Today, I bring you Project Puffin: The Infographic. Check out the URL for the project as well!
It’s that time of year again.
No, I’m not referring to Black this, or Cyber that. I’m talking about the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC), which also happens to be the world’s oldest continuous citizen science project.
Now in its 114th year, the Audubon Society’s CBC has produced astonishing amounts of data for bird conservation. For the 111th count (the most recent year for which a formal summary is available), birds were counted at 2215 separate locations in Canada, the US, and South and Central America. In total, counters spotted more than 61 million birds that season.
The data is used to monitor bird populations to check for trends, and has been instrumental in devising policy. For example, when it was discovered that American Black Duck wintering populations were in decline, changes were made to hunting rules to protect the species.
The count takes place from Dec 14, 2013 to January 5, 2014. To participate, you need to sign up at the Audubon Society website to find a count location near you. (To search for locations near you before registering, you can use this link.) You’ll be asked to follow a predetermined route through a designated 15-mile (24-km) diameter circle, counting every bird you see or hear all day. If you happen to live within a circle, you can also register and submit a count of birds at your feeder. Each count is conducted in one calendar day; data is then collected by the local compiler and sent back to the Society.
Not an experienced birder? No problem. Counters are organized into field parties such that newbies are put together with experienced birders and each party covers a part of a circle. You’ll be in good (although possibly chilly) hands.
The following is a guest post by Mia Cobb.
Students and classes will be pitched against each other to see who can identify the most and largest dog waste ‘hotspots’ in their local neighbourhood in the “Poo Power! Global Challenge.” Participants use a GPS-enabled iPhone to download the free Poo Power! App from the App Store. Their task is to identify and map dog poo “hotspots” in dog parks and public spaces from their neighbourhood from Monday 25 November 2013.
This eyebrow-raising initiative is a collaboration between dog poo entrepreneur Duncan Chew from Poo Power! and Mia Cobb from the Anthrozoology Research Group, recent winner of I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here! in Australia. The collected information will be uploaded onto the Global Poo Map and provides a platform for students to discuss the scientific, social and environmental issues of dog waste. The students are then encouraged to write a letter to their local Government representative of their findings and recommendations.
“From our research only 3% of Australians see uncollected dog waste as an environmental concern,” explains Duncan Chew. “When it rains, uncollected dog poo gets washed down drains, effecting water quality and habitat for native animals, as well as making rivers and creeks unpleasant for us to visit.” Mia Cobb echoes her enthusiasm for the initiative: “This is a great way to utilise the prize money from winning the I’m A Scientist – Get Me Out of Here! competition; to raise awareness of new sustainable energy sources, environmental issues and responsible dog ownership, all while increasing student engagement in a unique citizen science activity.”
The collated information has the poo-tential to identify sites for biogas-powered lights for parks as proposed by the Melbourne-based project, Poo Power!, currently in development. The methane that is released from the dog waste as it breaks down inside a ‘biogas generator’ can be used as a viable renewable energy source.
Competition prizes and giveaways are up for grabs for the two students with the most photo submissions received between 25th November and 9th December 2013. After this initial competition period closes, the project will continue to run, collecting ongoing hotspot data worldwide.
Mia Cobb is a zoologist and current PhD candidate at Monash University, researching working dog welfare. She has worked in animal shelter, stable and kennel facilities for 20 years. Mia thinks helping scientific research jump out of the academic journals and into the laps of everyone is fun and important. She blogs about canine science at Do You Believe in Dog? and co-hosts the Human Animal Science podcast. Mia is a founding Director of the Working Dog Alliance and recently won her zone in the national I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here! competition in Australia – an American Idol-style competition for scientists, where students are the judges.
About Duncan and Poo Power!
Did you know that the 4.2 million dogs in Australia will generate 6.3 million tonnes of poo over their lifetimes? That’s a mountain’s worth that we dump in landfills or leave uncollected to pollute our rivers and beaches. Duncan Chew is the man behind Poo Power! – a Melbourne Water supported project that shines a light on this innovation. Through his website, iPhone app and other outreach activities Duncan shows Australians that we can keep our cities and waterways clean while producing renewable energy to light our dog parks. Duncan is the owner of two Boxers – Sally (14) and Diesel (7).
Individual student prizes include 2 iPod Shuffles and 4 Doggie Doo games.
For each competing class, teachers will receive a copy of the ‘Dog Poo – The Truth At Last’ on DVD.
I’m very, very excited to announce the launch of Be the Change: Saving the World with Citizen Science.
Available now at Amazon.com, the book has project listings and exclusive content you won’t find here at the site… so even if you’re a regular here, you’ll want to grab a copy to learn about new opportunities to participate.
And if you’re a huge citizen science fan who would love to see more people involved, it would be great if you would help me get the word out. Here’s how you can help:
Tweet about the book: Click this link
Copy this link and paste into your Facebook status and let your friends know: http://www.citizensciencecenter.com/get-the-book/
Forward that same link via email to your network: http://www.citizensciencecenter.com/get-the-book/
Leave an honest review at the Amazon listing: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GJCG62E
Let your favourite science personality know about it! Or if you have a connection to someone who should receive a review copy, please let me know: [email protected]
It would mean a LOT to me if you did any or all of those things — thank you so, so much!
(P.S. – Don’t have a Kindle? Did you know you could read Kindles on your PC? Check it out here: Kindle for PC)
If you’ve spent any time on Facebook lately, you’ve probably seen posts about a ridiculously simple, but strangely addictive game called Candy Crush Saga. If you’ve enjoyed that game, and especially if you’re currently stuck on a level (I’m looking at you, number 29), you might want to consider a similar game called Fraxinus.
In the UK, the ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior, hence the game name) has been infected by a fungus called Chalara, which in turn causes a disease called “ash dieback.” Scientists want to figure out why the ash tree is so susceptible to Chalara, and why some trees are able to resist it. The game uses real genetic data represented by coloured patterns that you manipulate to help give scientists data on how the disease works at the genetic level. It involves matching and rearranging patterns of leaf shapes which represent nucleotides.
The game isn’t as mindless as Candy Crush, and adds a nifty competitive component. As you create a pattern, you create a score, and the better your match, the higher your score. Closely matched sequences earn high scores and allow players to “claim” patterns. If another player uses the same pattern to achieve a higher score, they can “steal” the pattern and claim it. Each so-called theft helps make the data more accurate; top scorers will have their names included in public databases and publications.
What’s at stake? If researchers don’t figure out ash dieback, they predict that 90-95% of ash trees in the UK could die; and of course, diseases rarely stay confined to individual countries any more. Many creatures depend on the ash, including the lesser stag beetle, owls and woodpeckers (for nests), and bullfinch (eats ash seeds). Ash woodlands support flowers like dogs mercury, bluebells and ramsons, and butterflies like the high brown fritillary, the dingy skipper, and the grayling.
Ready to play? You can go to http://apps.facebook.com/fraxinusgame/ right now and get started, and in true Facebook fashion, don’t forget to invite all of your friends to play. You can read more about the ash dieback problem here.
In 1965, Gordon E. Moore (who one year later would found the company known to the world as Intel), observed that every 18 months, a significant increase in the computational power of machines takes place. Today, Moore’s Law has become a touchstone in the computer information industry. However, it now raises questions about the challenges that we will soon face in obtaining more computational power.
Some researchers have already started looking into harnessing the power of quantum physics in order to address this challenge. A small team of quantum physics researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark have taken this one step further: they have built a game through which everyone can get involved with doing front-line research. The goal is to help build the first scalable quantum computer in the world.
The game is called Quantum Moves and it is the first project under the scienceathome.org umbrella. The idea of the game is quite simple: every time you play, your mouse movements simulate the laser beams used in a real quantum lab to move atoms onto the right pathways. Jacob Sherson, the lead researcher in the scienceathome.org project, tells you a bit more about this here.
The game is composed of several individual games grouped in labs. Researchers want to attract as many players to the QComp and Beat AI labs, which translate the most difficult quantum mechanics problems that confront them when building the quantum computer.
Precision and accuracy are key elements for obtaining high quality data that can be then transferred. Therefore, some of the Quantum Moves game missions are quite challenging as they have to be completed close to perfection in a very limited time. For each scientific challenge that players solve in each of these labs, the team will then run a computer optimization in order to “monitor your ability to find answers to the quantum challenges that we are confronting you with and compare them to the results yielded by computer optimization. We are interested in finding out not only whether the players can outperform the computers, but also how large a fraction of them can do it”, says Jacob Sherson.
So far the results are extremely promising: it looks like players are much better than the computer at finding the right answers in the shortest time, but further data is needed to support this hypothesis, he added. So, the entire research team encourages everyone to start playing!
AirCasting is designed to record, map, and share health and environmental data using a smartphone. There are several ways to participate. The easiest is to download the AirCasting app (Android), and send back data on sound levels as recorded by the microphone in your handset.
From there, you can crank it up a notch by building your own temperature, humidity, carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gas concentrations monitor. The plans for the Arduino-powered unit can be found at this link (PDF download).
You can also buy a Bluetooth heart monitor or a BioHarness to measure your heart rate and breathing, and match that data with the local air quality to give researchers data about how air quality affects our bodies. If you really want to go all out, you can also build your own luminescent apparel to make a fashion statement while you aircast.
So here’s a project that ought to be popular: the Kinsey Reporter.
Kinsey Reporter is a mobile app designed to report, visualize, and analyze anonymous data about sexual behavior. A joint project between the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction and the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research, the app hopes to record and describe people’s sexual experiences worldwide.
The Reporter wants you to be honest, and report your true feelings and actions, so that the study gets accurate data. The staff behind the project have also gone to great lengths to protect your identity; for example, even if you have GPS turned on in your cell phone, the app only gets your approximate location, and it doesn’t provide your name to the database. Your connection is also encrypted.
If you’re not sure about reporting, you can always have a peek at how the data is actually used and displayed, by reviewing the Explore tab on the site here.
Today, I have something for all of you citizen science academics; file this one under awesome resources.
The folks over at the Extreme Citizen Science blog have gone to the trouble of creating a public, annotated bibliography for citizen science research. According to Cindy Regelado and Diana Mastracci, “our bibliography includes a collection of articles from fields ranging from astronomy to ecology to particle physics covering topics on education, creativity, public engagement in science as well as tools and technologies, to name a few.”
In addition to browsing the bibliography and finding good papers, the creators are hoping you’ll contribute some of your research efforts as well. To find out how to contribute, check out this link.
If ever you’ve watched any natural history shows on TV, you’ve almost certainly heard the term plankton. But have you ever seen plankton? Do you know what they do?
“Plankton” actually refers to a group of creatures that float or drift in the the ocean. There are phytoplankton (plants) and zooplankton (animals). Small phytoplankton make up the start of the food chain: they are consumed by larger plankton, and then those plankton are eaten by larger organisms, and so on, all the way up to fish and whales. For example, phytoplankton are consumed by krill, which are in turn consumed by blue whales … in quantities of up to 3,600 kilograms of krill a day. Put simply, if there are no plankton, there’s no life in the ocean.
A new Zooniverse project, called Plankton Portal, wants to get a much better understanding of where (at what depths, and in what kinds of environments) various kinds of plankton live, and what species distribution looks like. To that end, the Portal wants you to classify what you see in images taken by the In Situ Ichthyoplankton Imaging System (ISIIS). That device contains not only cameras but sensors to measure depth, salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, light level, and chlorophyll levels.
After completing a tutorial, you’ll be put to work measuring and classifying images of these oddly-beautiful creatures. Don’t worry if you don’t know your copepod from your doliolid yet. Not only do the classification tools come with a field guide, other citizen scientists will be looking at the images you have as well, so that everyone’s work is double-checked. Have fun!