Tag Archives: Zooniverse

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.

Explore the planet Mars

Cool Toys Pic of the Day - Planet Four

Planet Four (Photo credit: rosefirerising)

The folks at Zooniverse have another great project on the go, this time focusing on Mars.

At Planet Four, scientists would like you to identify and measure features on the surface of Mars by examining images taken of the southern polar region. In particular, you’re being asked to look for “fans” and “blotches” on the Martian surface.

The current thinking is that fans and blotches indicate wind direction and speed. By tracking them over the course of several years, planetary scientists can get a clearer understanding of the Martian climate. The aggregated data from the image analysis will provide the first large scale measurement of wind on the fourth planet from the sun.

For a detailed explanation of how fans and blotches are formed, check out the About page here. To sign up and start (virtually) cruising Mars, use the sign up link in the upper right corner of the Planet Four site, or use your existing Zooniverse login.

Other Zooniverse projects featured here on Citizen Science Center include Solar Stormwatch and Old Weather.