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Win a 25 million year old fossil at USA SciFest!

By April 24th, 2014 at 9:09 pm | Comment


Non-profit citizen science organization Paleo Quest is very excited to partner with SciStarter at the USA Science and Engineering Festival (Hall DE, Booth Number 5337). Paleo Quest researcher John Nance will share marine fossils that are up to 25 million years old with attendees. Each fossil that will be on display was collected by the non-profit’s founders Aaron Alford and Jason Osborne while scuba diving in murky swamp rivers with swift currents and black water conditions along the coast of the Chesapeake Bay. Show John how excited you are about science and our prehistoric past by asking as many questions as you can, and you may walk away with your very own fossil to add to your personal collection.


Paleo Quest will also be at the Scientific American booth where attendees can participate in our citizen science program SharkFinder. Use Zeiss microscopes to search for microfossils in 19-million-year-old marine deposits and see if you can discover a first occurrence of a species or even a new species all together. SharkFinder was recognized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy last year as one of the top citizen science programs in the country.

Paleo Quest fulfills its mandate through exploration and scientific collaboration, by discovering and recovering fossil specimens, including underwater (scuba) excavations, advancing the understanding of stratigraphy, and by donating materials of scientific significance to museums and universities. The organization donates fossils and fossil-bearing matrix as educational materials to elementary through college level institutions that go to support their science curriculum. This in turn promotes literacy in the earth and paleontological sciences at all academic levels, and collaborative publications of notable findings for the broader research community at a professional level.

Top 13 Citizen Science Projects of 2013

By January 1st, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Comments (2)

2013 was another big year for citizen science. Each year at SciStarter, we analyze our glorious website metrics to identify the most popular projects of the year. Below, I’ve listed the year’s 13 most visited projects in our Project Finder, a growing collection of more than 600 new and existing citizen science opportunities.

Happy New Year, and keep experimenting!

eyewire EyeWire: Map the Retinal Connectome
Scientists need your help mapping the neural connections of the retina, and all they’re asking is for participants to play a fun game of coloring brain images. EyeWire is a great way to learn about the brain and help scientist understand how the nervous system works.


cicada Cicada Tracker
WNYC Radio invited families, armchair scientists, and lovers of nature to help track the cicadas that emerge once every 17 years across New Jersey, New York and the whole Northeast by building homemade sensors and reporting your observations. Participants helped predict the arrival by planting a homemade temperature sensor in the ground and reporting findings back to to WNYC. Observations were put on a map and shared with the entire community.

digitalfishersDigital Fishers
Do you love the ocean but not the sunburns, parking, or other unpleasant aspects that come with the territory? Here’s a project that puts you in touch with the ocean and saves you the extra costs in suntan lotion. Anyone can assist by watching 15-second videos from the comfort of a home computer and clicking on simple responses.

merccuriProject MERCCURI
Project MERCCURI is an investigation of how microbes found in buildings on Earth (in public buildings, stadiums, etc) compare to those on board the biggest building ever built in space – the International Space Station (ISS). Participants collected microbes from stadiums, cell phones and shoes, and those samples were mailed to the University of California Davis to be sequenced and analyzed. Results will be shared on SciStarter so you can compare your samples to those from other locations, including the ISS!

Panamath is a free-standing software that can be used to assess number sense – your intuitive recognition of numbers and their relationship. Test your own number sense, or download this software and adapt it for your own research or educational purposes.


dark-sky-meterDark Sky Meter
The Dark Sky Meter (available for iPhones) allows citizen scientists to contribute to a global map of nighttime light pollution. Light pollution is a growing problem in urban environments, but now you can help scientists better understand its effects on the environment. By utilizing the camera built in to your iPhone, the Dark Sky Meter actually measures ‘skyglow’ and updates the data in real time.

laughterThe Laughter Project
The Royal Society put together a playlist of different laughs and asked people to determine if those laughs were real and fake. The results, which will be posted on the project blog soon, will help researchers at the University College of London learn how people react to different sounds. THIS science will make you LOL!

dogPlay with Your Dog
Help researchers better understand relationship between dogs and owners! The Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab in NYC is investigating the different ways people and dogs play together, and they need your help by submitting short videos of you playing with your dog. By participating in Project: Play with Your Dog, citizen scientists are providing valuable information into the nuances and intricacies of our relationships with dogs.

citizensortCitizen Sort
Citizen Sort is a collection of interactive games in which players sort and classify photos of unidentified animals. The project is the brain child of researchers at Syracuse University School of Information. The goal is to enable scientists to use pictures of wildlife from the web to help them study changes in species populations, the health of an ecosystem or the effects of urbanization.

pitchPerfect Pitch Test
Do you think you have absolute pitch? It so, try out the project Perfect Pitch. This project, conducted through the University of Toronto, examines if the timbre or source of a sound affects how accurately we identify that pitch.


iseechangeiSeeChange: The Almanac
The iSeeChange Almanac is a socially networked weather Almanac for communities to collectively journal their climate experiences — their observations, feelings, questions, and decisions — against near-real time climate information.


hummingbirdHummingbirds @ Home
The Audubon Society needs citizen scientists to track, report on, and follow the spring hummingbird migration in real time. A free mobile app makes it easy to report sightings, share photos and learn more about these remarkable birds.


EteRNA is a revolutionary new game scored by nature. You design RNA molecules, and we synthesize top designs and score them based on experimental results!

Categories: Citizen Science

12 Days of Christmas-y Citizen Science

By December 12th, 2013 at 10:56 am | Comment

Tis the season for citizen science!

Make sure you’re on Santa’s “nice list” this year. Lend your hands, hearts and brains to science during these 12 days leading up to Christmas!

On the 1st day of Christmas, the Alliance for Saving Threatened Forests gave to me:

A chance to monitor the invasive insects that attack both hemlocks and Fraser firs (the most popular Christmas Tree in North America).

On the 2nd day of Christmas, Audubon gave to me:

Two turtle doves that I spotted during the Christmas Bird Count, which takes place December 14 through January 5 each year! The count is the world’s longest running citizen science project.

On the 3rd day of Christmas, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center gave to me:

Three Chinese mitten hens (female crabs) on the east coast of the United States. Mitten Crab Watch needs our help to determine the current distribution status of the mitten crab in the region.

On the 4th day of Christmas, Audubon gave to me:

Four or more calling birds that I “adopted” for the holidays. Through December 31st, anyone can adopt a bird for someone special, and Audubon will send them a personalized holiday card showcasing the adoption and an Audubon gift membership.

On the 5th day of Christmas, geographers at Wilfrid Laurier University gave to me:

Five frozen skating rinks! This winter, you can track climate change through backyard skating rinks by taking part in Rink Watch. Just put in the location of your backyard rink on a map and record days you can skate.

On the 6th of Christmas, Seattle Audubon Society gave to me:

A chance to help seabird researchers create a snapshot of geese density on more than three square miles of near-shore saltwater habitat.

On the 7th day of Christmas, the Swan Society of the University of Melbourne gave to me: 

The MySwan project to report sightings of tagged black swans around the world. After you submit your sighting, you’ll get an instant report about the swan, with interesting information about its history and recent movements.

On the 8th day of Christmas, Zooniverse gave to me:

The Milky Way Project, a chance to help scientists study our galaxy, as well as the Milky Way advent calendar and even Milky Way tree ornaments!

On the 9th day of Christmas, the European Space Agency gave to me:

Citizen scientists doing our favorite dance: the robot! By flying a Parrot AR drone in virtual space, you can help create new robotic capabilities for space probes and contribute to future space exploration.

On the 10th day of Christmas, Computer Science Education Week gave to me:

Ten million students leaping into the world of computer programming. During the week of Dec. 9-15, students will take part in the Hour of Code. But it doesn’t stop there – tutorials are available all year round!

On the 11th day of Christmas, the University of Washington gave to me:

SingAboutScience, a searchable database where you can find content-rich songs on specific scientific and mathematical topics. These singers sure have some pipes!

On the 12th day of Christmas, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation gave to me:

The Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey to help hunters survey the population of ruffed grouse during breeding season.

If you’re fortunate to experience a white Christmas, consider sending your snow depth measurements to cryosphere researchers at the University of Waterloo’s Snow Tweets project. They want to use your real-time measurements to help calibrate the accuracy of satellite instruments currently measuring snow precipitation.

Happy holidays from the SciStarter team!

Final Four citizen science projects!

By April 5th, 2013 at 9:17 am | Comments (2)

This post originally appeared on the PLOS Blog Network.
We’re down to the Final Four in this year’s NCAA tournament, and chances are your bracket isn’t looking too good. Welcome to the club. Worry not! We’ve got four citizen science projects that will help you make the most of Final Four weekend.


Roadkill Survey

If your team gets pummeled this weekend, you’ll make a great Roadkill Observer or Splatter Spotter. Roadkill Survey for Road Bikers need your help to find out where wildlife live and how they move in relation to roads. Project Splatter collects UK wildlife road casualty data via Twitter and Facebook. Both projects hope to identify roadkill ‘hotspots’ for future mitigation projects and help preserve wildlife.


Cicada Tracker

You’re in the perfect spot to help track the cicadas that emerge once every 17 years across New Jersey, New York and the whole Northeast by planting a homemade temperature sensor in the ground and reporting your findings. Your observations will be put on a map and shared with the entire community. Everyone’s a winner…unless your team loses, of course.



If you’re too exhausted after the game to harvest wheat in nearby fields, you can still help plants by participating in Clumpy. Simply classify plant cell images by their “clumpiness”, and you can provide researchers with new insights into the progression of bacterial infection in plant cells.


Project Nighthawk

If your team doesn’t live up to the hype, you can always hide your shame in New Hampshire and help scientists study a bird of a different feather. The Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory is coordinating volunteer nighthawk surveys on warm evenings in Keene. Submit your observations of booming, peenting, or nighthawks diving.

And for fans of teams that didn’t make it this far…

Planet Four

Check out Planet Four, a citizen science project in which volunteers help planetary scientists identify and measure features on the surface of Mars. By tracking ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ on the Martian surface, you can help planetary scientists better understand Mars’ climate.

Sixteen sweet citizen science projects

By March 29th, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Comment

March may be ending, but March Madness is still in the air! Here are sixteen sweet projects in honor of the Sweet Sixteen:

Cicada Tracker

Families, armchair scientists and lovers of nature are invited to join in a bit of mass science: track the cicadas that emerge once every 17 years across New Jersey, New York and the whole Northeast by building homemade sensors and reporting your observations.

Spectral Challenge

The Spectral Challenge is a call to makers, hackers, and Do-It-Yourselfers worldwide to tackle real-world environmental problems with low-cost, open source spectrometry.

Project MERCCURI! Microbes in Space

Project MERCCURI is an investigation of how microbes found in buildings on Earth (in public buildings, stadiums, etc) compare to those on board the biggest building ever built in space – the International Space Station.

Air Casting

AirCasting is a platform for recording, mapping, and sharing health and environmental data using your smartphone.

Hummingbird @ Home

The Audubon Society needs citizen scientists to track, report on, and follow the spring hummingbird migration in real time. A free mobile app makes it easy to report sightings, share photos and learn more about these remarkable birds.

Precipitation Identification Near the Ground project (PING)

If you live in the area shown on the map, the Precipitation Identification Near the Ground project (PING) wants YOU to watch and report on precipitation type. PING is looking for young, old, and in-between volunteers to make observations—teachers, classes and families too!


Help researchers learn more about dogs (including your dog! by recording and sharing specific interactions with your dog. You’ll learn your dog’s cognitive style by playing fun, science-based games –- an experience that gives you the insight you need to make the most of your relationship with your best friend.


Where is your ice rink? Pin the location of your rink on a map, and then each winter record every day that you are able to skate on it. Scientists will gather up all the information from all the backyard rinks, and use it to track the changes in our climate.

DIY BioPrinter

Did you know you can print live cells from an inkjet printer? Come join the ongoing BioPrinter community project! Whether it’s hardware hacking. programming, Arduinos, microfluidics, synthetic biology, plant biology, cell culturing, tissue engineering – everyone has something to learn, or something to teach.


Marblar is unique and fun way to engage in citizen science and exchange ideas across disciplines. Marblar posts dormant technologies in need of creative, real-world applications and then asks you to come up with those applications.

Where is My Spider?

By just taking photos and observing spiders, you can help the Explorit Science Center learn about which climates certain spiders live in and track the distribution of spiders over time.

Vital Signs Maine

Where are the invasive species in Maine? Where aren’t they? Students, educators, citizens, and scientists are working together to find out.

Hedgehog Hibernation Survey

Help collect hedgehog records from 1st February until 31st August 2013. Understanding patterns of hedgehog behaviour across the UK will enable scientists target the conservation strategy for this charming animal, which is currently in severe decline.

Tag a Tiny

Help the Large Pelagics Research Center improve scientific understanding of large pelagic species by catching, measuring and releasing juvenile bluefin with conventional “spaghetti”-ID tags.
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