You can do science too! Learn how you can make a difference by doing real science to help solve our planet's most pressing problems.

Channel Your Inner Goodall

Photo Credit: Thomas Lersch via Wikimedia Commons

Project: Chimp & See

Like many of you, my earliest memories of “science” in the classroom center on the films we saw about the life and work of Dame Jane Goodall, the English primatologist, anthropologist, and ethologist, whose 55-year study of Gombe chimpanzees has been groundbreaking on countless fronts.

So it’s with great pleasure today that I write a citizen science post on her favorite subject. Chimp & See is a project that allows you to study chimps in their natural habitat… from the comfort of your living room. A team of researchers has collected 7000 hours of footage from camera traps in 15 countries throughout Africa. They want you to watch these videos and tell them what you see.

“By scanning the videos from these traps and identifying the types of species and activity that you see, you’ll help us to understand the lives of these apes—their behaviors, relationships, and environments—and to extrapolate new ideas about human origins.”

The project is part of the Zooniverse group, and thus has their usual expert touch: a great user interface, very clear tutorials, and a method to save your progress. If you already have a Zooniverse login, you can dive right in. If not, you can register once and also access the wide range of projects Zooniverse has in other areas. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the background to the chimpanzee study.


Don’t Just Talk About The Weather… Document It.

Photo credit: Public domain image via Wikipedia Commons.

Project: iSeeChange: The Almanac

For decades, anyone who relies on the weather for a living has depended on almanacs, those annual calendars with weather statistics and tables, to roughly predict the current weather. But with climate change making patterns harder and harder to suss, a new project called iSeeChange wants you to help document what’s going on to create a living almanac.

Started by Julia Kumari Drapkin at the Colorado public station KVNF, the project is going nation wide, and is designed to combine citizen science, public media, and satellite and sensor monitoring of environmental conditions. Specifically, the project is joining forces with the NASA mission Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2, to provide “ground truth” or ground-level observations in conjunction with satellite measurements of CO2 levels.

“Combining these two perspectives—a global view of the earth from space and a granular view from individuals on the ground—offers an unprecedented opportunity to match big science with daily life, and surface hidden patterns and stories.”

To participate, you simply need to create a login for the site, and post what you have noticed going on in your area. This might be an observation about the arrival of the first dandelions being very early, or the fact that you have noticed several bird species overwintering that never have before. You could also write about what’s thriving or not in your garden, how the local frog and toad population seems to be faring, and so on.

The site has a trailer on the Get Involved page that helps to illustrate the project’s purpose. For more information, you can also contact Julia at [email protected].




Have You Got Your Finger On The Pulse?

Photo Credit: Constant314 via Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: Constant314 via Wikimedia Commons

Project: Place Pulse

We are frequently admonished not to judge a book by its cover; with Place Pulse, you’re free to judge a city by its street views.

Place Pulse, a project from the MIT Media Lab, wants to learn more about how people perceive their cities. According to principal investigator César Hildago, “Cities are not just collections of demographics, but places that people experience. Urban environments are known to elicit strong evaluative responses, and there is evidence and theories suggesting that these responses may affect criminal and health behaviors. Yet, we lack good quantitative data on the responses elicited by urban environments.”

“Place Pulse is an effort to help collect quantitative data of urban perception to help advance these research efforts and open new avenues of research.”

To participate, you can simply go to the website and answer some “hot or not” style questions. You’ll be presented with two images and asked to chose between them, based on questions like “Which looks safer?” or “Which looks livelier?” So far more than 1.2 million opinions have been rendered.

“With enough user participation,” suggests the website, “Place Pulse can identify which neighborhoods in Bangkok are perceived better than neighborhoods in New York City or to examine how the distribution of a certain perception in Mexico City compares with that same perception in Tokyo.”


Data Rescue


Photo Credit: Niklas Bildhauer via Wikiamedia Commons
Photo Credit: Niklas Bildhauer via Wikiamedia Commons

Project: Data Rescue @ Home

Pity the poor, unloved bit of historical data: Unloved, unanalysed, and *gasp* analog, instead of digital. Brother, can you spare some time?

The Data Rescue @ Home project would like your help in digitizing historical weather data, to help researchers better understand climate change. The project is currently working with two historical data sources: German radiosonde data from the Second World War and meteorological station data from Tulagi (Solomon Islands) from the first half of the 20th century.

The WWII data includes measurements from Germany, France, Danmark, Italy, Poland, Austria and Estonia. Geodynamic height, temperature and relative humidity were recorded from 1000 hPa to 50 hPa.

The Tulagi data measurements include air pressure, dry and wet bulb temperature, maximum and minimum temperature, humidity, wind direction and speed, cloud cover, weather, and precipitation amount.

According to the website, “The old data are expected to be very useful for different international research and reanalysis projects (e.g. the Twentieth Century Reanalysis, new surface temperature datasets), and the prolongation of the currently available observational series into the past is of crucial importance for our understanding of the climate system.”

The project is a joint effort between the University of Bern and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

To participate, simply use the registration link at the top of the project’s website, and start digitizing/transcribing the data presented. You’ll be doing valuable work to help us deal with one of the most urgent problems of the 21st century.