Author Archive

Pluto, Planet Nine and Other Backyard Worlds

By February 15th, 2017 at 7:02 pm | Comment

By: Marc J. Kuchner

Eighty-seven years ago, this week, Clyde Tombaugh was poring over a pair of photographic plates, hoping to change the world.  He was staring hard into an arcane device called a blink comparator, which allowed him to rapidly switch from viewing one image to the next. In those days before computers, that was the best tool he had for finding the faint, moving dot he was seeking, a new planet in our solar system.

When Tombaugh discovered Pluto in those photographic plates on February 18, 1930, the news made headlines all around the globe. “In the little cluster of orbs which scampers across the sidereal abyss under the name of the solar system there are, be it known, nine instead of a mere eight, worlds,” said the New York Times. It was a victory for Tombaugh, and for astronomy. Read the rest of this entry »

Flight of the Living Dead

By February 9th, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Comment

By: Ayla Fudala

If you’ve ever seen bees flying around at night, there’s a good chance they’re so-called “ZomBees”—honey bees whose brains are under the control of tiny fly larvae growing inside their bodies.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Read the rest of this entry »

Help fight illegal fishing with Global Fishing Watch

By January 31st, 2017 at 5:10 pm | Comment

By Adam Reyer, Project Director for Global Fishing Watch

Hundreds of millions of people depend on the ocean for their livelihoods, and almost 3 billion rely on it as a protein source. But countless threats — overfishing, destructive fishing practices, bycatch, dishonest catch reporting, habitat destruction — threaten our oceans and the people who depend on them. It’s an economic problem, too:  illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a universal problem that accounts for 11-26 million tons of fish caught and $10-23 billion in global economic losses each year.

It seems overwhelming. But what if there was a tool that gave all people the power to become watchdogs of our oceans? How can technology help enforcement agencies to better monitor their territory at sea? How can we help identify illegal fishing and protect ocean habitats? Read the rest of this entry »

Superstition Area Land Trust Community Science

By January 30th, 2017 at 8:37 pm | Comment

Guest blog post from Charles Ault, Superstition Area Land Trust (SALT) community.

SALT Citizen Science program emerges in East Valley. Rhythms of Desert Citizen Science program examines the effects of El Niño on our climate.

Four organizations dedicated to advancing scientific research, public policy,  and community-based decision making, have come together to develop a program that harnesses the interests, enthusiasm and abilities of everyday people to assist in conducting important scientific work. The Superstition Area Land Trust (SALT), Apache Junction Public Library (Library) SciStarter, and Arizona State University’s Center for Engagement and Training in Science and Society (ASU) have collaborated to establish a program called Rhythms of the Desert Citizen Science. This exciting program is currently focused on assisting NASA in collecting and studying soil, cloud and rain data in order to determine the effects of El Niño on the local climate.

Several people from the area have signed up for the program since it was first announced in early December 2016. Some have already completed online training supplied by SciStarter and have begun to collect and share data. Others are in the process of training and will soon be heading out to establish sample sites and begin data collection.

The Apache Junction Library, SciStarter and Youth Learning as Citizen Environmental Scientists (YLACES) have made it easy for folks to participate by making scientific equipment kits available, free of charge, at the Library for check-out. SALT purchased an equipment kit to add to the 3 provided by SciStarter and YLACES to enable Citizen Scientists to get started sooner.

If you are a scientist or someone who was always had an interest in science but never had the opportunity to get involved, go to to sign-up. We will get back to you and get you on the road towards becoming a Citizen Scientist.,

How to Tell a Rock from a Penguin: It’s Harder Than It Sounds

By January 26th, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Comment

Adelie penguins. Credit: Jean Pennycook

By: Lishka Arata

Many things distinguish penguins from rocks. There’s color difference (usually), behavior (penguins waddle, rocks don’t), social structure (rocks don’t have one) — the list goes on. But why might someone need to distinguish between rocks and penguins?

It’s a skill central to a long-term project that relies on citizen scientists, working from the comfort of their homes, to identify penguins in photographs taken by remotely operated cameras in Antarctica. The project, focused on Adelie penguins, aims to determine how climate change affects living systems. Read the rest of this entry »