By Lily Bui December 5th, 2013 at 11:39 am | Comment
This is a webinar opportunity from our friends at CitSci.org. Details below!
Greetings from CitSci.org! We are pleased to announce our December “Feature Friday” webinar where you, as members of the growing CitSci.org community, are invited to offer your ideas and thoughts about improvements to CitSci.org. The first Friday of each month these webinars will focus on a specific topic / feature of CitSci.org. We will demonstrate how to use the website feature and take feedback. The December webinar will focus on “Building Datasheets.” Together, we hope to guide the future of this exciting platform in support of your collaborative citizen science / community based monitoring efforts.
CitSci.org December “Feature Friday” webinar
December 6, 2013 (12:00 noon PST; 1:00 PM MST; 2:00 PM CST; 3:00 PM EST)
Date: December 6, 2013
Feature: Building Datasheets
Time: 1:00-2:00p (MST)
Dial (267) 507-0003
Access Code: 613-600-397
Audio PIN: Shown after joining the meeting
Meeting ID: 613-600-397
Please see this page for more details.
By Lily Bui December 4th, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Comment
We are very excited to share the very first teaser segment for WHYY’s The Pulse with you, which aired last night at 6PM ET! Listen here: http://bit.ly/1bgaPTS The producer Kimberly Haas talks about PhillyTreeMap, Azavea, and the local Plant One Million Campaign.
The Pulse is WHYY’s upcoming weekly one-hour radio program focused on health, science and innovation in the Philadelphia region. The show will explore the personal stories of illness and recovery, discovery, health and science trends and much more. Working with SciStarter’s founder, Darlene Cavalier, the show will also take a close look at citizen science initiatives in the PA, NJ, DE region and report out on which projects are gaining the most traction and yielding effective results. WHYY’s Behavioral Health Reporter, Maiken Scott, will host the program every Friday at 9 a.m. with a rebroadcast on Sunday mornings. Here’s where to listen:
WHYY’s Friday morning schedule (come Dec. 6th):
6-9 a.m. – Morning Edition
9-10 a.m. – The Pulse
10 a.m. to 12 p.m. – Radio Times
Here’s where you can help. If you’re a citizen science researcher, project manager, or participant in the PA, NJ, or DE areas, we want to hear from you! If you have an interesting story to share about a citizen science project or experience, let us know. Send your stories for consideration to Lily@SciStarter.com.
By Lily Bui December 3rd, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Comment
This is a guest post by Dr. Tom Keeble, who was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, and completed a science degree with honours at The University of Melbourne. He then completed a Ph.D, studying Developmental Neurobiology, at The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, and the Queensland Brain Institute. He did a postdoc in Singapore and has now moved into Science Communication. Because he couldn’t see himself staying in the active research scene but hated the thought of leaving science entirely, becoming the Neuroscience Communicator at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health has been the perfect fit.
Most people reading this blog will be familiar with the idea crowdfunding – so I won’t explain the concept in much more detail other than to state its definition as “asking heaps of people to chip in to do something epic.”
Pozible is the Australian equivalent of Kickstarter.com, and is the third largest crowdfunding platform in the world. It works on the “all-or-none” model of funding projects, so if you don’t reach your target, you don’t receive any of the funds (you can’t buy ¾ of a PCR machine…). Fifty-five percent of Pozible projects are successful, and they have raised over $11 million since 2010. What’s more, they have an entire section of their site dedicated to crowdfunding research projects.
The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health performs some pretty epic neuroscience – we’re 4th in the world in terms of cumulative publication citations since 2002, and we study the brain from conception right through to the end of life. Major disease focuses include stroke, epilepsy, autism, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s Diseases.
In the Australian context, the pool of funds available for Medical Research via our National Health and Medical Research Council has remained static at $800 million, while funding success rates have fallen to an all-time low of 17%, with even more dismal early career researcher success rates.
Against this background, crowdfunding can provide the resources to generate pilot data that forms the basis of a larger grant application, particularly for a high-risk high-reward project where proof of principle is crucial, and for younger researchers still establishing that vital “track record.”
Pledgers at every level get to be more hands-on with the research, becoming part of the daily life of the labs that are raising the money, through online engagement and in the case of higher pledgers, visits to the Institute. The campaign is also a valuable tool in educating scientists about their role in public engagement – increasingly being seen as non-negotiable when receiving public dollars.
Traditional engagement tools at The Florey Institute include direct mail, e-newsletters, on-site public lectures and school outreach programs. These are very successful, but in the next decade this model is going to need updating – and online engagement through crowdfunding is great training for scientists; engage or perish!
Now, to the projects themselves!
The Florey Institute has 7 projects up on Pozible, the most successful ones being run by those with extensive online and offline networks to draw upon. Our standout performers have been, in no particular order:
- A project run by Dr David Hawkes gives pledgers the chance to either suggest names for 4 viral vectors he’s creating, with the most popular names getting the honour, or you can skip the popularity contest and ‘buy’ a name for the vector yourself – which will then literally go viral as it spreads to his collaborators around the globe.
- Dr. Wah Chin Boon has leveraged her extensive international connections to great success for her project examining DNA changes in response to environmental chemicals possibly leading to Autism.
- Everyone’s looking for ways to reduce the pharmacopeia associated with modern day life. Animal studies have shown that light levels play an important role in increasing or decreasing the number of brain cells that produce dopamine, an important “feel-good” neurochemical. Dr Tim Aumann is looking to see whether this holds true for humans as well, by examining brains from people who lived (well, died) during periods of long days and short nights, or vice versa, opening the door to drug-free brain treatments.
- And finally, in what might be a world-first, Faith Lamont is looking to crowdfund her Ph.D stipend! Due to citizenship restrictions, Faith as a New Zealander is ineligible for funding from the Australian Government, so she’s looking for funding from the people! Her project aims to use humanized mouse assays – ipads for mice - to better assess learning and memory in mice in the context of Schizophrenia and Autism. Faith’s even made a little game where you can test your cognitive skills against those of a mouse.
So head over to Pozible and check out the projects – one of the added beauties of crowdfunding is that the project doesn’t even have to be in your own backyard, the benefits of science are global – and epic.
By Jenna Lang December 2nd, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Comment
Baby, it’s cold outside! To mark the first day of winter on December 21st, the SciStarter team put together this list of wintery Citizen Science projects. We bet you’ll feel warm and fuzzy inside when you participate.
Even if your local winter weather does not include ice and snow, you can take a virtual trip to Antarctica. Use satellite images to help scientists count Wedell Seals. Get started!
As an IceWatch USA™ volunteer, you observe a water body in your area over the winter, and report on weather (snow, precipitation, ice cover) as well as wildlife activity. Get started!
Transcribe Arctic and worldwide weather observations made by United States’ ships since the mid-19th century. Help scientists create accurate climate models. Historians will use your work to track past ship movements and tell the stories of the people on board. Get started!
You can complain about your flu symptoms (or boast about your health) while helping scientists measure influenza trends. Get started!
Contribute to real-time research by Tweeting your snow and ice depth measurements to researchers at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Get started!
Do you participate in more than one citizen science project? We’ll give you a free T-shirt if you let us pick your brain for 15 minutes! Email Carolyn@SciStarter.com
We are partnering up with WHYY-a National Public Radio station-to help share stories about citizen science projects and people in PA, NJ and DE. If you have a story to share, let us know! Contact Lily@SciStarter.com
If you’d like your citizen science project featured on SciStarter, email Jenna@scistarter.com
By Karen McDonald December 2nd, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Comment
This is the first installment for a brand new series about citizen science in schools and classrooms.
Teachers often hear the term citizen science, but it’s never really clear what it is and how it might integrate into their classrooms. Citizen science is methodical scientific research conducted in part (or sometimes entirely) by non-professional scientists. These types of projects are called crowd sourcing because they source data from large groups of private citizens, amateur scientists, students, and those interesting to contributing to the larger picture of scientific inquiry. Schools and classrooms are an excellent source of data collection potential because of the large number of students that are present for extended periods of time from months to years.
Currently teachers are facing the new wave of Next Generation and Common Core Teaching Standards and the need to integrate their science curriculum with hands-on research, biology, and technology. Citizen science is a way to engage students with all of these subjects (inside or outside of the classroom) while providing a meaningful data set or outcome to scientists. The main question then arises; how do you, as a teacher, navigate all the options out there and integrate them into your classroom? In this series we’ll highlight some common questions about citizen science and then focus on different projects and how they meet Next Generation and Common Core standards so that you can decide what types of citizen science would be right for you and your school.
What Grades and Ages Can Participate in Citizen Science?
Almost any grade or age level can participate in citizen science. The main limitation I’ve seen has been access to computers, iPhones/apps, experience with technology, or being able to justify a project to the administration as to how it meets teaching standards. In this series we’ll discuss choosing age appropriate projects for different classes and the project’s ease of use. I’ve had five year olds show me how to find a hidden geocache using an iPhone and a 12 year old show me how to upload to Project Noah, so it can be done!
What is the Cost?
Most citizen science projects are free so the cost is not prohibitive. There are organizations that offer low cost classroom kits, posters, and teaching supplies to supplement their projects and provide teacher support. The other concern with cost is whether or not a particular project requires special tools. We’ll explore technology shortly, but I’m talking things like tweezers, bug collectors, binoculars, or genetic sequencing devices. Yes, there are some associated tools for each project and part of choosing the right one for you will be what you have at hand, ease of use for students, and availability of equipment.
What Technology is Required?
All citizen science programs have some form of online contribution system and/or an iPhone or Android app that can be downloaded. At a minimum the technology you’ll need will be either a laptop or a computer to upload data using either a Windows Operating System or Mac OS. Windows is most common and most operate on Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, or Safari.
What is the Time Commitment?
The time commitment is really up to the teacher. The nice thing about citizen science is that most activities can be done once or many times depending on the teacher’s time constraints and needs. Some projects lend themselves to one survey or event such as ant collecting or weighing state quarters to test fairness. For some projects you can contribute data seasonally, such as Journey North which tracks the migration of birds, whales, and flower blooming. Other events, such as weather monitoring might require weekly or even daily tracking.
How Is Citizen Science Data Used?
Most citizen science projects allow you to upload your data to a larger database that is made available to contributors. For instance, you can upload all sorts of data and information from Cornell Ornithology Lab’s e-bird database, such as which birds to find in a particular location to population numbers. The data your school contributes to the researchers helps provide information to build a more complete picture of a creature, pattern, event. You can use this data to help students with math skills, word processing, and computer skills.
Can I find Supporting Materials to Teach With?
Most of the citizen science websites have at least some background information and an “about” page to support those that want to participate in the project. Other websites are more comprehensive and offer curriculum, worksheets, and other supplementary materials. We’ll cover these websites in more details in this series.
SciStarter has also curated some projects with teaching materials for teachers on its Educators Page.
What About the Security of Students Online?
There are many ways to keep students safe. You as the teacher can be the focal point for entering all data or you can have the students enter data under your close supervision. Some projects also allow you to create student user accounts with anonymous numbers or names that you assign the students. I like Project Noah’s ability to create specific class centered challenges that only students, parents, and the teacher have access to. This type of project is super secure.
There are many ways to integrate citizen science into the classroom, and we’ve only touched on the tip of the iceberg. Please come back and check out the next installment of this series when we explore specific programs, their alignment with Next Gen. and Common Core standards and we’ll answer some of the questions just posted as they apply to particular projects and grades.
When not writing her blog The Infinite Spider, Karen McDonald is a guest blogger, curriculum developer, science content editor, and outdoor educator with over thirteen years in informal science education. She has an MS in Biology and a BS in Environmental Science and Philosophy. Currently she works for Smithsonian and contracts for Discovery Channel.