National Moth Week is Back!

By Guest | July 24, 2016 8:54 am
Hummingbird Moth (Photo Credit: Larry Lamsa CC BY SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Hummingbird Moth (Photo Credit: Larry Lamsa CC BY SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

by Nohra Murad

It’s that exciting time of year again: it’s National Moth Week!

But not just any National Moth Week. NMW 2016 marks the fifth year that the Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission has run National Moth Week (NMW), a time for citizen scientists to go out moth-ing in their community. This year’s NMW will be run from July 23 to 31.

David Moskowitz and Liti Haramaty of the commission have been running Moth Nights in their local community since 2005. Since then, Moth Night has turned into an entire week for everyone from the seasoned biologist to the curious toddler to celebrate nature’s diversity together.

What’s so interesting about moths? They’re too often overlooked, but that’s usually because of their incredible ability to blend in with our environment. With wings camouflaged to look like tree bark or dark leaves, they aren’t noticeable, but once they’re flying, their real beauty goes on display.

Moths are also most active during the night, making for great citizen scientist events that can be anything from a grand “moth-ball” to a calm night on your own porch. All that you’ll need is a camera and a nice, strong light to photograph your findings and contribute to the ever-growing database of moth types.

Like any critter, moths will look a little different from place to place, but it’s not until moths of all different sizes and patterns are gathered in one place that you can see how diverse they really are. The same idea works with humans! Anyone can explore the secret night life of moths.

Check out NMW’s map of official events happening near you. There’s lots of exciting ways to get moth-ing!

If you won’t be here for NMW, no worries: the Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA) has an online database year-round for citizen scientists to submit their pictures of moths, butterflies, and caterpillars. You can read about the opportunity here on SciStarter’s website and join in anytime.


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, Living World
MORE ABOUT: moth

Poké Around With Citizen Science

By Guest | July 22, 2016 12:39 am
It's taking the world by storm. How can citizen science benefit? (Credit:  Eduardo Woo/(CC BY-SA 2.0)

It’s taking the world by storm. How can citizen science benefit? (Credit: Eduardo Woo/(CC BY-SA 2.0)

by Jennifer Cutraro

By now, you’ve surely seen, heard about, or even joined the hordes of people wandering about outdoors,  phones held right in front of their faces. In the two weeks since Pokémon Go’s release, there’s been much ado about the game: how it gets people outdoors, how it promotes physical activity, how it’s already sparked a robust community of haters, and the risks of playing the game without paying attention to your surroundings.

Risks aside, I’m not the first to be jumping-up-and-down excited about the educational and research opportunities this presents. Within days of Pokémon Go’s launch, entomologist Morgan Jackson created the hashtag #PokeBlitz — a clever mashup of Pokémon and BioBlitz, a type of time-limited biodiversity scavenger hunt. He and a community of scientists and educators are using it on Twitter to help other gamers identify the IRL — in real life — plants and animals they encounter while on their Pokémon adventures. It’s a great way to learn about the plants and animals that share your neighborhood.

Pokémon Go also presents a great opportunity for citizen science — if you’re already out looking for charmeleon and poliwrath, you can contribute to one of many projects around the country looking for information about the (actual)  plants, animals, and even stars you see right in your neighborhood. Here are some projects to help you get started:

If you have no idea what kind of tree, bird, or mushroom you’ve found, that’s  no problem. After you share a photo on Twitter with the #PokeBlitz hashtag, send it along to iNaturalist, where a team of amateur naturalists can also help identify the species you found. iNaturalist has a free app that makes it easy for you to share photos with their community, including a “Help Me ID This Species” button. Every photograph you share with iNaturalist contributes valuable data to scientists monitoring species occurrences around the world. Browse their site to check out photos of plants and animals others in your local community have shared with iNaturalist — a simple and easy way to learn more about nature right in your neighborhood.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Celebrate Urban Birds program is a good starting point for both learning to identify common birds across the country and contributing information about your local species to this important citizen science program. If birds aren’t your thing, take time to smell the flowers, then share the flower’s location and life cycle stage with Project BudBurst, a nationwide phenology monitoring program with a robust collection of curriculum and other materials for educators and families. You can also help scientists learn more about seasonal migration by sending information about songbirds, butterflies, and other species you stumble upon at your PokéStop to Journey North.

If you’re out in the evening, count the number of stars you see for GLOBE at Night, a campaign measuring light pollution around the world. You also can use your phone’s camera to record light pollution levels in your area, data the folks at the Dark Sky Meter project would really like to have. And if you’re lucky enough to see fireflies when you’re outdoors, please share that information with our friends over at Firefly Watch.

To be fair, there’s no shortage of opinion about Pokémon Go — what it means for meaningful outdoor experience, the place of technology in the outdoors, whether it just provides another way to disengage from the world around us. In a thoughtful piece in the New York Times, Richard Louv, author of Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-RIch Life, shares his nuanced perspective on how we might consider Pokémon Go’s potential to encourage people to explore nature. He offers us all a simple frame of reference:  

“Here’s a litmus test: how long does it take a person to look up from the screen and actually experience the natural world?”

To me, that’s a helpful and practical lens through which to view any piece of technology or media. Whether it’s watching TV, playing a game, hanging out on social media or, yes, playing Pokémon Go, we all need to look away from the screen from time to time. You might be more likely to do just that if you also turn your Pokémon Go adventure into an opportunity to get to know your actual neighborhood, learn a little about nature, and contribute to science research along the way.


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, Technology
MORE ABOUT: pokemon

Are We Alone? Citizen Science and the Search for Exoplanets

By Kristin Butler | July 20, 2016 8:56 am
Image Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Image Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Recently I attended a lecture by award-winning astronomy professor Dr. Andrew Fraknoi, who spoke about the most exciting research happening in astronomy today. He said that while black holes and gravity waves are interesting, the research he finds most intriguing is the search for planets in other solar systems, called exoplanets.

What sets exoplanet research apart, he said, is that it takes us a step closer to answering the fundamental question humans have always wondered … are we alone?

I was excited by his statement because I also recently met a couple of scientists at Mauna Kea’s Keck Observatory in Hawaii who have created a new citizen science project—called Project PANOPTES—focused on the search for exoplanets. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Space & Physics
MORE ABOUT: exoplanet

Citizen Science in SPAAAAAACE!

By Eva Lewandowski | July 14, 2016 10:41 pm
Photo: NASA
Heavenly Citizen Science
“80% of North Americans cannot see the Milky Way because of the effects of artificial lighting,” according to The Guardian. Measure light pollution near you this week and contribute to this important research. Or, if you’re lucky enough to see the heavens, there’s a citizen science project in need of your observations. Our editors highlight seven, out-of-this-world projects, below. Find even more projects with the SciStarter Global Project Finder.

Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

Photo: NASA
Target Asteroids!
Do you take pictures of asteroids? If so, consider sharing them! Photographing asteroids through a telescope and sharing your images will advance understanding of the asteroids near our planet.

Photo: Dora Miller
Aurorasaurus

The Northern and Southern lights offer some of the most breathtaking views on earth. If you have a chance to witness them, you can report your observations. Volunteers can also verify reports from social media.

Photo: Olivier Guyon
PANOPTES
School and community groups interested in astronomy can purchase a high-tech robotic telescope that can be used to search for planets in other solar systems. It’s a great way for dedicated citizen scientists to increase their viewing power.

Photo: Bill Ingalls
American Meteor Society- Meteor Observing
Reporting meteors is easy with this project. You can enter your observation online or use a smartphone app. With the data you provide, scientists can plot meteor trajectories.

Photo: NASA
GLOBE at Night
If you’re not seeing stars and meteors when you look into the night sky, it could be because of light pollution. With this project, you can measure the brightness of the night sky in your area and learn how light from urban areas impacts stargazing, ecology, and more.

Photo: DDQ
Dark Sky Meter
With just the camera on your phone and an iPhone app, you can collect data on light pollution and contribute to a global map of sky brightness.

Photo: Royal Society of Chemistry
Mission: Starlight
If you’re interested in space travel but not in stargazing, this is the project for you! A global experiment is being discovered to determine which substances can best protect astronauts from harmful UV rays in space, and you can participate!

Want to learn more about the field of citizen science?

Do you run a project that requires tools (telescope, sensor, rain gauge)? We want to hear from you! Please take this brief survey.

Looking for more citizen science news and stories? Check out our blog at scistarter.com/blog.
Contact the SciStarter Team 
CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Space & Physics

Using Citizen Science to Track Sevengill Sharks

By Guest | July 1, 2016 5:24 pm
Sevengill Shark "Notorynchus cepedianus"

Sevengill Shark “Notorynchus cepedianus” by José María Pérez Nuñez CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Guest post by Mike Bear

The San Diego-based non-profit Ocean  Sanctuaries was founded in 2014 to create and provide support for marine citizen science projects. The Sevengill Shark Identification Project was one of its first citizen science projects, begun in 2010 in response to anecdotal evidence that divers were seeing increasing numbers Sevengill sharks off the coast of San Diego. This made the species an ideal candidate for a long-term 5-10 year) population study.

The Sevengill shark (Notorynchus cepedianus), named for having seven gill slits on either side of its body, as opposed to the normal 5 gills,  reaches lengths of  3 m with an average length of 1.5 m. They weigh up to 107 kg and are known to live as long as 49 years.1 Read More

MORE ABOUT: shark week

Citizen Science: Empowering a Robust National Effort

By Arvind Suresh (Editor) | July 1, 2016 3:28 pm

On June 7, 2016, the American Chemical Society Science & the Congress Project, co-organized a Capitol Hill briefing about Citizen Science, with the Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes at Arizona State University. Honorary Co-Hosts Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE).

<a href=”https://vimeo.com/album/4011873″>Check out the talks</a> by moderator Jamie Vernon (Sigma Xi, American Scientist), Sophia Liu (USGS), Andrew Torelli (Bowling Green State University), and Darlene Cavalier (SciStarter and ASU).

<iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/171820018″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/171820018″>Darlene Cavalier, Arizona State University</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/acsscicon”>ACS Science &amp; the Congress</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science

Dive into Shark Week with SciStarter

By Eva Lewandowski | June 30, 2016 2:39 pm
Dive into Shark Week with SciStarter

It’s shark week! Celebrate by getting involved in one of the many citizen science projects that study and protect sharks. Find even more projects with the  SciStarter Global Project Finder.

Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Environment
MORE ABOUT: shark

Fly Southwest Monarch Study for Citizen Science

By nfriedman | June 25, 2016 12:52 pm

In Arizona and the surrounding Southwestern United States, over 400 people are participating in a nine-year ongoing game of tag. But these folks are not tagging each other. They’re actually romping about in meadows with small nets, hoping to catch and tag a Monarch butterfly.

In 2003 Chris Kline began the Southwest Monarch Study in order to track the migration pattern of the Monarchs that appear in Arizona. Much was known about the migration of Monarchs down the eastern coast to Mexico, but this was not enough. Kline rallied Arizona locals to achieve mass data collection across the state, uncovering information about the unique Monarch population.

Gail Morris is the current project leader of the Southwest Monarch Study and she radiates a passion for Monarchs. She sees beauty beyond the surface of their iridescent wings. Gail says that “it’s their incredibly long migration that gets me most excited.” She explains how wildly adaptable they are, as they use adverse weather conditions to their advantage. These little, thin winged creatures use Arizona’s annual monsoon to take flight thousands of feet into the air and fly fifty to one hundred miles a day. They can use columns of warm rising air called ‘thermals’ for travel. Once, after a day of meadow-romping, Gail was chatting with a friend by their cars: “This monarch shot up from a tree at angle like a plane ascending.” They marveled as it it joined a cast of hawks in a thermal and disappeared into the sky.

So where are these butterflies going when they catch a ride in the wind? According to the Southwest Monarch study, it depends. Arizona Monarchs have a unique travel agenda, and it even varies from day to day. Monarchs comfortably take the wind as it blows, following it to specific overwintering locations in either California or Mexico depending on how the wind presents itself on the day they take flight. These locations can be as specific as a single tree, flocked to year after year. Some Monarchs even stay in Arizona through the winter, merely migrating to lower altitudes.

All of this raw data was gathered by the locals, and analyzed by professional scientists. “The local people often see the movement but it had never been published,” Gail says. A while back Gail was searching for Monarchs with a group of citizen scientists in Northern Arizona. “These bird watchers heard we were looking for orange butterflies and they said ‘Stop at the fishery, you’ll find them there’”. This did not align with Gail’s previous knowledge about Monarch habitats, but she hesitantly followed her own mantra: the locals know best. When the group arrived at the fishery they were surrounded by walnut trees and these trees were showered in Monarchs. Gail was struck yet again by the Monarch’s adaptability to variable habitats.

Lisa Rensch also finds her free time best spent chasing butterflies. She’s a prominent citizen scientist with the study, as she has been tagging with her daughter since 2013. Her daughter, only one year old when they began, learned to delicately handle the butterflies. Lisa is a true nature lover, completely losing track of time as she tracks the Monarchs. While tagging she has run into goldfinches and even “a nest of deer mice,” she says. “It was lined with thistle down, the babies all snuggled cozy inside.” She never knows what she’ll find while searching for Monarchs.

Currently the Southwest Monarch study is expanding. Groups in California, Utah, and Colorado are now tagging. As science often goes, the findings of the Southwest Monarch study have led not only to answers, but to further questions about these resilient creatures.

Ultimately, the study hopes to further encourage conservation. Families and public areas are already inspired by the project, filling in the missing link to Monarch survival: rich sources of nectar for the butterflies to feed on. Southwest Monarch Study is teaming up with the city of Mesa, Tanto National forest, the Nature Conservatory, and the Bureau of Land Management, where each organization is adding milkweed to their property as a nectar source to support feeding of the Monarchs. Milkweed is a rich nectar source for other pollinators as well, so other animals will benefit a side effect.

If you are wowed by these little troopers and live in the Southwestern United States, check out the Southwest Monarch Study. Find caterpillars, tag butterflies, plant milkweed and watch your garden come alive. If you are elsewhere, keep learning about these fascinating creatures by checking out this video, or learning about the findings from the study. Knowledge breads conservation; discovering how cool science is breads passion.


Love pollinators and want to do more? Check out our newsletter featuring other interesting pollinator citizen science projects that you can participate in!

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Environment

Celebrate Pollinator Week with Citizen Science!

By Eva Lewandowski | June 23, 2016 3:14 pm
Photo: Wendy Caldwell

This week we celebrate National Pollinator Week, in honor of the bees, butterflies, beetles, and other animals that provide essential services to ecosystems and agricultural lands everywhere.

Citizen science is at the forefront of pollinator research, and below we highlight six projects that you can join to help study and protect pollinators. To find more, visit the SciStarter Global Project Finder.

Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

Read More

MORE ABOUT: newsletter

Helping Herptiles with Citizen Science

By Eva Lewandowski | June 13, 2016 10:43 pm
Photo: USFWS
Amphibians and reptiles, also known as herptiles or herps, are the focus of many citizen science projects. Are you interested in frogs, turtles, and snakes? If you are, join one of the projects below to study the distribution and population status of these wonderful creatures!
Find more than 1,600 projects and events in the SciStarter Global Project Finder.
Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

Cuban Treefrog
Cuban Treefrogs are an invasive species causing trouble throughout the state of Florida. Report the presence of Cuban Treefrogs and native Treefrogs.

North Carolina Sea Turtle Project
Volunteers along the North Carolina coast are needed to search for sea turtle tracks and report nests and strandings. These activities help biologists monitor and protect the turtles.

Photo: Janalee Caldwell
OK Amphibian Disease Testing
Students and teachers in Oklahoma are needed to catch frogs, quickly swab their skin, and send the collected samples in to be tested for a fungal disease. Lesson plans are available.

Photo: Mike Pingleton
HerpMapper
Whenever you see a reptile or amphibian of any kind, you can report it to HerpMapper. You can easily keep a record of your own sightings and contribute to a larger database of herptile populations.

Photo: Henry Doorly Zoo
Amphibian Conservation and Education Project
Volunteers throughout Nebraska can participate in this project by monitoring amphibian populations, testing for diseases, and monitoring the quality of aquatic habitats.

Explore the Frontiers of CitizenScience in New Book from ASU.

The latest volume in “The Rightful Place of Science” series is a cutting-edge look at the changing relationship between science and the public. Co-edited by SciStarter Founder, Darlene Cavalier, with a blurb from Bill Nye the Science Guy.Get your copy today!

 

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