SciStarter Hackfest Coming to CitSci2015!

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A hackfest to make citizen science easier for project managers and participants. Join us in San Jose!

A hackfest to make citizen science easier for project managers and participants. Join us in San Jose!

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the CitSci2015 blog at the Citizen Science Association

What: A hands-on meet-up where everyone participates in dreaming up AND building creative tools to improve the field of citizen science!
Where: Citizen Science 2015 Conference, San Jose, CA
Who: The SciStarter team and YOU!
Why: To capitalize on the collective wisdom (and desire to act!) at the Citizen Science Association Conference

The inaugural conference of the Citizen Science Association will take place February 11-12 in San Jose, California and the SciStarter team is looking forward to soaking up new information during the scheduled sessions and talks!

We’ll also contribute to these conversations through a few presentations and a VERY interactive, “roll-up-your-sleeves!” hackfest designed for anyone interested in building connections and interoperability between projects and communities!

Will you join us?

Citizen Science participants and project owners face barriers – multiple types of logins for projects, coupled with an inability to track contributions and understand  motivations, retention, and learning outcomes across silo-ed projects/platforms, are some examples. We know that people do-and want to-participate in more than one project. Let’s make it easier!

In the process, we may help improve efforts to recruit and retain volunteers. At the very least, we believe a single login, smarter GIS tools, consistent project taxonomies, and a personal “dashboard” will most certainly provide much-needed support for those awesome citizen scientists.

With the incredible growth in the number and types of projects, we believe these barriers need to be addressed now…and in collaboration with you! Consider this your formal invitation to join our hackfest as a citizen scientist, practitioner, researcher, designer, programmer, student, educator, cheerleader, concerned citizen…you name it. You are invited!

During this hackfest, we will build upon what we learned at our workshop in February 2014 at the Citizen Cyber Science conference in London (organized by SciStarter, and NYU with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation) and a follow-up workshop in April 2014 at Drexel University (also funded by Sloan). We’ll also share preliminary plans for a new match-making prototype we are sketching out to help connect the people who have data/information to the researchers and reporters looking for that data/information (this work is supported by the Knight Foundation Prototype Fund).
At CitSci2015, we want to work with you to bring these things together.

The hackfest also provides space for new ideas to emerge. Perhaps you’d like to explore ways projects can share data, volunteers, tools and other resources to rise the tide of citizen science and enable better cross-platform analytics for project leaders while improving the experience for participants. This is your chance to bring your ideas to the table and connect with people who can help you advance your idea, too!

Where do I sign up?

First, make sure you have registered for the Citizen Science 2015 Conference

Then, fill out this form to let us know you’re coming so we know how many people to expect.

Bring your creativity, enthusiasm and talents and we’ll make sure you’ll have fun!

–Arvind Suresh is a science communicator and the Social Media Editor at SciStarter. He has an MS in Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology from the University of Pittsburgh. Before that, he received his and a BS in Biotechnology from PSG College of Technology, India. Follow Arvind on Twitter @suresh_arvind

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Groundbreaking Air Quality Study Demonstrates the Power of Citizen Science

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Air Sampling in Progress (Courtesy: Global Community Monitor)

Air Sampling in Progress (Courtesy: Global Community Monitor)

Editors Note: This is a guest post by Gwen Ottinger, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Drexel University.  She has done extensive research on community-based air monitoring and community-industry relations around oil refineries.  She is author of Refining Expertise: How Responsible Engineers Subvert Environmental Justice Challenges (NYU Press 2013).

 

A study released last week in the journal Environmental Health breaks new ground in our understanding of the environmental effects of fracking—and shows the power that citizen science can have in advancing scientific research and promoting political action.

Unconventional oil and gas (UOG) production, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking), can affect water and air quality.  Researchers, including citizen scientists, have studied its impacts on water extensively.  But we don’t know a lot about how air quality is affected, especially in nearby residential areas, according to the study, “Air concentrations of volatile compounds near oil and gas production.” Part of the problem is where most academic researchers take samples.  Too often, they choose monitoring locations based on the requirements of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which look for regional, not local, effects of pollution.  When looking at air quality around UOG production operations, they may select sites opportunistically, based on where they can gain access or where they can find electricity for their monitoring equipment. This approach, however, may not produce data that is representative of the actual impact of fracking on air quality.

The recently released study pioneers a new approach to choosing sites for air quality monitoring: it mobilizes citizens to identify the areas where sampling was most likely to show the continuous impact of fracking emissions. Citizens chose places in their communities where they noticed a high degree of industrial activity, visible emissions, or health symptoms that could be caused by breathing toxic chemicals.  They took samples themselves, following rigorous protocols developed by non-profit groups working in conjunction with regulatory agencies and academic researchers.

The result – we now have a lot more evidence to show that UOG production can have a big impact on local air quality.  And, as a result of citizens’ involvement in selecting sampling sites, scientists and regulators now have a better idea of where to look to start studying those impacts systematically.

The study demonstrates once again the power of citizen science to improve scientific research. But it also shows the political power of citizen science.  In a companion report released by the non-profit Coming Clean, the study’s citizen-authors use their finding that air quality is significantly affected by UOG to argue that governments need to be cautious when issuing permits, and to call for more extensive monitoring that includes citizen scientists.

Next week, several of the study’s authors—and many other citizen scientists—will convene in New Orleans to cultivate the scientific and political power of citizen science.  At the Community-based Science for Action Conference, November 15-17, citizens dedicated to protecting their community’s environment and health will have the chance to try out new technologies for environmental monitoring, share best practices for successful collaboration between scientists and citizens, and learn about the legal and political issues where their science can make a difference.

Want to get involved?  Registration is still open at the conference’s website. Can’t attend but want to support your fellow citizen scientists? Consider making a donation to help send someone else to New Orleans.

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Halloween Citizen Science in the Classroom: Answer the Bat Call!

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Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Citizen Science in the Classroom Series where we explore the use of citizen science projects to teach science in the classroom by aligning them with Common Core and Next Generation STEM standards . For more such projects check out the resources page for educators on SciStarter!

Mexican Free Tailed Bats in Texas exit their ‘bat cave’ to hunt for flying insects (Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service CC BY 2.0)

Mexican Free Tailed Bats in Texas exit their ‘bat cave’ to hunt for flying insects (Photo Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service CC BY 2.0)

 

Did you know? This week is Bat Week! There are many exciting online resources and activities for Bat Week. Visit Bat Week’s virtual host, BatsLive Project Edubat for additional Bat Week information and resources on how you can help bats!

Bat Detective

Grades: 4th-12th

Description:

Have you ever wondered about the secret lives of bats? Their adaptations, what and when they eat, where they sleep, how they communicate, their migration and hibernation patterns, and more? As a mostly nocturnal mammal species, we don’t often see them.
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Category: Citizen science, Common Core Standards, NGSS, Science Education Standards | Tagged | Leave a comment

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 Zombees and spiders and bats,
Oh MY!
Drag your bones over,

give these projects a TRY!

Happy Halloween!

From the SciStarter team.

Here are  five projects to put a smile on your skull. 

loss-of-the-night-scistarter

Loss of the Night
Bring Citizen Science with you to Trick or Treat this year! This App helps you learn constellations as you  contribute to a global real-time map of light pollution. Get started!

zombee watch scistarter

ZomBeeWatch
There’s a Zombie Fly threatening our honeybees! Learn how to set a trap, catch a bee, and see if it’s been infected by the Zombie Fly.  Get started!

bat-detectives-scistarter

Bat Detective
By sorting the sounds in recordings into insect and bat calls, you will help biologists learn how to reliably distinguish bat ‘tweets’ to develop new automatic identification tools.  Get started!

istock spider

Colorado Spider Survey
Little is known about the biodiversity of spiders in Colorado and the impact urbanization is having on species distribution. Learn how to collect and identify spiders, which will be sent to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Get started! BONUS! The L.A. Spider Survey needs your help investigating these issues in the L.A. area!

istock earthworm

Great Lakes Worm Watch
Not fazed by creepy crawlies? Then this wormy project is for you! Help monitor earthworm distribution and habitat from ANYWHERE! Collect earthworms and habitat data, and learn how to do soil surveys. Get started!

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Image Credits

Loss of the Night – NASA

ZomBeeWatch – US Geological Survey

Bat Detective – National Park Service

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Citizen Scientists, Help SciStarter Empower You!

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checklist-154274_640

Help us empower you! (Image Credits: Pixabay / Open Clips CC0)

SciStarter wants to make it easier for you to learn about and get involved in way more opportunities to make the world a better place. We have some big ideas, (and we know you have the potential to do BIG things!) but we want to hear from you first.

And keeping true to our citizen science roots, we’re seeking your thoughts to help us empower you! Consider completing this brief survey by Wednesday 10/22.

 

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SciStarter among 18 winners of Knight Prototype Fund!

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The Knight Foundation today announced the latest winners of its Knight Prototype Fund. Eighteen projects will receive $35,000 to help them bring their concepts closer to fruition and one of the 18 projects is ours:

SciStarter ’s project will connect data journalists and researchers with citizen scientists who are interested in helping them collect data about specific issues (i.e. water quality in a particular neighborhood).

The fund, launched in 2012, also gives winners a support network and the opportunity to receive human-centered design training in an effort bring early stage media ideas to a formal launch.

We are very honored to be in such great company and will post developments here.

Learn more about the other winners and the Knight Prototype Fund.

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Image Credit: Knight Foundation

 

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Citizen Science on the Radio

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Listen to the sounds of citizen science!

Listen to the sounds of citizen science!

Editor’s Note: This guest post by former SciStarter editor Lily Bui originally appeared on the SciStarter blog

Listen. Let’s get one thing straight: I am an unabashed public radio nerd.

So, when citizen science and public radio come together, I am nothing short of ecstatic. But it’s not just my public radio nerdiness for its own sake. Rather, this convergence speaks to a larger narrative (for me, at least) — that of citizen science being a form of public participation in science and public radio playing the role of representing public discourse.

In conjunction with SciStarter’s current audio/radio citizen science theme, I’ve put together a “playlist” of some examples of how public radio can engage citizen scientists and vice versa.


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The Sound of Science! 5 Citizen Science Projects That Need Your Ears

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In our latest newsletter we’ve picked citizen science projects where you can collaborate with scientists and use sounds and radio waves to track environmental health, understand our solar system, and even search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

And don’t forget to tune into NPR/WHYY’s Citizen Science radio series, produced in partnership with SciStarter.

And without further ado, here’s science you can do!

 

SETI@home

setihomeSETI, or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is a scientific effort seeking to determine if there is intelligent life outside Earth. Radio SETI listens for artificial radio signals coming from other stars. SETI@home is a radio SETI project that lets anyone with a computer and an Internet connection participate. Get started!

 

Radio JOVE

radio jove

NASA’s Radio JOVE project enables students and amateur scientists to observe natural radio emissions from Jupiter, the Sun, and our galaxy. Learn about radio astronomy first-hand by building your own radio telescope from an inexpensive kit and/or using remote radio telescopes through the Internet. Get started!

 

Frog Listening Network

tree-frog-324553_640

Amphibians are considered “sentinels” of environmental health. By knowing where in our environment frogs are flourishing and where they may be vanishing, researchers can direct their efforts to protect key habitats. Learn how to identify amphibians in Florida, by their sounds! Get started!

 

Citizen Weather Observer Program

Image Credit: CWOP

Join thousands of ham radio operators and other people with personal weather stations around the country volunteering their weather data for education and research. Get started!

 

Interactive NASA Space Physics Ionosphere Radio Experiments (INSPIRE)

Image Credit: INSPIRE

Use build-it-yourself kits to measure and record very low frequency radio emissions. Help advance our understanding of how they interact with the Earth’s ionosphere and magnetic fields. You’ll work with NASA space scientists on real scientific problems! Get started!

 

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Image Credits (In order)

SET@Home, NASA, Josch13 / Pixabay CC0, CWOP, INSPIRE

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When Dog Vomit Smells Delightful

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What can a change in our capacity to smell can tell us about our health? (Image credit: PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay CC0 )

What can a change in our capacity to smell can tell us about our health? (Image credit: PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay CC0 )

Editor’s note: The Smell Experience Project is one of more than 800 projects on SciStarter. Use our project finder to search and participate in citizen science that interests you!

I hate the smell of a mall. Everything reeks of that seemingly incurable lust for stuff—‘buy me, buy me’ is the cry. It’s as if the building is overdosing on the smell of money, and perspires that sickly-sweet perfume. You can lick it off the air. But that’s just me—my daughter loves it.

It’s not accidental. There are firms who research and provide signature scents for companies like Tommy Hilfiger. Marketplace.org recently reported on this. And if you didn’t know that, consider this: scientific papers have been published that actually test the impact of ambient odors on mall shopper’s emotions, cognition and, wait for it… spending!1  The authors concluded that the cognitive theory of emotions explains the influence of ambient scent best, and they went on to discuss managerial implications. I guess if LL Bean could manage that I would become more entranced with the idea.

Recently, the Smell Experience Project, a citizen science project that tested volunteers for a change in odor perception, published its findings. Imagine that you walked into Macy’s and smelt something like dog vomit, but it was the actual signature scent—you would know that your nose is misleading you—that would be a give-away. Dolores Malaspina, MD the researcher at The Institute for Social and Psychiatric Initiatives who is using this information is particularly interested in what a change in olfaction or odor perception actually tells physicians and psychiatrists. She says, “We have a large amount of publications showing that olfaction is related to symptoms and cognition in schizophrenia and that there are strong sex differences in cases and controls. In the disease we have appreciated olfaction as an indicator of higher cognitive control, in addition to olfactory specific mechanisms and regions. We can use profiles of olfactory function to address the heterogeneity of schizophrenia, that is, to find different subgroups of cases.”

Another question that can’t be ignored is whether the deficits in olfactory perception could be a cause of behavioral distress or disorders. To address this question Malaspina and colleagues conducted an Internet based study of 1000 people reporting a change in olfactory function2. She says the results were intriguing, “They showed that olfactory dysfunction substantially impacts a person’s quality of life, despite being of little concern to treating physicians.” The results show that olfactory stimulation and processing may help maintain a healthy brain, and people who loose their sense of smell may experience emotional consequences.

While there may be less practical problems associated with impaired or distorted odor perception than with impairments in visual or auditory perception, many affected individuals report experiencing olfactory dysfunction as a debilitating condition. Smell loss-induced social isolation and smell loss-induced anhedonia (the inability to experience social enjoyment) can severely affect quality of life.

I might mention that Discover has published a long list of Malaspina’s work, and she notes that, “Discover was also one of the first magazines to take my findings on paternal age and psychiatric illness seriously. They published this in an article by Josie Glausiusz entitled Seeds of Psychosis in the 2001 edition.”

Changes in odor perception can be a symptom of a condition, such as depression, head injury, dementia, or allergies, or a side effect of medication. Because the changes are subjective and difficult to measure, medical professionals often do not ask patients about changes in their sense of smell. As a result, there is little documented information about these changes. With the Smell Experience Project researchers successfully turned to the public for their help to better understand how changes in sense of smell can serve as an important and useful health indicator.

References

  1. Impact of ambient odors on mall shoppers’ emotions, cognition, and spending – A test of competitive causal theories Jean-Charles Chebat, Richard Michon, Journal of Business Research, 2003.
  2. Hidden consequences of olfactory dysfunction: a patient report series Keller and Malaspina, 2013
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Eyes on the Rise: Sea Level Rise Rally

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eyeswebsite

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Dr. Robert Gutsche, Jr., Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University and a part of the team at Eyes on the Rise, a crowd-hydrology citizen science project.

University and high school students at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay Campus are launching an effort to measure possible flooding on King Tide Day (Oct. 9) on Miami Beach, beginning with a sea level rise rally at 9 a.m. on Sept. 29, 2014. The event will be hosted by eyesontherise.org, a collaboration of four journalism professors at FIU, hundreds of college and high school students, and a dozen Miami area scientists, media and technology professionals.


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