Have You Accepted Your Research Mission Yet?

By lshell | June 7, 2018 1:03 am

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Have you accepted Your Research Mission yet?

SciStarter is challenging you to a special mission to join and participate (at least once) in any three of these SciStarter Affiliate projects. Complete your mission and you’ll earn a SciStarter certificate. Keep on participating and you’ll be eligible to become one of the top three mission contributors to win some swag and be connected with of one the scientists you helped!

The SciStarter Team

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Join the Hub of Biomedical Citizen Science Collaboration with CitSciBio

By nfriedman | May 24, 2018 1:43 pm

By Nina Friedman

Learn, collaborate, and share your citizen science project tools at CitSciBio.org!

Back in 2012, Dr. Jennifer Couch and her colleagues at the National Institute of Health realized there was something missing in the greater biomedical citizen science community. The community did not have its own online collaboration platform.

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Perfect your weighing and measuring skills with these projects!

By lshell | May 21, 2018 4:22 pm
Neil Cummings

Neil Cummings

Whether you’re a fan of imperial or metric, this past Sunday was the day to celebrate the way we measure our surroundings. What better way to celebrate a day dedicated to measurement than to participate in a citizen science project where you weigh (or measure) something for science? We’ve pulled together some special projects that ask you to do just that: weigh or measure something in your kitchen, yard or the galaxy!

The SciStarter Team

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Citizen Science Is Helping Scientists Uncover the Genetics of Taste

By Guest | May 16, 2018 12:54 pm

By: Megan Ray Nichols

Genetics plays an enormous role in our lives, even if we don’t always realize it.  Have you ever wondered why some people love cilantro, and it tastes like soap to others? While it might all be in your head, chances are it’s actually in your genes. 23andMe, the company offering a genetics kit to get your DNA mapped and explained, conducted a study to see if taste was genetic. They pinpointed the genes signifying cilantro should taste like soap instead of taco toppings. Read More


It’s time to focus on health and wellness!

By lshell | May 14, 2018 1:03 pm
Matt Madd

Matt Madd

It’s time to focus on what keeps you healthy! We’ve curated a list of citizen science projects working to promote health and wellness around the world. Whether you’re looking at the microbes inside of your gut or tracking your latest run, we’ve got you covered!


The SciStarter Team

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Information to Action: Strengthening EPA Citizen Science Partnerships for Environmental Protection

By Darlene Cavalier | May 8, 2018 6:29 pm

The new report from the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT) is out: “Information to Action: Strengthening EPA Citizen Science Partnerships for Environmental Protection.” This report is a follow-up to the Council’s first report, “Environmental Protection Belongs to the People.

There are ten recommendations to the EPA in the report(s). As articulated on the EPA’s website: The Council’s April 2018 report, Information to Action—Strengthening EPA Citizen Science Partnerships for Environmental Protection, and the recommendations contained within were developed following extensive interviews with citizen science experts and practitioners. The 10 recommendations in NACEPT’s second report on citizen science outline how EPA can foster collaboration and partnerships to use citizen science information and data for action that improves human health and the environment. These high-level, overarching recommendations focus on strengthening pathways that move citizen science from information to action.

I had the privilege of serving on this Council during the development of both reports. I encourage everyone to read the reports and share the recommendations with your local, state, regional or national EPA contacts. Share them with your communities (neighbors,  university colleagues, industry coworkers, NGO collaborators). Keep pushing.

While all of the recommendations are important, the following excerpts called out to me for variety of reasons:

“Communities who engage in citizen science are often trying to be recognized as people who have something important to contribute. They are often trying to document what they are experiencing in a way that regulators will notice. They understand that science talks and will be heard while they will not because they are poor or black or women. That is not to say that science isn’t relevant—it is— but they’re asking for more than that. They’re asking for the EPA to protect them and to respect them as people who can credibly be believed in terms of what they are experiencing.” –Dr. Gwen Ottinger, Drexel University

Potential collaborators do not know if and when the Agency is available to partner on citizen science efforts, and many organizations tend to think of EPA only as a regulatory agency and not as a resource. Moreover, there is a lack of understanding on how to approach the Agency or engage EPA in a new partnership, especially when the potential partner is a small or local organization. Additional barriers to partnerships with the Agency include a lack of staff dedicated to citizen science efforts, the inconsistency of EPA participation, and restrictions in EPA’s scope of work. This limits and inhibits maximum use of citizen science data of a known quality. For example, Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPs) provide information regarding data quality, and EPA does not approve QAPPs for work not funded by the Agency.

A cross-section of EPA personnel at different levels and roles at the Agency have varied ideas and perceptions about the meaning and use of citizen science.   At the local level, many described citizen science as a tool for working with members of the public with scientific knowledge or skills, including working with these skilled members of the public to gather needed data for decisions and learn data collection techniques. Scientists within EPA Headquarters programs described citizen science as any information received by the Agency from outside sources. All of these are useful definitions and complement the overall goal of partnership, cooperation and collaboration between EPA and states and territories, local jurisdictions, external organizations and tribal nations. This diverse set of ideas, however, speaks to the need for consistent policies and guidance for citizen science among EPA staff, especially those who already work with communities.

“When EPA communicates data, they focus only on how it can inform individual choices. The overall message seems to be, if AQI is bad, stay indoors. Most people, especially the most vulnerable people, don’t have those choices. EPA should look at the data in terms of how it reveals systemic issues, in order to improve environmental quality.” –Dr. Gwen Ottinger, Drexel University

Recommendation 10. Build EPA expertise in advanced technology to facilitate collaboration and strategically engage in citizen science at national and international levels. Rapid advancement in advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, virtual reality and the Internet of Things have the potential to radically alter the way that environmental governance structures work and how the public participates in data collection and use. Effective technology partnerships are possible when EPA employees recognize and understand new technologies and can participate in national conversations about emerging, open and advanced technologies. EPA should provide internal training sessions on these advanced technologies and encourage and incentivize expertise in these areas for the following four reasons. First, this would allow the Agency to be aware of trends and advancements in these rapidly developing areas. Second, EPA could facilitate collaborations with the private sector. Third, EPA could strategically engage in bringing technology to citizen science groups. Finally, the Agency can help to develop opportunities and challenges to move citizen science data and information to action. Action Item EPA should increase the expertise of Agency employees on emerging and advanced technologies through training, encouragement and incentives and create systematic funnels to share new resources with citizen science groups.

If you’re reading this blog, I don’t have to tell you how fast this field is growing and changing. But I’ll sprinkle in this chart anyway. This shows the cumulative number of citizen science projects and events registered on SciStarter between 2009 and now. The number of participants, number of contributions, and even the number of available low cost citizen science tools,  show similar trends. We’ll post more about that shortly.

Cumulative # of citizen science projects and events registered on SciStarter

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Environment

Volunteers Protect Clean Water from Coast to Coast

By Guest | April 24, 2018 4:06 pm

By: Mara Dias and Colleen Henn

The Surfrider Foundation is pleased to release its 2017 Clean Water Annual Report, which tracks the progress of our Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) and Ocean Friendly Gardens (OFG) programs during the calendar year of 2017.  At a time when it can be difficult to depend on the federal agencies tasked with protecting our clean water and healthy coasts, it is encouraging to see how much a dedicated network of volunteers can accomplish in just one year! Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Environment

Just in time for Earth Day! Announcing Earth Challenge 2020, a global citizen science initiative.

By Darlene Cavalier | April 22, 2018 11:49 am

Earth Day Network, in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and U.S. Department of State, Announces Earth Challenge 2020 — A Citizen Science Initiative.
earth day citizen science logos

In anticipation of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, Earth Day Network, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the U.S. Department of State, through the Eco-Capitals Forum, announce Earth Challenge 2020, a Citizen Science Initiative. This initiative is in collaboration with Connect4Climate – World Bank Group, Conservation X Labs, Hult Prize, National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), Reset, SciStarter, UN Environment and others to be announced.

Earth Challenge 2020 will help fulfill our goal of engaging millions of global citizens in collecting one billion data points in areas including air and water quality, pollution and human health. Citizen science volunteers around the world, working with professional scientists, will collect and share earth science data of their local communities on an unprecedented scale, providing new insight on the state of our environment.

Our initiative aims to contribute to and inform research and to educate members of the public by raising environmental and scientific literacy. By leveraging citizen science, we will drive meaningful action, empowering people to work with decision makers, including the private sector and policymakers at all levels, to make better choices.

In 2019 hackathons will be hosted around the world to help create technologies and data platforms that will underpin Earth Challenge 2020. These events will connect Earth Challenge 2020 with existing and emerging citizen science projects, highlighting successes and crowdsourcing solutions to challenges. These global hackathons will develop new hardware and software for gathering and sharing data, including an official Earth Challenge 2020 mobile app. The initial data collection campaign will launch on April 1, 2020, with the objective of collecting one billion data points by Earth Day.

Earth Challenge 2020 will result in a platform of open source data that will live, grow and connect with other global efforts, including those of governments, multilateral and scientific institutions and non-governmental organizations. Our initiative will include a broad and cross-cutting social media effort, encouraging participants to share stories, videos, photos, and other media to build a global movement and community.

The modern environmental movement was born on the first Earth Day in 1970, when 20 million people joined together changing the way we understand and manage the environment. Today, with the inclusion of new communications technology, people have the capacity to measure and make decisions about their own environment. With the support of valued partners and global citizens, Earth Challenge 2020 has the potential to be the largest coordinated citizen science project ever attempted on Earth.


Earth Day Network
Contact: Denice Zeck
Phone: (202) 355-8875

The Wilson Center
Contact: Ryan McKenna
Phone: (202) 691-4217

U.S. Department of State
Contact: State GDI Team


The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network (EDN), the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, works year round with tens of thousands of partners in 192 countries on global reforestation, climate and environmental literacy, ending plastic pollution and protecting biodiversity. EDN’s goal is to build environmental democracy and to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement worldwide.


The Wilson Center is the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum for tackling global issues through independent research and open dialogue to inform actionable ideas for the policy community. By conducting relevant and timely research and promoting dialogue from all perspectives, it works to address the critical current and emerging challenges confronting the United States and the world. The Wilson Center currently incubates the Citizen Science Global Partnership (CSGP), an emerging network-of-networks launched at the UN Science-Policy Business Forum on the Environment, that seeks to promote citizen science for a sustainable world.


The U.S. Department of State leads America’s foreign policy through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance by advancing the interests of the American people, their safety and economic prosperity. The Eco-Capitals Forum (ECF) is a global initiative to make diplomacy a vital driver of sustainable cities. ECF serves as a consortium for the diplomatic community to share best practices and challenges, leverage economies of scale to implement renewable energy and waste management solutions, and support and laud efforts by individual embassies to reduce their environmental footprints and costs. As a partnership between the diplomatic community, city government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local businesses, world-wide chapters of the ECF provides a unique platform for communities to come together for sustainability.



Connect4Climate is a global communications program launched by the World Bank Group and the Italian Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea, together with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, that takes on climate change by supporting ambitious leadership, promoting transformative solutions and encouraging collective action. The Connect4Climate community brings together about 500 partners around the world including civil society groups, media networks, international organizations, academic institutions, youth groups, and the private sector.


Conservation X Labs (CXL) believes that the power to solve environmental challenges lies in people everywhere. CXL is a 501c3 and Benefit Corporation that sources, develops, and scales exponential technologies for conservation through open innovation and a for-profit entrepreneurship financial model. We aim to dramatically improve the efficacy, cost, speed, sustainability and scale of conservation efforts through various programs that engage and incentivize a greater diversity and disciplines of solvers., Make for the Planet hackathons, mass-collaboration of problem solving and technology prizes in our Digital Makerspace.


The Hult Prize Foundation is the world’s largest engine for the creation and launch of market- based, SDG-aligned, sustainable, and impact-centered startups emerging from university, offering a grand prize of USD1 million. The year long, September to September program focuses on immersion based learning and converting typical job-seeking students into game-changing entrepreneurs world-wide.


NCSE advances the use of science to inform environmental policy and decision-making. NCSE programs include interdisciplinary research, scientific assessment, information dissemination, training and curriculum development. NCSE engages scientists, educators, policymakers, business leaders and officials at all levels of government. NCSE is a non-profit organization established in 1990 and has a longstanding reputation for non-partisanship.


OGC is a non-profit international industry consortium of over 520 companies, government agencies, and universities participating in a consensus process to develop publicly-available standards that enable the creation, discovery, and use of geospatial information. The vision of OGC is a world in which everyone benefits from the use of geospatial information and supporting technologies. OGC members are in the process of developing a common data model and standard, SWE For Citizen Science (Swe4cs), that will suitable for collecting and sharing citizen science data in a range of domains, and integrating citizen science data with information from professional research activities low cost sensors, research grade instruments, and Earth observations.


RESET is an international building standard and certification program for healthy buildings, as measured by sensors. Focused on quality, transparency and actionability of data, RESET sets global standards for air quality hardware (sensors), reporting software, as well as installation and maintenance. RESET is developed and administered by GIGA, an international organization that combines the development of building standards with cloud technology to increase the accessibility and impact of healthy buildings globally.


SciStarter is the place to find, join, and contribute to science through providing people access to more than 2700 searchable formal and informal research projects and events. But more than just a project directory, SciStarter also offers a coordinated place to record contributions and access the tools and instruments needed to participate in citizen science projects like Earth Challenge 2020. Over 100,000 global citizen scientists are part of the SciStarter community.


The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. Our mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

To sign up for updates or to get involved, email:

Earth Challenge 2020 A Citizen Science Initiative


Competition Meets Collaboration: The City Nature Challenge

By Alycia Crall | April 19, 2018 1:28 pm

When you hear the word “nature,” you’re likely to think of your last camping trip to a state park, or of grandiose landscapes with forests, lakes, and snow-capped mountains. You may remember the last trip to the beach and the variety of birds you saw while sunbathing. There are likely many images that pop into your head when you hear the word but the image of a city is likely not one of them. The City Nature Challenge hopes to change that. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Environment

A new citizen science project for dog lovers. MuttMix: Can You Guess That Mutt?

By Arvind Suresh (Editor) | April 16, 2018 5:33 pm

Our first question upon hearing that someone has a new baby is usually “Is it a boy or a girl?” But our first question upon hearing that someone has gotten a new puppy is more often “What breed is it?” Breed is at the heart of how we perceive dogs. It affects many of our expectations of them – energy level, intelligence, friendliness – for better or for worse. With mutts, however, our urge to make breed-based assumptions can be stymied by the lack of a known breed to which to attach those assumptions. And so when you have a mutt (as I do), you learn to play the “what is it?” game. Some people guess, some people make up clever names (I have a Golden Collie, or sometimes a Border Retriever) – and some people have their dog genetically tested to determine its ancestry.

A new project, MuttMix , provides you with photos, video, and behavioral tidbits for mutts and lets you play the “What is it?” game to your heart’s content, for the benefit of science. Karlsson Lab , of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, has teamed up with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)  to try to find out how good people really are at guessing the breeds mixed up in the American mutt. We won’t release the answers immediately, because we want to be sure that no one has privileged information when they make their guesses, but after the project closes on June 16, we will release the breed mixes publicly (and start writing the journal article!). The project opens today, so go start guessing!

The breed calling algorithm behind MuttMix was designed by Dr. Linda Boettger as a postdoc at the Broad. Linda earned her PhD studying human genomics, and after graduating thought it would be fun to apply some of those same approaches to dogs. She explains, “Dogs are really the ultimate model system because they are the most morphologically diverse species of mammal and have been subject to intense selection pressures for both appearance and behavior. Plus, Elinor [the head of Karlsson Lab] told me that I could find out the breed ancestry of my dog, and all I had to do was write a ton of code!” Linda adopted her dog Skyler from a shelter, which told her Skyler was a Labrador/pit bull mix, but Linda was intrigued to find out that Skyler is actually a mix of many breeds, primarily Dalmatian and Rottweiler. (Sadly, Skyler passed away several months ago, but she was immortalized on the 2017 Karlsson Lab holiday card).

To test her algorithm, Linda needed mutts with highly mixed-up ancestries, but she also needed to know for sure what those ancestries were – a situation hard to come by in the real world. So she turned to software to simulate crosses using real purebred dog genomes to see what their puppies’ genomes might look like. She continued these simulations for many generations until arriving at mutts with ancestry from many breeds, similar to the real dogs involved in the MuttMix project.

Linda’s MuttMix breed calling algorithm “paints” the parts of each chromosome that have originated from a particular breed. In the case of Lucky, a mutt who lives with one of our lab members, each chromosome traces fragments to a variety of different breeds. By “painting” each chromosome fragment with its relevant breed heritage, we can see exactly where Lucky gets the traits that make up his unique look – drop ears from a toy poodle ancestor, a manly beard (or “furnishings”) from a Lhasa Apso. We can even predict that Lucky would do well in a high altitude environment due to a mutation he got from his altitude-adapted Lhasa ancestors.

Our citizen scientists who help us out with MuttMix may prove us wrong, but we’re hoping to show that it’s actually quite difficult to guess a dog’s breed based on looking at the dog, even with some video and behavioral descriptions to help them out. We all know at some level that every dog is an individual, but sometimes we forget that when we remember how gregarious the last Golden Retriever we met was, and see how much the yellow dog in front of us resembles that one. Even within a breed, canine personalities vary widely. Through MuttMix, we hope to be able to provide some solid scientific evidence that you can’t judge a dog by its fur color. But maybe you’ll prove us wrong, so please, go to MuttMix, take a look at the wide array of cute mutts we have there for you, and give us your best guesses!

Guest post by Jessica Hekman, DVM, PhD,  a postdoc at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where she helps out with cool projects like MuttMix in addition to focusing on her own research, The Working Dog Project. Jessica has a mutt, Jenny, whose DNA is on the sequencer right now, and she can’t wait to see what Linda’s breed calling algorithm will have to say about this one. @dogzombieblog / facebook.com/dogzombieblog


MORE ABOUT: canine, dogs, mutts

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