Tag Archives: Zooniverse

How to Become an Archeologist

"20091105 Belfort (0013)" by Donar Reiskoffer - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“20091105 Belfort (0013)” by Donar Reiskoffer – via Wikimedia Commons

Even before the Indiana Jones movies came out, archeology had broad popular appeal. The tools of the trade seemed simple, and the possibilities it held out (Maybe I’ll find a fortune in treasure! Maybe I will make a famous discovery!) were seductive. Add to the mix the allure of exotic destinations, and you have a hard-to-resist package. I am sure that archeology departments worldwide were inundated with calls from Jones wannabes after that first movie hit the silver screen.

Of course, in this now Internet-connected day and age, we (should) know that the reality is a lot different. Genuine archeology involves a lot of slow, painstaking work, and it is far more likely to yield potsherds than it is gold and gems. That said, archeology remains fascinating because it involves the discovery and telling of our favourite story: our own.

So, if you’ve always been interested in archeology, there are several ways you can get involved, even if you haven’t yet been formally trained.

Learn about archeology

A site called Archeology Expert is a great place to start. A good, concise, all-around resource on the field, it explains the history and types of archeology, and has a section on theory and terminology. There is even has a section on how to get into archeology as a hobby.

Meanwhile, Coursera is offering a MOOC on archeology called Archaeology’s Dirty Little Secrets, which talks about the field, what’s involved, and dispels some myths. And this portal lists a number of other free archeology courses, some broad, some very specific.

If you really want to get serious about your archeology education, there are a number of accredited distance learning options available. The Council for British Archeology lists several options here.

Believe it or not, there are actually quite a few popular magazines solely devoted to archeology. There’s Archeology Magazine, World Archeology, Popular Archeology, British Archeology, and even one for kids called Dig Magazine.

In the US, there’s an organization called the American Society for Amateur Archeologists, which offers a journal in which you could be published, occasional expeditions for fieldwork, and several books of interest laymen scholars. You can even get amateur certification via a National Park Service program.

Go on an archeology dig

Once you’ve worked your way through the material above, it might be time to participate in real expeditions as a volunteer.  For example, the Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities Bulletin (AFOB)  is one of the largest fieldwork resources in the world, and has hundreds of listings for archaeological projects.

Of course, amateur archeology is not for the faint of heart or the arachnophobe, as digging often means disturbing large and possibly venomous creatures, as this post suggests. If you would prefer to contribute to the field without getting bitten or dirty, you might consider some of the history related Zooniverse projects like Ancient Lives.



Plankton: A Critical Link in the Food Chain

A copepod (Calanoida sp.) from Antarctica ca. ...

A copepod from Antarctica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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!


Museum Records

bug of the day

A wealth of information (Photo credit: urtica)

Have you ever been through a museum and caught a glimpse into a back room? One that looked tantalizingly full of interesting records and objects not yet out on display? Well, the folks at Zooniverse are offering you the chance to have a closer look at some of these things.

Notes from Nature is a brand new project that has digitized thousands of specimen images, labels and ledgers from museum collections and biologists. These collections document where species and populations exist now and where they existed before, so they are key to uncovering the patterns of changes over time. Scientists use such data to address key environmental issues, such as the impacts of climate change.

Right now, there are two collections available to transcribe. The SERNEC collection is made of herbarium specimens: flowers and plants pressed onto sheets along with descriptive labels. The Calbug collection is made of pinned insect specimens drawn from eight California institutions. There will soon be an ornithological (birds) collection from the Natural History Museum.

To participate, you simply need to sign up or login with your Zooinverse login at the site, pick a collection, and start transcribing what you see on the screen. In this project, you can also earn badges for your transcription efforts, as a record of your contribution.