by Russ Campbell
Orchids have long held an enigmatic mystique. Perhaps their origins as tropical and subtropical plants found in exotic locales and an early lack of understanding of how they survive have contributed to their status. By the 19th century, orchids were a status of the British well-to-do.
The famed voyager and scientist Charles Darwin was also obsessed with orchids. After the publication of his famous book, On the Origin of Species, Darwin devoted much of his time to exploring the connecting between the orchid and its ecosystem.
Now, you don’t need to be Charles Darwin to help contribute to the science of orchids and their environment. The Orchid Observers, a citizen science project based out of Natural History Museum in London, is asking plant aficionados armed with their smart phones and a careful tread to provide data back to the museum so researchers can study the impact of climate change on flowering time of UK’s orchids.
I interviewed Lucy Robinson, the citizen science programme manager at the museum, by email to elaborate on The Orchid Observers. Read More
by Egle Marija Ramanauskaite
Earlier this year, we introduced you to WeCureALZ – a groundbreaking new project that for the first time is set to use the power of citizen science to conduct Alzheimer’s research. Enabled by the support of the BrightFocus Foundation, the team is already preparing for the alpha testing of our first online activity – a game that will allow everyone to search for stalled capillaries in the brains of Alzheimer’s-affected mice.
With a beta launch planned later this year, we thought it was about time we tell you the key part of the story – the science behind WeCureALZ, and what is it that you – citizen scientists – will be helping researchers do! Read More
What better way to kick of a month long celebration of citizen science than at the USA Science and Engineering Festival (USASEF), probably the largest science festival in the country?
And kick it off we did! For two days, the SciStarter booth at USASEF featured citizen science projects that people of all ages could learn about and participate in, and several of its major partners including Discover Magazine, Astronomy Magazine, the Crowd and the Cloud and of course, the Science Cheerleaders.
Day 1 featured a live 1-hour Hangout on Air organized by Crowd & Cloud, an upcoming 4-part public television series about citizen science and how mobile technology is changing the way participatory research is conducted. Read More
If you haven’t heard already, Citizen Science Day is fast approaching!! April 16 is the big day and events celebrating CitSci run all the way through May 21. From being at science festivals to nationwide bioblitzes, there’s something for everyone.
To get you all pumped up we’re sharing this amazing video made by folks from The Crowd and the Cloud, an upcoming “4-part public television series exploring the new frontier of citizen science in the age of mobile technology.” They are also going to be live streaming a Google Hangout session from the 4th Annual USA Science and Engineering Festival which will include projects featured at the SciStarter booth. Watch this space for more details !!
Author’s Note: This story describing the research of Dr. Jacob Sherson and the origin of the citizen science game Quantum Moves was first published in August 2014. Today the team behind Quantum Moves published its findings in the journal Nature (paywall). In an interview to Nature News, Jacob Sherson, who led the creation of the game said that he was “completely amazed by the results” that citizen scientists were able to accomplish. This article talks about an earlier version of the game, and new Mac and PC editions have since been made available.
“Every story has its own beginning”, writes Jacob Sherson, an associate professor of Physics at Aarhus University (AU) in Denmark on his blog. The story of his citizen science project, Quantum Moves, began at the Max Planck Institute in Garching, Munich where he was a post-doctoral. Along with his colleagues, he was working on an experimental system that could manipulate individual atoms, a fundamental requirement of creating a quantum computer.
I’m no physicist myself and it took me a while to even begin to understand how a quantum computer might work. So bear with me here as I attempt to describe it to you. The guts of any computer are really tiny transistors that can be in one of two states; 0 or 1. Thus all information that passes through a computer is represented by a string of ‘bits’ which are either 0s or 1s. One way by which computing power has increased exponentially over the years is by manufacturing smaller and smaller transistors. This allows us to pack more of them within a given space hence increasing the ability of the computer to process larger amounts of information at once. But as you can see, there exists an inherent size limitation here. We will soon reach a point where the smallest transistor would have been made with currently available technology. So where do we go from there for more processing power?
The beauty of citizen science is the ability for non-professional researchers to get up close and personal with science. Think about all of your experiences collecting data from your backyard, analyzing images of spring online, and learning about new topics in science, have you heard from the scientists you’re helping?
In our new series, “Conversations in CitSci”, we speak with the people behind the projects.
By Sarah Dunifon
“Plants have great stories to tell, if we take the time to listen to them,” says Kay Havens, consultant with Project BudBurst. “Project BudBurst (PBB) is a national campaign to track plant phenology which is the timing of natural events like budburst, first flower opening, full bloom, leaf color change and leaf drop,”. By knowing these phenophases (i.e. the timing of these events), we can better understand what effects climate change may be having on plants. With warmer springs, plants move through their leafing and blooming phases earlier. Read More
Originally posted by Peter Brenton, CSIRO, Australia
Discovering and connecting with citizen science projects at a global scale has never been closer to reality than now! Over the past few months the teams at SciStarter (www.scistarter.com – based in the USA) and the Atlas of Living Australia (www.ala.org.au – ALA) have been collaborating to enable project information about citizen science projects to be shared between the two systems so that people can easily find and connect with citizen science activities wherever they may be operating, and regardless of which system the projects were registered in.
[Editor’s note: The David Suzuki Foundation in Canada teamed up with SciStarter in 2015 to encourage science researchers in Canada to engage more citizen science partners through SciStarter’s North America-wide database and international reach.]
This has been a dream of many people for a long time. Over the last 10 years or so, several different project discovery platforms have evolved independently around the world and the internet allows people anywhere to register their projects on any of the platforms. However, it has been becoming increasingly difficult and confusing for people to find and connect with projects of interest to them in their local areas because the systems have not been connected with each other. Often thing aren’t easy though and connecting them up has proven to be pretty challenging due to incompatibility of data structures and differences in the level of technical development in different platforms.
SciStarter and www.CitSci.org have been sharing project information within the USA for a few months already, but the connection with the ALA is the first successful international connection. The ALA is Australia’s national biodiversity data aggregation system and provides hosted web-based infrastructure to support people in Australia running biodiversity related citizen science projects including the collection of standards-based biodiversity data. The BioCollect system (http://www.ala.org.au/biocollect/) provides both a project register tool to help connect people with projects, as well as a powerful and flexible data collection facility for those who want to use it.
The Australian Citizen Science Association (www.citizenscience.org.au – ACSA) and European Citizen Science Association (www.ecsa.citizen-science.net – ECSA) are also working towards providing discovery and access points for citizen science projects at a continental level. To facilitate this and related goals, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC is also leading an international data and metadata working group in conjunction with the American Citizen Science Association (www.citizenscienceassociation.org – CSA), ECSA, ACSA and the Open Geospatial Consortium (www.opengeospatial.org -OGC) to develop a data interchange standard for citizen science project information (https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/ppsr-core-metadata-standards). It is anticipated that this will enable other platforms to also begin connecting up to share their project information too.
According to Anne Bowser, coChair of the data and metadata working group and Senior Program Associate at the Wilson Center, “The international connection between SciStarter and ALA will heighten our awareness of the range of citizen science projects operating on different geographic sales. This is a huge step towards building a global community of citizen science researchers and practitioners, and will pave the way for new research collaborations and partnerships.”
Add or find a citizen science event in celebration of Citizen Science Day!