The Nine Simultaneous Lives of Cats: Cat Tracker

By Caren Cooper | July 25, 2014 2:40 pm

Discover Magazine’s September print edition features an article on “20 Things You Didn’t Know About Cats.” Felines seem to lead elusive, mysterious lives. Fortunately, the citizen science project Cat Tracker allows you to track your cat beyond what we can directly observe.

Cats are moody.

In the blink of an eye, a cat can change from aloof to affectionate, playful to predatory, carefree to curious. The myth about nine lives is oddly suitable, but not as nine sequential lives. Instead, it is as though cats have nine personalities which results in living nine lives all at once.

Now their multifaceted personalities make us laugh with LOL Cats.


Image credit: anamalous4

But the joke is on us. Pet cats remain a mystery living right under our noses. We share our homes with them. We adopt them into our families. And if we let them outside, then there is a significant part of their lives for which we are clueless. Curled up on our laps rests Dr. Jekyll, but out the door goes a stalking Mr. Hyde.

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MORE ABOUT: animals, cats

Exploring a Culture of Health: Creating a Roadmap to Community Health

By Ian Vorster | July 23, 2014 7:12 am
County Health Rankings and Roadmaps help create healthy communities (Image: Shutterstock/Izf)

Creating roadmaps to healthy communities with County Health Rankings(Image: Shutterstock/Izf)

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.

At first glance, Gem County in Idaho seems like it has everything made. Its county seat, Emmett was named “the best small city in Idaho,” and it will soon be launching a $53 million hydroelectric project destined to expand capacity to power 9,359 homes a year. But health data told another story when the community placed last in Idaho for healthy behaviors in the 2010 County Health Rankings.

News of the Rankings was a wake-up call for Bill Butticci, the mayor of Emmett, and many of the county’s citizens. They formed the Community Health Connection group with the goal of improving the county’s ranking.

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MORE ABOUT: Culture of Health

Patients Who Were Research Subjects and the Doctors Who Listened – the Citizen Science of HIV/AIDS Research

By Caren Cooper | July 21, 2014 9:44 am

Editor’s Note: Flight MH17 was a horrible tragedy, with many lives lost, including HIV/AIDS researchers en route to a conference. In Caren Cooper’s latest Coop’s Citizen Sci Scoop, she explains how citizen science assisted with AIDS research, and how AIDS activists were able to become participatory members of the medical and scientific process.  Here, in full, is Caren’s post.

Many prominent people involved in HIV/AIDS research lost their lives when Malaysian plane MH17 was shot down over Eastern Ukraine. HIV/AIDS researchers exemplify how scientists serve the public good. A key to HIV/AIDS research has involved embracing a certain type of citizen science.

The rapid advances in HIV/AIDS treatment in the late 1980s and early 1990s occurred because of major changes in medical research brought about by the lay public. In part, AIDS activists were eager to reform clinical trials in the United States. But equally important, the biomedical research community was (ultimately) receptive to this change.

The term “citizen science” in this blog is used to describe projects where the public engages in scientific research. It is usually through collecting and sharing observations or by coding data online. Citizen science can also be used more broadly to describe ways that the lay public participates in and influences the practice of science. (Indeed, the term “citizen science” was initially coined by Alan Irwin in 1995 to mean just that).

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine

Join the Global Telescope Network and help astrophysicists understand our universe!

By Carolyn Graybeal | July 19, 2014 7:58 am
1 Artist rendering of a quasar. Source: NASA/ESA/G.Bacon, STScI

1 Artist rendering of a quasar. Source: NASA/ESA/G.Bacon, STScI

In Discover Magazine’s September print issue, the article “To the Edge and Back” describes how a telescope as big as the world will give astronomers an extreme closeup when our galaxy’s black hole lights up. The Global Telescope Network provides a citizen science opportunity to connect with the world’s stargazers.

Our universe is filled with curious phenomena. Flickering pulsars, giant gamma ray bubbles, dark energy and dark matter1. These are just a few of the mysteries astrophysicists are trying to understand. If you have ever looked to the stars and wondered, the Global Telescope Network (GTN) is your opportunity to help unravel the riddles of our universe.

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MORE ABOUT: quasar, stars, telescope

Exploring a Culture of Health: How Can We Visualize Health Data for Better Communication?

By Carolyn Graybeal | July 16, 2014 3:52 pm
From Data to Story: Visualizing Health Data for Better Communication

From Data to Story: Visualizing Health Data for Better Communication (Image Source: Modified from / CC BY)

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.

There is a seemingly endless stream of health data. Visit the doctor and you get a report listing various bits of data such as your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Listen to the news and you hear statistics on risk factors, medication side effects or mortality rates. All potentially useful information, but without background or context, the numbers are likely confusing, meaningless and eventually forgotten. “For health data to be meaningful, the person needs to see themselves in that data. To make this happen, we need to understand how to present data so that it conveys a complete message, not just a number,” says Andrea Ducas, program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

A team of scientists from the University of Michigan team set out to solve this problem, creating Visualizing Health, with support from RWJF, to explore ways to visualize health data. When designed well, visuals can be powerful tools for conveying information. “What we lack is data on how best to present data,” says Thomas Goetz, former RWJF Entrepreneur-in-Residence and collaborator on Visualizing Health.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Uncategorized
MORE ABOUT: Culture of Health

Lend Your Ears to Citizen Science! Help Understand Whale Communication with Whale FM

By Arvind Suresh | July 14, 2014 12:48 pm
A Pilot Whale Surfaces (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A Pilot Whale Surfaces (Image Credit: Wikimedia)

Submarines traveling in the Antarctic Ocean first recorded it in the 1960s —  a mysterious quacking sound that baffled observers around the world. They called it the ‘bio-duck’ calls. Many theories  floated around, yet the origins of the sound remained unknown. Until recently, that is. “Frolicking With the Whales” from in the July/August print issue of Discover Magazine describes how the mystery was finally solved and what it means for the study of the Antarctic Minke Whale. With the citizen science project WhaleFM, you can also help identify whale calls.

Vocalization and listening to auditory signals are particularly important for marine mammals such as whales and dolphins to survive. Why? Because in the depths of the ocean, neither sight nor smell is very useful. In fact, sound is a vastly more efficient medium of conversation, as sound travels four times faster in water than it does in air. Marine biologists have long used these fascinating whale ‘songs’ to track whale populations and study their behavior.

Killer Whales (Orcas) and Pilot Whales employ a complex array of calls to communicate within their species. An interesting aspect of both species is that they live in very stable groups (called pods) that are centered around the mother. Often, the offspring live with the mother for their entire lifetime. During this period, they develop unique dialects that help them identify and converse with family members even if they have strayed away from each other for feeding.

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MORE ABOUT: citizen science

Calling All Citizen Scientists: Please Report to ReefBase

By Sheetal R. Modi | July 11, 2014 3:01 pm

Photo credit: Yusri Yusuf / Reefs at Batu Mak Cantik, Redang Island, Malaysia

In the September print issue of Discover magazine the infographic “How to Restore a Dying Reef” shows us the current state of reefs in the world. ReefBase, a global information system for reefs, allows citizen scientists to submit pictures, maps, and reports to help conservationists monitor reef status and improve the livelihood of communities dependent on reef resources.

In February of 1998, the waters of the Timor Sea rose rapidly due to El Niño-related sea surface warming. Scott Reef, 150 miles off the coast of Australia, experienced a deadly bout of coral bleaching—photosynthetic microalgae were expelled from their coral habitats with the drastic temperature change, leaving the reef to languish without critical nutrients provided by these symbionts. With no nearby connecting reef systems to reseed Scott Reef with thriving algae, scientists doubted the renewal of the ecosystem. However, 16 years later, Scott Reef now abounds with as much biodiversity as the reef system was originally home to.

Nature’s success stories like those of Scott Reef shed light on scientists’ limited knowledge of how reef revival occurs, a more relevant problem today as anthropogenic effects threaten the ocean’s most diverse habitats. ReefBase, a citizen science project run by WorldFish that collects information on reefs from user input, offers data by which scientists and conservationists can monitor reef status and inform reef management.

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MORE ABOUT: coral, marine, ocean, reef

Citizen Science Essay Contest — Deadline July 13 at 11:59pm CT!

By Lily Bui | July 8, 2014 3:18 pm

Do you have a citizen science story? Tell us in this essay contest — your story could end up in Discover Magazine!

Science is all around us – and now anyone can be a scientist! Citizen scientists study everything from distant galaxies to firefly populations, helping researchers collect valuable data.

We want to hear about your experiences as a citizen scientist. Tell us, in 250 words or less, your story of participating in crowdsourced science – what you did, what you thought about it, or maybe a funny thing that happened on your way to the field.

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MORE ABOUT: citizen science, essay

37 People Want to Peer Inside Your Poop…You Know, for Science.

By Angus Chen | July 3, 2014 8:18 am
E coli at 10000x, original.jpg

Image: Eric Erbe (via Wikimedia), digital colorization by Christopher Pooley, both of USDA, ARS, EMU.  Electron micrograph of a cluster of E. coli, a member of the microbiomes of humans, dogs, and other species.

“Wasp’s Got Guts” in the July/August print edition of Discover Magazine discusses how wasp microbiomes set them apart. Turns out, our guts can be pretty different from one another too. 

Rob Knight, a microbiologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and his colleagues want poop from every person in America. And over the past couple of years, thousands of citizen scientists have complied by shipping little vials of feces to his lab. To clarify, it’s not exactly the poop that these scientists are after but the hidden germs within. Knight and his colleagues study the human microbiome, the mosaic of microscopic organisms teeming on and within our bodies.

In recent years, research on this host of microorganisms is revealing that our microbiome is as intricately linked to our health and bodies as any native human tissue. The human body is, in some sense, a scaffold for a vastly greater mass of microbes – by some estimates, making us 90% microbial.  In turn, our microbes provide for us by playing “important roles in metabolizing components of our diet and drugs,” says Knight. “Disruptions of the gut microbiome have been linked to a wide range of diseases,” where the disappearance of certain key organisms or changes in the species represented in the gut goes hand in hand with illnesses like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, or neurological diseases. In other words, the kinds of bacteria living inside you figure into how healthy you might be.

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Exploring a Culture of Health: Detecting Signals of Wellbeing

By Carolyn Graybeal | July 2, 2014 1:25 pm
How can we leverage technology to monitor signals of wellbeing? (Image Shutterstock/ Oko Laa)

How can we leverage technology to monitor signals of wellbeing? (Image: Shutterstock/Oko Laa)

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.

Imagine if everyday technology could transform how we manage our health and wellbeing? What if your phone could alert your doctor to a change in your behavior? Or what if grandma’s stove could tell you she is already up and about in the morning? It sounds complicated but as it turns out, it might simply be a matter of tapping into the data generated from everyday devices. Two independent groups in California are doing just this.

Using Mobile Technology to Help Youths with Mental Illness

At UC Davis behavioral scientists with the Early Diagnosis and Preventive Treatment (EDAPT) Clinic are embarking on a yearlong project to study whether mobile technology can improve treatment for young people who are in the early stages of psychotic illness. The EDAPT group has teamed up with a health data start-up to assess “users’ social, physical and mental health status”[1]. Through an app, users can actively input their daily symptoms, medication adherence, mood, and how they are coping, while information on their movements and daily social contacts, such as the number of incoming telephone calls and text messages, is gathered in the background. All of this data provides a patient and his or her clinical team with a finer resolution of that patient’s health profile. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Uncategorized
MORE ABOUT: Culture of Health

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