Author Archive

Look down, look all around during the total solar eclipse

By August 7th, 2017 at 5:25 pm | Comment

Solar eclipse. Credit: Luc Viatour (CC-BY-SA)

On August 21st, millions of people across the U.S. will have the opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse. But we won’t be the only ones taking notice—there is a good chance animals, and even some plants, will be affected by the event, too.

It is not as farfetched as you might think. Many animals and plants respond to daily changes in light and temperature. Birds sing at dawn while fireflies come out at twilight.  Flowers like morning glories and poppies open in the morning and close at night; others, like the bat-pollinated night-blooming cereus, open their flowers and release their fragrance well after the sun has gone down. When sunlight dims and temperatures cool during this month’s eclipse, the change might be significant enough to affect these and other organisms. Read the rest of this entry »

SciStarter’s founder appointed to NAS committee on Citizen Science

By July 11th, 2017 at 12:04 am | Comment

Written by Adam Gabriele, Arizona State University. Originally published on ASUNow.

There’s an exciting change under way in the scientific community. Citizens with an avid interest in science are getting the chance to contribute to real research through data collection and analysis in collaboration with professional scientists.

Darlene Cavalier and Kiki Jenkins

Darlene Cavalier (left) and Kiki Jenkins

These “citizen scientists” — tinkerers and enthusiasts of all stripes — are being given the tools and platforms to turn their interests into real research, perhaps minimizing or even bringing to an end the stark division between academia and society.Darlene Cavalier and Kiki Jenkins, professors from the School for the Future of Innovation in Society.Download Full Image

In 2016, ASU hosted the Citizen Science Maker Summit, organized by Darlene Cavalier, professor of practice with ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society (SFIS).

Diving in and developing creative solutions is a characteristic that “mirrors that of the millions of citizen scientists around the world who are contributing to our understanding of the world and how we can solve today’s problems,” Cavalier said.

ASU isn’t the only institution that’s caught on to the increasing relevance of citizen science.

The National Academy of Sciences has formed the Committee on Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning to identify and describe existing citizen science projects that support science learning in both formal and informal settings. The committee will develop a set of evidence-based principles to guide the design of citizen science.

Cavalier, founder of SciStarter — an online platform for identifying, supporting, and participating in citizen science opportunities, was invited to be a member of the committee.

“I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to work with the committee to address an important gap in citizen science literature:  understanding how to design citizen science so it can better support deeper forms of science learning,” she said.

The committee plans to evaluate the potential of citizen science to support science learning, lay out a research agenda to improve that potential, and identify promising practices and programs.

Cavalier is also the co-founder of the Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST) network, co-editor of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science, and a member of the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology.

Lekelia “Kiki” Jenkins, assistant professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, has also been named a founding member of the committee.

Jenkins is an award-winning marine conservation scientist who has published extensively on adult science learning in fishery learning exchanges. She is a Ford Foundation Fellow, a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow, and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow.

“I’m honored to be selected to serve on the National Academies of Science Committee on Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning,” Jenkins said. “Serving on an NAS committee helps fulfil one of my career aspirations.”

Jenkins has already begun to implement a process for creating a consensus definition of citizen science, which, she said, “is a critical first step in the committee’s work.”


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

Cyclone. Image Credit: Wikipedia

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 »