It’s Time for Winter Solstice and Lights!

By Lea Shell December 24th, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Comment

 

 

By United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Strang - This Image was released by the United States Air Force with the ID 050118-F-3488S-003 Auroroa Borealis over
USAF SrA Joshua Stran

We are finally at the tipping point, the daylight is getting a little longer with each waning night. We have a chance to look upwards and savor the night sky and tell scientists what we can see of it. For more ideas, be sure to check out the 12 Days of Christmas with Citizen Science!

Take a step outside to join others around the world with these citizen science projects!

Cheers!
The SciStarter Team

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Time to Shift our Gaze Skyward

By Jenny Cutraro December 21st, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Comment

I noticed the season’s first juncos hopping in my yard a few short weeks ago – an event I look forward to every year because I know their arrival here in New England means winter is on its way. And by “winter,” I mean, specifically, winter solstice – the longest night of the year, the end of six months during which the sun sets earlier and earlier every day. Like people of many cultures around the world, I celebrate the first day of winter because it marks the time when we reclaim our daylight, minute by minute, as we march towards warmer days of spring. Read the rest of this entry »

12 days of Christmas with Citizen Science!

By Darlene Cavalier December 19th, 2017 at 5:12 pm | Comment

Tis the season for citizen science!

Courtesy of John Ohab

(Originally published 12/16)

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 Forest Restoration Alliance 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! 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, CoCoRaHS gave to me:

Ten million snowflakes! Measure them and share your precipitation data with the National Weather Service through CoCoRaHS!

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.

Happy holidays from the SciStarter team!

Categories: Citizen Science

Empowering the community to monitor water quality in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria

By Editorial Team December 15th, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Comment

In a recent Washington Post opinion piece, actor and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda called on Congress to bring lasting relief and recovery to Puerto Rico where thousands remain without electricity or access to clean water nearly three months after Hurricane Maria made landfall.

In the interim, the Rincón chapter of the Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force (BWTF) has stepped up its efforts to help communities undertake their own water quality testing and identify places where water may still be unsafe for recreation or household use.

In the post below, republished with their permission, read up on the BWTF response to the water crisis in Puerto Rico, the partners that have helped them along the way, and how you, too can help.

SciStarter editorial team


Surfrider volunteer Steve Tamar pulls a water sample from a creek that flows through Rincon, PR. Photo Credit: Ben Covan

In Puerto Rico, the failure of the government to provide adequate water quality information to severely impacted communities since Hurricane Maria pummeled the island in September has been a rallying call-to-action for the Rincón Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation Blue Water Task Force (BWTF). Although the Surfrider volunteers are experiencing the same difficult conditions that the rest of the island are exposed to -no electricity, limited phone & internet connections, transportation & drinking water challenges- by banding together with other local groups they’ve been able to restart their water testing program, empowering members of the local community to generate their own information on the safety of recreational waters and sources of drinking water.

The Chapter would not be able to accomplish this task without the cooperation and assistance they’ve been receiving from the Rincón Beer Company Maria Relief Center and the Costa Salud Health Center.  The chapter is currently receiving package deliveries and shipments at the RBC Maria Relief Center as their office was severely damaged by the storm. Water test results are posted on the Center’s community message board and chapter BWTF lead, Steve Tamar frequently stops by to recruit volunteers willing to help out with the testing. The Costa Salud Health Center is providing lab space with the necessary access to dependable electricity which is necessary for running the lab equipment.

Rincón’s BWTF beach water testing program has been back on its normal weekly sampling schedule since the end of October, and just last week their secondary lab in Aquadilla has started processing samples again too.  With the support and direction of CariCOOS, a University of Puerto Rico graduate student Geraldine Gomez Matias has also just started sampling several new sites at Cabo Rojo, Boqueron and Buyé beaches as well as her research project in Guánica at Playa Santa.  With the addition of these beaches, the Rincón BWTF is now basically covering the entire western coast of Puerto Rico while the government-funded beach program run by the Junta de Calidad Ambiental remains inoperational.

Thus far the Chapter has detected high bacteria counts at the beach near outlets from rivers and streams – both continued sewage infrastructure failures and stormwater runoff seem to be at fault.  Surfrider volunteers are also identifying broken sewer lines and reporting them to the local AAA water authority when problems are discovered while out sampling. See map of beach sampling locations and results here.

The Chapter has also expanded its water testing efforts to monitor freshwater sources throughout the community –  the local springs, wells, and quebradas that people have been forced to use for household water when the electricity and power were cutoff during the storm.  They are testing for E. coli and total coliform bacteria using EPA approved technology in sites located close to town and have been developing protocols to bring more basic tests that don’t require a lab facility with electricity to the more rural communities inland.  Preliminary results indicate that many of the springs that people have been using for household water are not safe.

It is hoped that by allowing the community to conduct their own basic water quality testing themselves, this will build community awareness of health issues from exposure to polluted water and will also help inform efforts to site and install the appropriate water filtering systems (also being tested by Rincón’s BWTF) in areas that do not have secure access to clean potable water during emergencies and power failures. The chapter is piloting their remote water testing project with the local high school in Maricao, and is expanding into other remote communities as they are able to.

Given post-hurricane conditions, logistics and communication for Rincón’s BWTF are a real problem.  Water tests results are posted online and shared on the chapter’s Facebook page as internet is available, but posting on community bulletin boards, broadcasting on AM radio, local podcasts and good old fashioned word of mouth have been ever more successful in getting the word out into the community, and the chapter is constantly receiving requests to test different community sources of water.

Surfrider volunteer collects a water sample from a freshwater source used for drinking water by the local community in Aguadilla hills in NW Puerto Rico. Photo Credit: Steve Tamar

Spreading information through live radio broadcast!

For instance, chapter volunteers Alexis Henriquez and Steve Tamar were recently escorted by Captain Wilfredo Morales and agent José Caraballo of the state police to several springs in the Aguadilla hills community, which were being used by hundreds (in some places, up to a thousand) people daily after Hurricane Maria hit.  The state police staff and their families, were also using this source of drinking water, so Captain Morales was concerned not only for public health in general but for the safety of his officers and relatives!  Two of the sites they sampled with the state police tested relatively clean, but two others showed extremely high levels of fecal bacteria.  This is the type of information the community needs in order to know which water to avoid to keep from getting sick and where filters should be installed, and the Chapter is asking for information from people to know where they are getting their drinking water from so it can be analyzed.

Surfrider’s grassroots network of chapter volunteers has a long history of identifying threats to clean water and successfully advocating for local authorities to acknowledge those threats and taking action to solve water pollution problems. There are many examples throughout the Blue Water Task Force program of chapters testing beaches that are not covered by local beach programs, convincing authorities to post warning signs when contaminated water threatens public health, and bringing together diverse stakeholders to find and fix sources of beach and water pollution.

The effort underway in Rincón raises the bar completely for a small group of volunteers taking charge to protect public health and clean water, and their effort has not gone unnoticed throughout the network as chapters from NY to Hawaii who know how expensive it can be to run water testing programs, have helped fundraise to support this program.  Thank you to our amazing volunteers and leaders throughout Surfrider’s network.

In the often quoted words of Margaret Mead – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


Mara Dias is the Water Quality Manager of the  Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force.

Want more citizen science? Check out SciStarter’s Project Finder! With 1100+ citizen science projects spanning every field of research, task and age group, there’s something for everyone!

“The Ultimate SciStarter How-To” (recorded webinar from the Citizen Science Association)

By Darlene Cavalier December 11th, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Comment

SciStarter (see SciStarter.com) helps people discover opportunities to engage in scientific research through a searchable database of more than 2200 projects and events shared with PBS, Discover, the National Science Teachers Association, libraries, museums, and more. Participants can find, bookmark, join, and track their contributions to projects through SciStarter. Project leaders can register their projects/events/tools on SciStarter and tap into free promotional and recruiting services while learning more about the interests and behaviors of their participants. Researchers can access dynamic data about the landscape of projects (topics, audiences, and goals, for example), or work with SciStarter to dive deeper into analytics.

If you are a project leader, this webinar will help you learn how to:
1) easily add your project, event, or tool and, 2) integrate new, NSF-supported embeddable tools to recruit, retain, and learn more about the behaviors of participants.

If you are a researcher, this webinar will help you learn how to:
1) quickly access dynamic data about projects (% with classroom materials; % of online projects, and more), and 2) work with SciStarter to access deeper analytics.

If you represent a STEM resource provider, University, or K-12 institution, this webinar will help you learn how to:
1) embed a plug-in version of the SciStarter database on your own website; 2) pilot our subscription-based, curated, facilitated citizen science experience.