Cyber Citizen – New Citizen Science Apps for Your Phone

By December 7th, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Comment

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Here are several new citizen science apps to snazzy up your smartphone. These apps are products of Cyber Citizen, a National Science Foundation-funded research project at Michigan Tech. Cyber Citizen focuses on developing mobile and web-based tools to facilitate citizen participation in scientist-led environmental and social research projects, explains Dr. Robert Pastel assistant professor of computer science and co-leader of the project. These apps are developed by Michigan Tech computer science undergraduate students. So not only does the project encourage citizen science but it gives students a unique opportunity to “harness their skills to solve real-world scientific problems.”

Though it only started in 2011, Cyber Citizen already has four apps in or near completion, and there are several more in the pipeline. Ethnographer is an app enabling ethnographers researching the history of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to connect with Upper Peninsula residents. Citizens can use the app to join in on ongoing discussions on various topics or add to the project’s collection of historical accounts, personal interviews and photographs. Anyone interested is welcome to join.

Another app is called Beach Health Monitor. This app allows beach goers to collect data that helps determine whether beach conditions might pose a human health risk. Modeled after the EPA’s Virtual Beach software, the app collects information like bacteria concentrations and uploads to the data to the web where the information is publicly available.

The remaining apps Lichen AQ (air quality) and Mushroom Mapper focus on environmental data collection. Lichens are unique composite organisms especially sensitive to air pollution making them valuable biomarkers. Lichen AQ uses this trait to help land managers to monitor air pollution. Mushroom Mapper examines the various habitats of different mushroom species. This app is expected to be completed in the coming months.

Cyber Citizen is part of the National Science Foundation’s Cyberinfrastructure Training, Education, Advancement, and Mentoring for Our 21st Century Workforce (CI-TEAM) initiative. This initiative supports projects that integrate science and engineering research and educational activities which promote cyberinfrastructure systems. To learn more about Cyber Citizen or get their apps, visit their website.

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Dr. Carolyn Graybeal holds a PhD in neuroscience from Brown University. She is a former National Academies of Science Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow during which time she worked with the Marian Koshland Science Museum. In addition the intricacies of the human brain, she is interested in the influence of education and mass media in society’s understanding of science.

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