Citizen Scientists, Help SciStarter Empower You!

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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

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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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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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Wisconsin’s Water Action Volunteers – Making Waves for Action [GUEST POST]

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Editor’s Note: This post was written by Kris Stepenuck, Wisconsin’s Water Action Volunteers Stream Monitoring Program Director.

Monitor the quality and quantity of Wisconsin’s streams with Water Action Volunteers.

Interested in water monitoring projects? We’ve got you covered!

 

A Water Action Volunteer checking a local stream.

A Water Action Volunteer checking a local stream.

Human uses of the land impact the quality and quantity of waters in local streams, which in turn, can affect our recreational activities such as fishing, boating and swimming, and our drinking water quality. If we understand where, how and to what extent our streams are impacted, we can take steps to protect and improve them.

Citizen scientists in Wisconsin’s Water Action Volunteers (WAV) program assess the quality and quantity of water in their local streams. Their monitoring helps natural resource professionals understand the extent of non-point pollution in the state. Non-point pollution comes from sources across the landscape and is the primary source of pollution in Wisconsin’s (and our nation’s) waters. It includes sediment and nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which enter streams from agricultural and urban lands. Volunteer monitors also help track streamflow over time, since urban and agricultural land uses can significantly increase or decrease flows. For example, in urban areas, increased impervious surfaces result in less infiltration of rainwater into the ground and change baseflows and stormwater runoff. Also, where there is groundwater pumping, streamflow can be drastically reduced, which can endanger fish and other aquatic life.

WAV, sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the University of Wisconsin-Extension, has three levels of participation: Introductory; Status and Trends; and Special Projects Monitoring. Anyone interested in learning more about his or her local stream is encouraged to participate. Although methods are targeted towards adults and middle and high school students, younger children can participate in many of the activities with assistance. Everyone must begin with introductory monitoring unless they have previous experience. Each spring, trainings are held in various locations in Wisconsin for new volunteers to learn monitoring methods. The time commitment is one hour per month from May through October for Introductory and Status and Trends monitoring, while the time commitment varies for adults who participate in Special Project Monitoring. Some Special Project volunteers monitor for just a few minutes per month to assess phosphorus. Others monitor year around, sometimes several times per month, to assess impacts of road salting on streams. Those interested in joining WAV can visit the program website to find contacts and a calendar of upcoming events.


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Your Citizen Science Idea Could Fly to Mars and Win You $20,000 from NASA!

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Rack your brains for a chance to win cash from NASA (Image Credit: NASA)

Buckle up folks, ‘cause NASA is coming to you with a challenge. On Saturday, NASA announced at the World Maker Faire in New York that it has opened up registration for the ‘Mars Balance Mass Challenge’. The space agency has had a history of engaging citizen scientists through online crowdsourcing initiatives such as Target Asteroids!, Planet Mappers and Be a Martian and on the ground challenges such as its annual Sample Return Robot Challenge. In August this year, they partnered with ECAST (Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology) for the ‘Informing NASA’s Asteroid Initiative’ which invites the public to discuss and comment on how NASA is tackling asteroid exploration, potential asteroid threats and planetary defense.
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Citizen Science and Water Monitoring: How Healthy is the Water Near You?

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On September 18th of each year, the World Water Monitoring Challenge (WWMC) encourages people around the world to test the quality of the water near them, share their findings, and become inspired to protect one of the most important (if not the most important) resource on our planet.

In celebration of the WWMC, SciStarter‘s editors are floating a handful of water projects by you in our latest newsletter!

 

watermonitoringday

World Water Monitoring Day

Use a DIY kit to sample your local water body for basic water quality parameters: temperature, acidity (pH), clarity (turbidity), and dissolved oxygen. Create world map of the health of water bodies in the process. Get started!

 
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Citizen Science in the Classroom: Mapping Mars and Be a Martian with NASA [GUEST POST]

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Editor’s Note: This post has been republished and shared in celebration of SciStarter’s Back To School campaign where you will find 10 citizen science projects aligned with Next Generation Science Standards.

 

Students Explore the Surface of Mars and Contribute to Citizen Science From Their Classroom

Mars Rover main page

Grades:

1st -12th

Description:

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is asking for help in processing data collected on Mars, in the form of pictures taken by the Mars Rovers, Spirit and Curiosity. On the “Be a Martian” home page there is a dashboard where teachers or students may create an account with a Martian profile, complete with choosing your alien. Each action, associated with a profile, is given points or virtual badges for participating. Creating a profile is not necessary, you may also participate as a “Martian tourist.”  After registering (or not) you will be taken to their Citizenship Hall, which has links for pages with polling, a “theater” with video clips about the rovers, the ability to create a post card to send to the rover Spirit, and an Atlas with geographic information about Mars. Accessed from the Citizenship Hall is the, the second major page of their website, the “Map Room.”  In the map room there is an introductory video about the program and students have the opportunity to try their hands at three types of Martian mapping. These include aligning photos to match topographic images, counting craters, and tagging physical features of the landscape.

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Computer or computers with internet access.
  • Projector or smart board may be useful for working as a class.
  • Color printer

Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:

  • This project can be done in any setting, rural or urban.
  • No special tools are required outside of a computer with internet access.
  • Students gain a “sense of place” through learning about space and other planets.
  • NASA provides a great deal of supporting curriculum, hand-outs, posters, and multi-media resources.


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