You Can Do More to Combat the Flu than Just Get a Flu Shot

By Kristin Butler | January 18, 2018 10:38 am

If you feel like this year’s flu season is a rough one, that’s because it is.

CBS News recently reported that this year’s flu virus is dominated by a particularly nasty strain, H3N2, which has reached almost every corner of the country, causing prolonged illness in many and in some instances, death. The very young and the elderly are particularly vulnerable, and this year’s vaccine may only be about 30% effective because H3N2 tends to mutate quickly. Read More

SciStarter’s Top 10 Projects of 2017 are here!

By lshell | January 15, 2018 2:08 pm

 

What a year it has been! We now have more than 50,000 active members participating in over 1,700 projects on SciStarter. We can’t wait to see what 2018 brings.

From neurons to whales and everything in between, the 2017 Top 10 Projects are as varied and diverse as their participants. Thanks for making it such a successful year for citizen science.

This list, in no particular order, is based on the 10 projects with the most page views on SciStarter *and* the most “joins”.

Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

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Female Songbirds: The Latest Underrepresented Voices in Science

By Julia Travers | January 12, 2018 10:13 am
1_Picture1

Female Troupial, Photo Credit: Dr. Karan Odom

Songbirds may be nature’s pop stars, but the females are still waiting for a turn in the spotlight — we don’t even know if females sing in about 70 percent of songbird species. This is because the study of birds has a gender gap: most previous research has focused on male song. Participants in the Female Bird Song Project are looking to right this imbalance.

“I think this is a very important project. It involves citizen science in gathering fundamental information about the behavioral diversity of birds,” says evolutionary ornithologist Richard Prum of Yale University. Researchers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Leiden University call on birders to contribute videos, photos, sound clips and field notes of female bird songs so they can better understand the evolution and role of this expressive behavior. Their research already revealed that female birds have most likely been singing for tens of millions of years. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Living World

Seven citizen science projects to do in the snow!

By Darlene Cavalier | January 4, 2018 4:03 pm
Willy from Philly measures snow precipitation

Willy from Philly measures snow precipitation

Did you know that forecasters rely on YOU to help accurately predict storms, floods, droughts and extreme weather conditions? The National Weather Service, for example, depends on people just like you to report local rain and snow precipitation measurements to a citizen science project known as CoCoRaHS: Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network. Learn more about this long-running, popular project and, when you’re ready to jump in, set up your rain gauge before the next rain or snow storm to collect rain, record measurements, and share data! CoCoRaHS shares the data with scientists, planners, and, yes, the National Weather Service. CoCoRaHS is also a SciStarter Affiliate which means you can earn credit for participation in your SciStarter dashboard. OOOOOOH!

This is one is cool. Simply by Tweeting the precise snow accumulation data where you are, you can help cryosphere researchers calibrate the accuracy of instruments on-board weather satellites orbiting overhead! Those instruments are great at taking pictures and analyzing wide sections of land but they cannot tell the difference between, say, a snow bank and a huge accumulation of naturally falling snow. But you can! Get your ruler, put your warm winter gear on, and head outside to do SnowTweets! Tag @SciStarter and #SnowDay if you decide to do this one and we’ll give you a shout out!

Here are more projects on SciStarter that you can do in the snow!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science
MORE ABOUT: snow, snowday

Your Computer Can Volunteer, Too

By Guest | January 4, 2018 3:26 pm

By: Caitlin Larkin

You probably remember when the Ebola virus became news in 2014, after it killed thousands of people. Erica Ollmann Saphire (pictured above), a structural biologist at The Scripps Research Institute, and one of the world’s foremost experts on Ebola, understood the molecular structure of the disease—and she knew its weak spots. She had a plan of attack to find an antiviral drug. Her first step was to study millions of chemical compounds to determine their potential as the basis for this drug. Testing just one compound in a laboratory, however, could take years. Computer-based simulations would help reduce the time needed for this testing by predicting the lab outcomes, but Saphire didn’t have access to computers powerful enough to run these simulations. Read More

It’s time for winter solstice and lights!

By lshell | December 24, 2017 1:27 pm

 

 

By United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Strang - This Image was released by the United States Air Force with the ID 050118-F-3488S-003 Auroroa Borealis over
USAF SrA Joshua Stran

We are finally at the tipping point, the daylight is getting a little longer with each waning night. We have a chance to look upwards and savor the night sky and tell scientists what we can see of it. For more ideas, be sure to check out the 12 Days of Christmas with Citizen Science!

Take a step outside to join others around the world with these citizen science projects!

Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

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Time to Shift our Gaze Skyward

By Jenny Cutraro | December 21, 2017 2:26 pm

I noticed the season’s first juncos hopping in my yard a few short weeks ago – an event I look forward to every year because I know their arrival here in New England means winter is on its way. And by “winter,” I mean, specifically, winter solstice – the longest night of the year, the end of six months during which the sun sets earlier and earlier every day. Like people of many cultures around the world, I celebrate the first day of winter because it marks the time when we reclaim our daylight, minute by minute, as we march towards warmer days of spring. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science

12 Days of Christmas with Citizen Science

By Darlene Cavalier | December 19, 2017 4:40 pm

(Originally published 12/16)

CC BY-SA 3.0

CC BY-SA 3.0

Make sure you’re on Santa’s “nice list” this year. Lend your hands, hearts and brains to science during these 12 days leading up to Christmas!

On the 1st day of Christmas, the Forest Restoration Alliance gave to me:

A chance to monitor the invasive insects that attack both hemlocks and Fraser firs (the most popular Christmas Tree in North America).

On the 2nd day of Christmas, Audubon gave to me:

Two turtle doves that I spotted during the Christmas Bird Count! The count is the world’s longest running citizen science project.

On the 3rd day of Christmas, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center gave to me:

Three Chinese mitten hens (female crabs) on the east coast of the United States. Mitten Crab Watch needs our help to determine the current distribution status of the mitten crab in the region.

On the 4th day of Christmas, Audubon gave to me:

Four or more calling birds that I “adopted” for the holidays. Through December 31st, anyone can adopt a bird for someone special, and Audubon will send them a personalized holiday card showcasing the adoption and an Audubon gift membership.

On the 5th day of Christmas, geographers at Wilfrid Laurier University gave to me:

Five frozen skating rinks! This winter, you can track climate change through backyard skating rinks by taking part in Rink Watch. Just put in the location of your backyard rink on a map and record days you can skate.

On the 6th of Christmas, Seattle Audubon Society gave to me:

A chance to help seabird researchers create a snapshot of geese density on more than three square miles of near-shore saltwater habitat.

On the 7th day of Christmas, the Swan Society of the University of Melbourne gave to me: 

The MySwan project to report sightings of tagged black swans around the world. After you submit your sighting, you’ll get an instant report about the swan, with interesting information about its history and recent movements.

On the 8th day of Christmas, Zooniverse gave to me:

The Milky Way Project, a chance to help scientists study our galaxy, as well as the Milky Way advent calendar and even Milky Way tree ornaments!

On the 9th day of Christmas, the European Space Agency gave to me:

Citizen scientists doing our favorite dance: the robot! By flying a Parrot AR drone in virtual space, you can help create new robotic capabilities for space probes and contribute to future space exploration.

On the 10th day of Christmas, CoCoRaHS gave to me:

Ten million snowflakes! Measure them and share your precipitation data with the National Weather Service through CoCoRaHS!

On the 11th day of Christmas, the University of Washington gave to me:

SingAboutScience, a searchable database where you can find content-rich songs on specific scientific and mathematical topics. These singers sure have some pipes!

On the 12th day of Christmas, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation gave to me:

The Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey to help hunters survey the population of ruffed grouse during breeding season.

Happy holidays from the SciStarter team!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science

Empowering the community to monitor water quality in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria

By Jenny Cutraro | December 15, 2017 3:28 pm

In a recent Washington Post opinion piece, actor and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda called on Congress to bring lasting relief and recovery to Puerto Rico where thousands remain without electricity or access to clean water nearly three months after Hurricane Maria made landfall.

In the interim, the Rincón chapter of the Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) has stepped up its efforts to help communities undertake their own water quality testing and identify places where water may still be unsafe for recreation or household use.

In the post below, republished with their permission, read up on the BWTF response to the water crisis in Puerto Rico, the partners that have helped them along the way, and how you, too can help.

SciStarter editorial team


Surfrider volunteer Steve Tamar pulls a water sample from a creek that flows through Rincon, PR. Photo Credit: Ben Covan

In Puerto Rico, the failure of the government to provide adequate water quality information to severely impacted communities since Hurricane Maria pummeled the island in September has been a rallying call-to-action for the Rincón Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation Blue Water Task Force (BWTF). Although the Surfrider volunteers are experiencing the same difficult conditions that the rest of the island are exposed to -no electricity, limited phone & internet connections, transportation & drinking water challenges- by banding together with other local groups they’ve been able to restart their water testing program, empowering members of the local community to generate their own information on the safety of recreational waters and sources of drinking water.

The Chapter would not be able to accomplish this task without the cooperation and assistance they’ve been receiving from the Rincón Beer Company Maria Relief Center and the Costa Salud Health Center.  The chapter is currently receiving package deliveries and shipments at the RBC Maria Relief Center as their office was severely damaged by the storm. Water test results are posted on the Center’s community message board and chapter BWTF lead, Steve Tamar frequently stops by to recruit volunteers willing to help out with the testing. The Costa Salud Health Center is providing lab space with the necessary access to dependable electricity which is necessary for running the lab equipment.

Rincón’s BWTF beach water testing program has been back on its normal weekly sampling schedule since the end of October, and just last week their secondary lab in Aquadilla has started processing samples again too.  With the support and direction of CariCOOS, a University of Puerto Rico graduate student Geraldine Gomez Matias has also just started sampling several new sites at Cabo Rojo, Boqueron and Buyé beaches as well as her research project in Guánica at Playa Santa.  With the addition of these beaches, the Rincón BWTF is now basically covering the entire western coast of Puerto Rico while the government-funded beach program run by the Junta de Calidad Ambiental remains inoperational.

Thus far the Chapter has detected high bacteria counts at the beach near outlets from rivers and streams – both continued sewage infrastructure failures and stormwater runoff seem to be at fault.  Surfrider volunteers are also identifying broken sewer lines and reporting them to the local AAA water authority when problems are discovered while out sampling. See map of beach sampling locations and results here.

The Chapter has also expanded its water testing efforts to monitor freshwater sources throughout the community –  the local springs, wells, and quebradas that people have been forced to use for household water when the electricity and power were cutoff during the storm.  They are testing for E. coli and total coliform bacteria using EPA approved technology in sites located close to town and have been developing protocols to bring more basic tests that don’t require a lab facility with electricity to the more rural communities inland.  Preliminary results indicate that many of the springs that people have been using for household water are not safe.

It is hoped that by allowing the community to conduct their own basic water quality testing themselves, this will build community awareness of health issues from exposure to polluted water and will also help inform efforts to site and install the appropriate water filtering systems (also being tested by Rincón’s BWTF) in areas that do not have secure access to clean potable water during emergencies and power failures. The chapter is piloting their remote water testing project with the local high school in Maricao, and is expanding into other remote communities as they are able to.

Given post-hurricane conditions, logistics and communication for Rincón’s BWTF are a real problem.  Water tests results are posted online and shared on the chapter’s Facebook page as internet is available, but posting on community bulletin boards, broadcasting on AM radio, local podcasts and good old fashioned word of mouth have been ever more successful in getting the word out into the community, and the chapter is constantly receiving requests to test different community sources of water.

Surfrider volunteer collects a water sample from a freshwater source used for drinking water by the local community in Aguadilla hills in NW Puerto Rico. Photo Credit: Steve Tamar

Spreading information through live radio broadcast!

For instance, chapter volunteers Alexis Henriquez and Steve Tamar were recently escorted by Captain Wilfredo Morales and agent José Caraballo of the state police to several springs in the Aguadilla hills community, which were being used by hundreds (in some places, up to a thousand) people daily after Hurricane Maria hit.  The state police staff and their families, were also using this source of drinking water, so Captain Morales was concerned not only for public health in general but for the safety of his officers and relatives!  Two of the sites they sampled with the state police tested relatively clean, but two others showed extremely high levels of fecal bacteria.  This is the type of information the community needs in order to know which water to avoid to keep from getting sick and where filters should be installed, and the Chapter is asking for information from people to know where they are getting their drinking water from so it can be analyzed.

Surfrider’s grassroots network of chapter volunteers has a long history of identifying threats to clean water and successfully advocating for local authorities to acknowledge those threats and taking action to solve water pollution problems. There are many examples throughout the Blue Water Task Force program of chapters testing beaches that are not covered by local beach programs, convincing authorities to post warning signs when contaminated water threatens public health, and bringing together diverse stakeholders to find and fix sources of beach and water pollution.

The effort underway in Rincón raises the bar completely for a small group of volunteers taking charge to protect public health and clean water, and their effort has not gone unnoticed throughout the network as chapters from NY to Hawaii who know how expensive it can be to run water testing programs, have helped fundraise to support this program.  Thank you to our amazing volunteers and leaders throughout Surfrider’s network.

In the often quoted words of Margaret Mead – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


Mara Dias is the Water Quality Manager of the  Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force.

Want more citizen science? Check out SciStarter’s Project Finder! With 1100+ citizen science projects spanning every field of research, task and age group, there’s something for everyone!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science

Stay warm with winter projects from home!

By Sarah Newman | December 9, 2017 4:06 pm

 

This week we are highlighting projects that help advance research on penguins, seals, the Antarctica and more.

Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

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Citizen Science Salon

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Citizen Science Salon, brought to you by SciStarter, is where science enthusiasts can join forces with top researchers. We'll feature weekly collaborative, crowdsourced, and DIY research projects that relate to what you're reading about in Discover, so you can take science into your own hands. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.
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