Coop’s Citizen Sci Scoop: A Tide of Citizen Science History Revisited

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After sharknado 2, shark week, and Thiel’s review of the impacts and promises of citizen science for marine research, here is a second (historic) post about historic citizen science in the marine environment (originally at Scientific American).

In my last blog post, I introduced Matthew Maury, an American naval officer who began a citizen science project in the mid-1800s that transformed seafaring and drew society closer to science. Now let’s meet his British counterpart, William Whewell, an elite scholar who engaged the public to understand the tides, but in so doing helped to solidify the distinction between amateur and professional scientists.

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Informing NASA’s Asteroid Initiative: Your Chance to Participate!

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Asteroid Sample Retrieval

Asteroid Sample Retrieval

August 28, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In its history, the Earth has been repeatedly struck by asteroids, large chunks of rock from space that can cause considerable damage in a collision. Can we—or should we—try to protect Earth from potentially hazardous impacts?

How about harvesting asteroids for potential economic benefits? What do we do if we find an asteroid that threatens Earth? How should we balance costs, risks, and benefits of human exploration in space?

Sounds like stuff just for rocket scientists. But how would you like to be part of this discussion?


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Wanted: You and Your Dog! For Science! – It’s National Dog Day! [GUEST POST]

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Editor’s Note: In honor of National Dog Day, we are featuring an article by Julie Hecht, the Dog Spies blogger for Scientific American.

 

She's ready for science. Photo by Rebecca Moore-Ghilarducci

This dog is ready for science.
Photo: Rebecca Moore-Ghilarducci

A few years back, John Homans, former executive editor of New York magazine, published What’s a Dog For? — an intimate reflection on his beloved family dog, Stella, as well as a snapshot into the flourishing field of canine science. Looking down at the wagging tail by your side, you could easily answer the above question. What’s a dog for? Simple. Dogs are our family members and friends, our assistants and fellow-workers, and in some cases, our unexpected mentors. But would you also add ‘enthusiastic science partner’ to the list?

Since the late 1990s, companion dogs and their owners have played a crucial role in the growing field of canine science — a field investigating a wide range of questions about who dogs are and how they came to live their lives so intertwined with ours. To borrow from Dr. Alexandra Horowitz’s New York Times bestseller Inside of a Dog, researchers are tackling the nuances of “what dogs see, smell, and know,” and all those burning questions you have about dogs. In recent years, we’ve learned why dogs so easily move in sync with us (they readily attend to not only our gestures, but also our gaze and even our facial expressions), why dogs eat food off the table when you are out of, but not in, the room (they learn to note your attentional states), and how our assessments of dogs are not always spot-on (studies to date suggest the beloved “guilty look” in dogs is not what we think it means).


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Coop’s Citizen Sci Scoop: fishermen, sailor, beachcomber, diver – the seas of research helpers

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Many of you have had summer fun with citizen science at the beach, intertidal zone, and ocean. What do your efforts contribute to? In a new chapter, Martin Thiel and colleagues tallied the contributions of citizen science to marine research. Thiel is known for his research relying on volunteers who clean up beaches, but for this chapter they looked at over 200 studies on topics that ranged from algae to vertebrates. About 40 of the studies were local, 122 were regional, and 65 involved larger geographic regions (28 national, 28 international, 9 global). Most commonly projects involved surveys, transects, and opportunistic sightings.

Marine scientists often depend on non-scientists, from general public to fishermen to ship crews to beachgoers. Thiel reviewed papers published within the past 30 years, but some of the research papers were based on decades of citizen science; one was based on over 150 years of continuous data collection. This is not a new phenomenon. I first learned about the history of citizen science when I read about the father of Oceanography, Matthew Maury. In this context, I felt that modern citizen science is actually quite retro, which inspired my post about Maury (below), originally at Scientific American.

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The Citizen Science Funding Resource Guide

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Looking for ways to fund citizen science research? Check out the Citizen Science Funding Resource Guide!

242px-Environmental_Protection_Agency_logo.svgJessica Clemente, an environmental science graduate thought she would be doing work outside of her community once she got her degree. But she is an asthmatic, and when she found out there was an asthma study taking place in the area of her home in South Bronx she became involved and eventually took the lead. “Living day-to-day in an area where all I saw was high traffic volumes, poor air quality and adding more waste to our community got me enraged,” she says in an EPA video interview. Her anger prompted action, and she looked at the tools to empower herself and her community—education and advocacy.

In many cases, there is a connection between socioeconomic status and air quality. Some call it environmental justice—why should a factory spew tons of filth into the same air that a poor, young family across the road breathes? Amanda Kaufman, the Environmental Health Fellow in the Air Climate and Energy Program Office at the EPA says, “We are currently working with a community in Newark, New Jersey that has faced environmental justice issues in the past and still faces many to this day.  We hope to collaborate with the community action group to establish a community-led air monitoring project.”


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Exploring a Culture of Health: Repurposing Medicine to Help More People

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How can we use medication efficiently to help more people? (Image Credit: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

This post is part of Exploring a Culture of Health, a citizen science series brought to you by Discover Magazine, SciStarter and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, serving as an ally to help Americans work together to build a national Culture of Health that enables everyone to lead healthier lives now and for generations to come.

Each year in the U.S. millions of dollars’ worth of useable medication is destroyed. While at the same time one in four working adults cannot afford their medication. It is a confusing and unnecessary contradiction.

Fortunately innovative organizations recognize that by recycling or repurposing medication it is possible to limit waste and conserve resources while helping individuals live healthier lives.
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Exploring a Culture of Health: Reimagining Medical and Health Education

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How can we reimagine online health learning? (Image Credit: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

How can we reimagine online health learning? (Image Credit: Pixabay / CC0 1.0)

This post is part of Exploring a Culture of Health, a citizen science series brought to you by Discover Magazine, SciStarter and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, serving as an ally to help Americans work together to build a national Culture of Health that enables everyone to lead healthier lives now and for generations to come.

What we know about health and medicine is ever changing and improving. So should the way we teach and learn about it.

For several years now, Khan Academy has been reimagining teaching and improving access to education. As part of their mission to provide “a free world-class education to anyone, anywhere”, they develop free online video lessons to help students, teachers, and parents tackle subjects ranging from algebra to art history to computing. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), they are now turning their attention to medical and health education.

“We need more effective ways to spread knowledge about health and medicine and online tools seem to have a lot of potential in this respect,” explains Michael Painter, senior program officer at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “With Khan Academy’s focus on disrupting traditional approaches to education and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s interest in disrupting traditional notions of health and medicine it seemed like a good match.”

There is an enormous quantity of potential health and medical content that can be taught. Khan and RWJF decided to focus on developing student preparation resources for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), the exam prospective students must take for admission into medical school.

Recognizing that many individuals are passionate about education, Khan Academy hosted a content competition to find talent. Khan Academy was looking for submissions, which were informative, engaging, and well-constructed. Many winners were residents and young medical faculty. They were treated to a video ‘boot camp’ to hone their video making skills before they were let loose to create their instructional videos. A second competition was completed this past spring to refresh the first cohort of video makers. To make sure the content is accurate, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) is overseeing a review of the content before it is posted online.

These videos are part of Khan’s Health and Medicine catalogue. The section has a growing library of content covering a range of topics including cardiovascular diseases, the musculoskeletal system, and cognition. It also has information about general health and fitness and as well as a section on understanding lab test results. Within each topic module there are several videos that sequentially guide the viewer through the relevant material. Some modules contain a comprehension quiz. While the content is geared towards healthcare trainees and practitioners, all are relevant and viewable for the general public.

“This is a platform to provide free, high-quality resources in the area of health and medicine. We want to offer a deep learning experience that is accessible to anyone, anywhere.  As such, we try to avoid using jargon and don’t always assume a pre-existing base of medical knowledge.  For instance, our video on anemia breaks down the complexities of oxygen delivery in the body by drawing an analogy, and using clear language appropriate for anyone interested in learning about the disease,” says Rishi Desai, MD, MPH the Khan Academy medical partnership program lead.

Building on its work with the MCAT, Khan Academy is in the process of generating content in collaboration with the Association of American Colleges of Nursing and the Jonas Center to offer preparation materials for the NCLEX-RN, the registered nurses licensing exam.

“We believe efforts such as these will make significant improvements in the education of health care providers and ultimately in the care they deliver to patients,” says Painter.

What ways can you think of to improve health and medical information? Leave a comment below.

***

What to expand your science knowledge? Check out these free online science learning resources.

VisionLearning is an online resource for undergraduate level science education. Lessons are organized in concise and engaging modules interspersed with comprehension check points and animations to keep students engaged. Material is created by professional scientists and educators. In addition the site provides resources for helping educators create a lesson plans. Read a more detailed description here.

The National Science Digital Library This site provides a collection of free resources and tools which support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.  Resources include activities, lesson plans, websites rosters, simulations, or other materials to facilitate STEM education.

Citizen Science Academy A tool for educators interested in incorporating citizen science projects in their curriculum. Courses and tutorials help guide educators through the process. There are also opportunities for continuing education credits.

 

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Super Moon, Super Meteor Showers, Super Citizen Science

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On Sunday August 10, join Slooh and citizen scientists as they observe the Super Moon.

Don’t miss a live interview (Sunday at 7:30 ET) with SciStarter’s founder Darlene Cavalier on Slooh, the telescope and astronomy website devoted to stars and the cosmos.

 

Credit NASA

There is a tendency to prefix anything dramatic, unusual or super with…well, the prefix ‘super,’ which is partly why the Moon is called super twice more this year. Let me explain.  When a new Moon coincides with the closest approach the Moon has on its elliptical path to the Earth (because of this the Moon’s orbit typically varies between about 222,000 miles and 252,000 miles from the Earth), it actually appears from 7 to 30 percent larger and brighter, especially when it’s close to the horizon. That happens on the 10th of August—tomorrow—and again on the 9th of September 2014.  Slooh will be broadcasting live coverage of the event.

The term ‘super moon’ is not used in professional astronomical circles, but rather has its roots in modern astrology—the high tides created at this time are believed by some to cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and it has actually been blamed for sinking the Titanic (although there has not been any evidence to support this), and for the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

What’s so super about the Moon this weekend? The perigee (that’s what astronomers call it) will coincide with meteor showers. Named Perseid, it is possible to see as many as 100 shooting stars every hour; probably peaking between August 10 and August 13, with the best time to view the shower at about 2 am.


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Citizen Science, Shark Week Edition

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It’s Shark Week for Citizen Scientists!

It’s that time of year again. (Cue Jaws theme song.) Discovery Channel’s Shark Week starts on August 10th! But rather than fear these beautiful creatures, participate in projects to help advance research about sharks!

Hey! If you’re involved in more than one citizen science project, we’d like to hear from you. Email carolyn@scistarter.com to find out why (we’ve got a free t-shirt for you!).


 

Wildbook for Whale Sharks
Share your photographs of whale sharks and Wildbook’s pattern recognition software will distinguish between individual sharks by identifying skin patterns behind the gills of each shark! The photos you share will be used in mark-recapture studies to help with the global conservation of this threatened species.Get started!

 

Sevengill Shark Sightings, San Diego
If you spot a Sevengill Shark while on a dive, be sure to snap a photo or record video. Images can be uploaded to a pattern recognition program to track Sevengill sharks! Get started!

 

New England Basking Shark Project
The New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance invites boaters, fishermen, and divers to report their sightings and send in their photos of basking sharks. Help monitor the local population and migration patterns.  Get started!

 

Shark Trust: Great Eggcase Hunt
Prefer a casual stroll on the beach? Report findings of shark egg cases (“mermaid’s purses”) washed up on the beach. An eggcase contains one embryo which will develop over several months into a miniature shark, skate or ray. Once empty, the eggcases often wash ashore, indicating the location of nurseries, which provides species information on abundance and distribution!  Get started!

This originally appeared on the SciStarter blog.


From our partners:

Check out “Exploring a Culture of Health,” a citizen science series brought to you by Discover Magazine, SciStarter and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, serving as an ally to help Americans work together to build a national Culture of Health that enables everyone to lead healthier lives now and for generations to come.

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Exploring a Culture of Health: Navigating the Path Towards Responsible Personal Health Data Research

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The Personal Health Data Ecosystem. How Can it be Used for Public Good? (Image Credit: Health Data Exploration)

The Personal Health Data Ecosystem. How Can it be Used for Public Good? (Image Credit: Health Data Exploration)

This post is part of Exploring a Culture of Health, a citizen science series brought to you by Discover Magazine, SciStarter and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, serving as an ally to help Americans work together to build a national Culture of Health that enables everyone to lead healthier lives now and for generations to come. With the advent of health-related wearable devices and apps, more and more individuals are actively tracking their personal health. In addition to physiological measurements like heart rate or blood pressure, these tools also enable individuals to record and analyze their behavior such as physical activity, diet and sleep. (See image below). Individuals are able to build reliable records of their personal health data with day-to-day resolution. Now, researchers are interested in using this data to better inform health research.
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