would like to have their equipment included in the next HASP flight may apply to NASA and LaSPACE by December 16 for the opportunity.
A panel of experts from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va., and LaSPACE will review the applications and select the finalists for the next flight opportunity, targeted for fall 2012. Launched from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility's remote site in Fort Sumner, N.M., flights typically achieve 15 to 20 hours duration.
The major goals of the HASP Program are to foster student excitement in an aerospace career path and to help address workforce development issues in this area.
The weathering rates of gravestones are an indication of changes in the acidity of rainfall between locations and over time. The acidity is affected by air pollution and other factors, and could be used as a measure of changes in climate and pollution levels.
The Gravestone Project has two levels of data collection. The first is the location of graveyards, which requires the use of a GPS. The second is the measurement of the weathering of marble and other gravestones, which requires a micrometer. Citizen scientists can participate in either or both tasks.
Roads are directly responsible for the deaths of reptiles and amphibians in Massachusetts during seasonal migrations to nesting sites, seasonal migrations from uplands to breeding wetlands, movement between wetlands and thermoregulation (basking) on road surfaces. Causeways and other roads that bisect wetlands alter natural habitats by providing avenues by which invasive plants species can colonize wetlands and nesting areas, altering natural hydrology of wetland systems, altering storm water runoff and drainage, providing avenues for road salts and pollutants and the direct loss of habitat due to land-clearing and paving.
Roads also fragment and isolate turtle habitats by establishing a barrier to migration and the movement of individuals. They also tend to create habitats—grassy or sandy roadside shoulders, for example—that are attractive but dangerous to turtles, leading to an increase in road kill.
The Turtle Roadway Mortality Study aims to minimize the impact of roads and traffic on rare and non-game wildlife, while improving highway safety, through cost-effective research, planning, and implementation of partnerships with citizens and communities of Massachusetts. Citizen scientists are encouraged to contribute data about where turtles are most endangered by roadways and learn more about proactive efforts to protect turtles and other wildlife in Massachusetts.
Many invasive species, like Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), are threatening the world's natural resources. The abundance of Garlic Mustard is variable throughout North America and Europe, even for populations that have been established for a long time. Understanding why this variation exists could lead to important new insights into the biology of invasive species and ultimately lead to new and more effective control options
Maybe you wonder if your time would be better spent pulling out Garlic Mustard, rather than measuring it. Control efforts are important, but good scientific research will lead to much more effective control strategies.
The researchers behind the Global Garlic Mustard Field Survey project are integrating survey data with Garlic Mustard eradication efforts to track the effectiveness of different control options in different regions
Through large-scale sampling, scientists can identify areas that differ in the intensity of invasion and try to understand why these differences exist. They can also compare this to variation in the native range. This may be crucial to researching new methods of control, but a large project like this could cost millions of dollars and years of work without help from volunteers.
North Carolina State University's School of Ants project is a citizen-scientist driven study of the ants that live in urban areas, particularly around homes and schools. Collection kits are available to anyone interested in participating—teachers, students, parents, kids, junior-scientists, senior citizens and enthusiasts of all stripes are involved in collecting ants in schoolyards and backyards using a standardized protocol so that NCSU researchers can make detailed maps of the wildlife that lives just outside our doorsteps. The maps created with these data are telling the researchers quite a lot about native and introduced ants in cities, not just in North Carolina, but across the United States and, as this project grows, about the ants of the world.
Starting this fall, citizen scientists will be able to view their sampling location on an interactive map with a species list generated from your collected samples. In the meantime, NCSU researchers are sorting and identifying the ants in all of these samples.
Project MonarchHealth is a citizen-science survey of the occurrence of the protozoan parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha (OE), which parasitizes monarch butterflies. Best known for their migrations between breeding and wintering sites throughout North America, these butterflies are also found in non-migratory populations in places such as southern Florida. This parasite is not harmful to humans; however, it can harm the butterflies by inhibiting normal growth and lowering butterfly survival in the wild.
To check for parasites, surveyors can swab the abdomen of live butterflies to collect parasite spores. MonarchHealth participants help scientists map the location and infection levels of OE in monarchs throughout the United States and determine how much disease the parasites cause.
The most essential activity is capturing and sampling wild monarchs. Either capture monarch butterflies as adults or raise the caterpillars in separate containers until they become adult butterflies. In either case, you will gently tape each butterfly’s abdomen with a sticker to collect the OE spores. Next, you will send the sample, along with a simple data sheet for each butterfly, back to the scientists at the Altizer lab where they will analyze the sample. After the data are compiled, we will send you the results of your sampling contribution as well as post them on our results page for the public to see.
SoundCitizen was started in 2008 by a group of undergraduates from the University of Washington in Seattle. The students wondered whether it was possible to detect human-originated compounds in the water systems, and decided to find out by testing for cooking spices in local waters. The project has since grown and its scope has been broadened. The focus is still on scientific investigation and knowledge discovery of the chemical links between urban settings and aquatic systems. However, in addition to studying compounds like cooking spices, they also study more serious ones, pollutants in particular.
SoundCitizen is still staffed by undergraduate students at the University of Washington, whose individual research topics help define the overall scientific aims of the program. SoundCitizen encourages involvement with citizen volunteers and school groups, who voluntarily collect water samples from aquatic systems, perform a series of basic chemical tests, and then mail samples to the lab to be further analyzed for cooking spices and emerging pollutants.
Since the program’s inception in November 2008, more than 300 volunteers and 500 K-12 students have participated in the program. More than 1,000 kits have been distributed, and more than 95 percent of the returned samples have passed initial quality control screening and have been fully processed for emerging pollutants and cooking spices.
Throughout North America ladybug species distribution is changing. Over the past 20 years several native ladybugs once very common have become extremely rare. During this same time ladybugs from other places have greatly increased both their numbers and range. Some ladybugs are simply found in new places. This is happening very quickly and scientists don't know how, why or what impact it will have on ladybug diversity or the role that ladybugs play in keeping plant-feeding insect populations low.
Lost Ladybug Project is asking citizen scientists to help discover where all the ladybugs have gone so they can try to prevent more native species from becoming so rare. For example, to be able to help the nine-spotted ladybug and other ladybug species, scientists need detailed information on which species are still out there and how many individuals are around. Entomologists at Cornell can identify the different species but there are too few of these scientists to sample in enough places to find the really rare ones.
Cornell entomologists need citizen scientists to be their legs, hands and eyes by finding and photographing local ladybugs.
Concern about pollinator declines has increased in recent years, and, where pollinator status has been monitored over time, scientists are seeing some dramatic reductions in numbers. For most pollinators, however, there are simply no baseline data available to allow for an evaluation of changes in abundance. Beespotter is a Web-based partnership between the professional science community and citizen scientists—starting in Illinois exclusively but with the goal of spreading nationwide—to meet a critical need for data collection and to provide opportunities for the public to learn more about these ecologically essential organisms.
Species in the family Apidae—honey bees and bumble bees—are ideal subjects for citizen-scientist contributions to experimentation and data collection. Because of their striking coloration and readily recognizable shape and behavior, as well as their relatively large size (at least as far as insects are concerned), honey bees and bumble bees are far more easily "spotted," photographed, and identified based on color pattern than most of the other 3,500+ species of bees in North America.
There is currently no systematic nationwide effort to document pollinator status in North America beyond the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) annual survey of honey bees used for honey production. The goals of Beespotter are to engage citizen scientists in data collection to establish a baseline for monitoring population declines, to increase public awareness of pollinator diversity, and enhance public appreciation of pollination as an ecosystem service. The use of photography for identification, instead of the net, pin, and spreading board of traditional entomology, is consistent with the goal of preserving bee diversity and enhancing pollinator appreciation.
Scientific American reported in December that more than one million bats have been killed by the deadly fungal infection known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) since the condition first turned up in 2006. Bat populations are generally susceptible to decline because of low reproductive rates, and many species congregate at a limited number of locations during critical stages of their natural history cycle (i.e. hibernacula and maternity colonies). Lack of information on basic ecology and trends is one of the greatest limitations to conservation of bat species.
Beaver Creek Reserve Citizen Science Center volunteers assist the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with their Acoustic Bat Monitoring Program. Bat volunteers borrow AnaBat detection systems, dubbed the "Bat Monitoring Kit," for up to three nights to conduct bat surveys of local parks, neighborhoods, lakes and trails. The AnaBat detector is attached to a GPS-enabled personal digital assistant. The detector picks up the echolocation calls emitted by bats and translates it to a frequency the human ear can hear. Each detection system records information about phenology and species presence. Data is entered into the Wisconsin Bat Monitoring Program database, with the long-term scope of this project to compile information about phenology, species presence, migration timing vs. residence, and trends of the bat species in Wisconsin.
Participatory Urban Sensing emphasizes the involvement of individuals and community groups in the process of sensing and documenting where they live, work, and play. It can range from private, personal observations to the combination of data from hundreds, or even thousands, to reveal patterns across a city.
UCLA's Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS) puts Urban Sensing into action in projects that span a broad spectrum of subjects such as public health and wellness, environmental science and sustainability, urban planning, and cultural expression. For a listing of projects, visit their Web site. Examples of projects include:
Cyclesense—CENS is designing an application that runs on mobile phones that enables bike commuters to log their bike route using GPS and provide geo-tagged annotations (images, text notes) along with automatic sensor data (accelerometer/sound) to infer the roughness and traffic density of the road. Using this information, CENS plans to create an interface to enable bike commuters to plan their route based on both safety and interest vectors. They are currently running a pilot, Biketastic, in which bikers can share their routes which are automatically annotated by noise level, roughness, variation in elevation and duration of stops.
Family Dynamics—CNES is working with UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior to develop technologies to document key features of a family's daily interactions (e.g., co-location, family meals, and consistency). The first coaching tool being prototyped is Andwellness, a personal health self-management application for the Android phones that supports flexible geo-spatial, social and activity triggered reminders and ecological momentary assessment.
Personal Environmental Impact Report (PIER)—This online tool allows you to use your mobile phone to explore and share how you impact the environment and how the environment impacts you.
Researchers at Duke University's Noor lab of Evolutionary Genetics are developing a new "model system" for addressing interesting evolutionary genetic questions: the scuttle fly, Megaselia scalaris. This species offers many interesting facets: for example, it bears homomorphic sex chromosomes, and sex is determined by a male-determining region that actually transposes among chromosomes at a low, but detectable, rate.
The researchers are now in the process of obtaining complete, high-coverage genome sequences from males and females to isolate the region(s) distinguishing the sexes and begin deeper investigation into the genetic and evolutionary questions. Megaselia scalaris is both cosmopolitan and a "pest" species, being associated with myiasis and other infections of humans, as well as having potential forensic entomological applications. The researchers anticipate incidental benefits to society from explorations of this interesting biological system.
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Conventional washing machines cause excessive damage and wrinkling to clothes primarily during the water removal step. With the introduc
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