Celebrate National Parks with Citizen Science

By Eva Lewandowski | August 11, 2016 11:27 am
Photo: NPS
Celebrate the National Parks with Citizen Science
On August 25, the United States National Park Service turns 100! The park system provides many excellent citizen science opportunities to visitors.
Below, you’ll find five great national park projects. Find even more projects with the SciStarter Global Project Finder.
The SciStarter Team

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MORE ABOUT: national parks

Citizen Science 2.0: Expanding Reach, Expanding Results

By Arvind Suresh (Editor) | August 9, 2016 7:49 pm

Guest post by Dan Stanton, a Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian at ASU, responsible for the School of Film, Dance, and Theatre, and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Dan was previously a Government Information Librarian for sixteen years, and is still recognized in certain circles as Dan – The Gov Docs Man.


We all know that scientific research is done in sterile labs by nerds in white lab coats, the results of which eventually makes its way to the public through government agencies or mega corporations who own the ‘science’.  If you’ve not paid your dues in academia to get the appropriate science degrees, your capacity to participate in science is limited to the baking soda and vinegar volcano that you show off to your kids when it’s their Science Fair.

Wrong; and wrong.

Citizen Science may be the most widespread and important outsourcing enterprise ever attempted, and chances are you haven’t heard of it. Or if you have, you don’t know what’s out there or how you can get involved.  We’d like to change that by introducing you to two prominent Citizen Science programs that encourage and facilitate participation in real scientific research projects.

SciStarter aims to facilitate citizen participation in formal and informal research projects and events around the world (and beyond!), allowing regular people to contribute needed and meaningful data towards scientific progress, and to see the results of their efforts. Science Cheerleader  is an organization made up of professional cheerleaders pursuing science careers who inspire young women to challenge stereotypes and consider Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) careers.  Both programs were founded by Darlene Cavalier, Professor of Practice at Arizona State University’s Center for Engagement and Training, part of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

Please consider attending this Panel Discussion at the Arizona SciTech Festival  as Ms. Cavalier is joined by Kaitlin Vortherms, a PhD student in Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University and Miss Phoenix 2015, and worked with Science Cheerleaders on NASA’s Soil Moisture and Active Passive (SMAP) global warming Citizen Science Project.  Rounding out the panel are René Tanner, Life Sciences Librarian at Arizona State University (and former Environmental Planner), and Dan Stanton, Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian at Arizona State University (and Past-President of the Arizona Library Association).  Find out how we can move Citizen Science forward together.

Screen shot 2016-08-09 at 11.30.40 AM

Darlene Cavalier, Professor of Practice, Arizona State University’s Center for Engagement and Training, Founder of SciStarter, Founder of Science Cheerleader, CoFounder of ECAST: Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology

Rene Tanner, Librarian, Life Sciences, Arizona State University

Dan Stanton, Librarian, Humanities and Social Sciences, Arizona State University

Kaitlin Vortherms, PhD student, Sustainable Engineering, Arizona State University

The Arizona SciTech Festival is a state-wide celebration of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM or STEAM when you include the arts) held annually in February and March. Through a series of over 1000 expos, workshops, conversations, exhibitions and tours held in diverse neighborhoods throughout the state, the Arizona SciTech Festival excites and informs Arizonans from ages 3 to 103 about how STEM will drive our state for next 100 years. Spearheaded by the Arizona Commerce Authority, Arizona Science Center, the Arizona Technology Council Foundation, Arizona Board of Regents, the University of Arizona and Arizona State University, the Arizona SciTech Festival is a grass roots collaboration of over 700 organizations in industry, academia, arts, civic, community and K-12.


Meteor Hunters Track Fireballs in the Night Sky

By Kristin Butler | August 3, 2016 8:05 am
May 17, 2016, AMS Event

May 17, 2016, AMS Event

Have you ever glanced up at the night sky, at just the right moment, and seen a streak of bright light dart across the heavens and disappear?

The next time you do, instead of making a wish upon the “shooting star” (or maybe just after making your wish), consider reporting your observation to the American Meteor Society (AMS).

And that “next time” could be now, as Earth is crossing paths with the comet Swift-Tuttle this month, bringing about the beautiful Persied meteor shower, with peak meteor shower viewings promised for Aug. 11 and 12.

Founded in 1911, the AMS is a nonprofit in New York dedicated to promoting professional and amateur scientific research about meteors and is one of the longest-running citizen science programs in the country.

The organization has several computer applications that allow people around the globe to help conduct research on meteor showers and on individual meteor events called fireballs.

“When people see a meteor, they are captivated and want to learn more and share what they observed with others,” said Mike Hankey, AMS’s Operations Manager and an amateur meteor enthusiast and meteorite hunter. “Our apps allow them to report what they saw.”

By participating in these programs, citizen scientists are helping astronomers better understand the origins and nature of our planet and our solar system and prepare for future encounters with these rocky cosmic visitors.

Meteoroids are the smallest members of our solar system and range in size from rocky asteroid and dusty comet material to smaller bits called micrometeoroids.

When meteoroids hit Earth’s atmosphere, they excite atoms in the atmosphere and create a brief flash of light called a meteor. Most visible meteors are caused by particles about the size of small pebbles or grains of sand and it is a meteor’s speed (25,000 to 160,000 miles per hour) rather than its size that produces the energy needed to make so much light.

Meteor showers come from comets. When a comet swings by the sun, some of its frozen gas melts, releasing lots of particles that follow the comet in a tail. When the comet hits Earth’s atmosphere, the tail bursts into a stunning show of meteors all traveling in the same direction. Because scientists are often able to predict when Earth’s orbit will cross a comet’s orbit, we often know ahead of time when to watch for a meteor shower.

Really bright meteors, those that shine as brightly as the planet Venus, are made from bigger particles and are called fireballs.

The AMS offers two different projects, a phone app and an online form, for citizen scientists to record siting’s of meteor showers and fireballs. Participants are asked to rate the meteor’s brightness, color, duration, length across the sky, and where in the sky the meteor started and finished. They can also use the phone app to point the phone at the place where the meteor was observed and swipe their finger in the direction it moved.

The information AMS citizen scientists collect is important because most professional astronomy projects only study larger celestial objects, leaving a gap in research that is filled by citizen science, Hankey said. In addition, the data they collect is used immediately.

“We collect this information and hand it to the world almost as soon as the event happens,” Hankey said. Partners who use this data include the Meteoritical Society and the International Meteor Organization.

Scientists use a collection of individual AMS meteor siting’s of an event to triangulate where the meteor was in the sky and also where on the ground they should look for meteorite fragments.

Meteorites are the rarest material on Earth and by analyzing them scientists were able to discover how old our solar system is, that the earth’s core is made of nickel and iron metal, and that the building blocks of life likely travelled here on the backs of meteorites.

The research also helps scientists learn more about how to anticipate and respond to future large meteorite events that can cause damage, like the fireball that exploded in 2013 over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

Beyond the scientific value, though, watching meteors and hunting for meteorites is just really fun. A few years ago, Hankey used information that was gathered by AMS citizen scientists to visit a meteorite site in Florida, where he discovered his own meteorites.

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, Space & Physics

Citizen Science takes a bite out of Natural Disasters

By Eva Lewandowski | August 2, 2016 8:17 am
Collectively, your small acts lead to big results.
Natural disasters, like earthquakes, tornados, and landslides, are frightening and deadly. There are small, but important, steps citizen scientists can take to help predict and respond to these occurrences.Our editors have selected five exemplary projects, below. Be sure to read the safety warnings when applicable.

Find even more projects with the SciStarter Global Project Finder.

The SciStarter Team

Quake-Catcher Network
By linking computers from across the world, this project forms a huge earthquake monitoring network. Schools can also purchase seismic sensors to use for teaching kids about earthquakes.

Photo: NOAA
Storm spotters are needed throughout the United States to report severe weather like tornadoes, hail, and thunderstorms to the National Weather Service. This information helps people in your community stay safe!

Photo: Avi
Share a Flood Observation
Observant volunteers from across the United Kingdom are needed to report floods of all sizes. Make an observation and help study the causes and management of flooding.

Photo: Yuanwei Qin
Field Photo Library
Pictures of landscapes over time can document the impacts of events like drought or fire. You can use your smartphone or GPS-equipped camera to photograph and upload pictures of a landscape near you.

Photo: USGS
Did You See It? Report a Landslide
Landslides are both dangerous and costly. If you see a landslide in the United States, you can report it to the US Geological Survey, the government agency that studies them.

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.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Citizen Science, Environment

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

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. Read More

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.

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

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
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>


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