Author Archive

Engaging the public to tackle climate change

By April 20th, 2017 at 10:59 am | Comment

Public engagement is critical to address the challenges of climate change, a complex issue with environmental, social, political and economic ramifications. Common forms of public engagement include public events such as science festivals or café informal settings for experts to share their knowledge with the community. Or public policy forums where community members voice concerns to government representatives and other decision makers.

While useful, these approaches to public engagement maintain a separation between those with expertise and power and community members. This failure to tap into the knowledge and experience within the community is an unfortunate oversight. In reality, these so called ‘non-experts’ bring valuable insight with the potential to identify overlooked problems and generate novel and at times surprisingly simple solutions. Read the rest of this entry »

Coming to Consensus on Classifying Cyclones

By November 8th, 2016 at 8:48 pm | Comment

Cyclone. Image Credit: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclone#/media/File:Cyclone_Catarina_from_the_ISS_on_March_26_2004.JPG

Cyclone. Image Credit: Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclone#/media/File:Cyclone_Catarina_from_the_ISS_on_March_26_2004.JPG

For years,  weather-monitoring agencies around the globe have collected data to help determine whether and how tropical cyclones — called hurricanes in the US — change over time.

But another thing that changes over time is the technology used to record storm data. This, combined with changes in record keeping standards has created an inconsistent dataset that is difficult to analyze collectively. Climatologists are left with two options: limit their research to a subset of the data and risk of a less representative analysis, or reorganize the data into a consistent format, a time- consuming task.

Cyclone Center, a collaboration between academic, non-profit and government organizations, is enlisting citizen scientists to attempt the latter. Through its website, volunteers are helping Although image classification is a common task in crowdsourced projects across multiple science fields, Cyclone Center is the first project to tackle such a massive meteorological dataset.  Read the rest of this entry »

Citizen science pushes Hawai’i Department of Health to act on beach pollution

By October 7th, 2016 at 10:48 am | Comment

For the past seven years, citizen scientist volunteers with the Kaua’i chapter of the Surfrider Foundation Beach Watch Task Force have been testing the waters at 27 recreational sites along the Kaua’i coastline. This summer they achieved a victory when the Hawai’i Department of Health (HDOH) finally acknowledged the concerning levels of pollution in local streams and beaches. Read the rest of this entry »

Back To School With Citizen Science: A Conversation with Ben Graves

By September 14th, 2016 at 4:52 pm | Comment

In the next two posts, as part of our SciStarter in the Classroom collection, guest contributor Ben Graves will share his personal experiences and advice for using citizen science in the classroom. Graves is a fellow with the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, which supports a small cohort of early-career teachers across the United States with intensive professional development. He teaches AP Environmental Science and freshman environmental science at Delta High School, a rural school in western Colorado. Before moving to Colorado, Ben was deeply involved in environmental education and citizen science initiatives with youth in the national parks, including leading volunteer trail crews across Alaska and teaching inquiry-based science workshops for students and teachers at NatureBridge, an organization that provides environmental science programming in the national parks.

I spend lot of my summer outdoors—in my garden, running and biking in the mountains, learning new approaches to teaching outdoor and experiential science. As the end of the summer nears, I think about how to get my science students outside. Science doesn’t need to be contained inside a classroom, and I have found that citizen science projects are a great way to get students outdoors and keep them engaged throughout the school year.
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Enlisting youth citizen scientists to combat Zika

By September 1st, 2016 at 10:49 am | Comment

Going out of your way to attract mosquitoes seems like the last thing anyone would want to do, but that is exactly what the national Invasive Mosquito Project is hoping volunteers will do in the name of public health.

Managed through the United States Department of Agriculture, the Invasive Mosquito Project aims to track the spread of invasive container-breeding mosquitoes – those whose females lay eggs in the standing water that collects in containers such as vases, rain barrels, and even pool or boat covers. The introduction of many non-native species often coincides with the introduction of new pathogens, and mosquitoes are notorious for playing host to a number of these, including the viruses responsible for West Nile, dengue and most recently in the news, Zika.

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