Archive for the ‘citizen’ tag

The Citizen Cyberscience Summit: Science for all, and all for science

By February 27th, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Comment

A synopsis of and key takeaways from the Citizen Cyberscience Summit 2014 in London


As some of you may already know, SciStarter presented at the Citizen Cyberscience Summit in London this past weekend (2/20 to 2/22). In a nutshell, the conference was a place where a multitude of organizations and groups could convene to discuss the most pertinent issues regarding citizen science today and for the future.

The first day revolved around listening–the schedule comprised of back-to-back 30-minute sessions focused on stories from practitioners about their experiences. For a session called “It Takes a Village: Engaging Participants Beyond Clickwork,” founder Darlene Cavalier spoke about SciStarter’s  Project MERCCURI, a citizen science research project in partnership with UC Davis, Science Cheerleader, Space Florida and NanoRacks to crowdsource the collection and study of  microbe samples to examine the diversity of microbes on Earth and on the International Space Station. Cavalier centered her discussion on Project MERCCURI to illustrate the benefits of working with partners to reach new communities. Project MERCCURI works with Pop Warner little scholars, Yuri’s Night, NFL, NBA and MLB teams and other nontraditional partners to activate collection activities and amplify results.

The second day was one of discussion, during which groups that attended held workshops or panels to gain insight on topics spanning policy, publishing, data gathering, sensor technology, mapping, and more. The diversity of these topics was a testament to the depth and breadth of citizen science itself.

On this day, a session called “Connecting Communities to Citizen Scientists” addressed some of the challenges experienced by citizen scientists participating in multiple projects across different platforms. This workshop, convened by Darlene Cavalier at SciStarter and Francois Grey at NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress, was made possible with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. During the discussion, we heard from project managers from Public Lab, Project Noah, iNaturalist, EyeWire, Zooniverse, and a representative from Mozilla about various models for managing projects and their progress. “There is a diverse ecosystem of citizen science projects on the Web,” says Cavalier. “We are working work with stakeholders to explore ways to improve the experience for participants who want to move between different projects running on different platforms, both in terms of identity management and tracking contributions to different citizen science initiatives. The idea is to rise the tide for all involved in citizen science.”

And finally, the third day was all about doing. This open “Hack Day” allowed groups and individuals to propose sessions based on problems that they’ve identified in the work that they do. Then, the entire day allowed attendees to cross-pollinate ideas, offer their expertise, and hopefully help contribute to the solution.


SciStarter’s Hack Day Challenge explored the idea of building a dashboard to help citizen scientists track and manage their projects. We invited anybody and everybody to our workspace (two wooden tables pushed together donned with laptops, post-its, butcher paper, candy, and SciStarter swag) to give us input. As a result, we heard from a plethora of stakeholders within the realm of citizen scientists–researchers, journalists, project managers, citizen scientists, educators, and more. We asked, how can we improve the experience for participants who want to move between different projects running on different platforms?

After a lot of conversations, a lot of scribbling, and, well, a lot of post-its, SciStarter was able to fine tune a plan for a dashboard that helps connect more people to projects and people to people, something that will truly guide us through the next year.

You can find the full program schedule and list of presenters here, and if you’re interested in looking up social media posts from the conference, follow the #CCS14 hashtag.

Have any questions for SciStarter about the conference? Do you have writing, programming, development, or organizational skills you’d like to contribute to our community effort? Please feel free to leave your comments below or e-mail us at We want to keep this conversation going!

Images: Courtesy of Jonathan Brier & Lily Bui

SciStarter at the Citizen Cyberscience Summit 2014!

By February 14th, 2014 at 11:41 pm | Comment


Science for all, and all for science.

SciStarter will be presenting at the Citizen Cyberscience Summit in London this upcoming week from February 20 to 22nd. There, a multitude of organizations and groups will convene to discuss the most pertinent issues regarding citizen science today and for the future. Take a look at the sessions that SciStarter will be a part of!

Thursday, 2/20 @ 12:00pm BST

Citizen Science Association: an ironic story on the necessity for professionalization

led by Caren Cooper, SciStarter contributor & researcher at Cornell Lab of Ornithology

*This talk is part of the POLICY AND CITIZEN SCIENCE track*


Thursday, 2/20 @ 3:30PM BST

It Takes a Village: Engaging Participants Beyond Clickwork

led by Darlene Cavalier

*This talk is part of the CREATIVITY & LEARNING track*


Friday, 2/21 @ 11:20AM to 1:00PM BST

Workshop – Connecting Communities of Citizen Scientists

led by Darlene Cavalier and Francois Grey

This workshop addresses some of the challenges experienced by citizen scientists participating in multiple projects across different platforms. Project designers and developers will present various models for managing identity and rewards. There will be an open discussion of what works, and what doesn’t. Participants will brainstorm about practical solutions for connecting communities, some of which may lead to concrete demos during the conference hack day. Amongst those contributing to the discussion are:

Yasser Ansari (Project Noah – Independent)
Shannon Dosemagen (Public Lab – Independent)
Nicholas Johnson (Trash Lab – CUSP, NYU)
Lucas Blair (Mozilla Badge expert – Independent)
Dongbo Bo (CAS@home – Chinese Academy of Sciences)
Daniel Lombrana Gonzales (Crowdcrafting)
Scott Loarie (iNaturalist – Stanford U)


Saturday, 2/22 @ 5:00pm BST

Publishing citizen science – more than just an afterthought

led by Caren Cooper, SciStarter contributor & researcher at Cornell Lab of Ornithology

As citizen science studies become less of a novelty, and more embedded in the scientific arena, we’d like to host a panel session looking at how publishers can adapt their practices to work with citizen scientists in making their results accessible. we’ll consider how we publish citizen science studies to ensure visibility to citizen scientists after publication, and how publication can promote projects to new audiences of potential citizen scientists.


All day Saturday: HACK DAY

SciStarter Dashboard Challenge

During this challenge, we will explore ways to improve the experience for participants who want to move between different projects running on different platforms. Help SciStarter and friends design the first-of-its-kind citizen science dashboard to help participants find, get involved in, and track contributions to projects across multiple platforms.


Citizen Science in the Classroom Series: CoCoRaHS

By January 8th, 2014 at 11:25 am | Comment

Using Citizen Science Weather Data Collection with CoCoRaHS to Meet Common Core and Next Generation Teaching Standards

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The CoCoRaHS website offers real time information about precipitation measurements.


2nd-6th Grades


The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) is hosted by the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University. It is a network of citizen scientists and classrooms (K-12) that participate in a community project to provide weather condition data and precipitation information across the US and Canada. This data is used by the National Weather Service, city managers, the USDA, hydrologists, and emergency managers. It is also a source of data and information for teachers and students. In collaboration with this project the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) in New York has developed a set of curriculum (ages 8-12) called “Tracking Climate in Your Backyard” that goes along with the CoCoRaHS project to support teachers with additional lesson plans.

Materials You’ll Need:

  • A computer with internet access and printer.
  • An e-mail address that can be used for creating an account with CoCoRaHS.
  • A rain gage from CoCoRaHS (this must be purchased from their organization for standardization, $30)
  • Ruler for measuring snow fall and ice.
  • Optional: Hail pads (make your own from Styrofoam and aluminum foil), make your own wind gage or use an app., thermometer, kitchen scale.
CoCoRaHS shot 3

This is the rain gauge ($30) required to participate in the CoCoRaHS project, to help ensure standardized precipitation measurements.

Why This Citizen Science Project is a Strong Candidate for the Classroom:

  • The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network project is appropriate for grades K-12 and can be hosted in urban or rural environments around the US.
  • This project may be done by multiple grades or schools in one or area; and classroom data collection sharing may be set up in a school (between grades or classes).
  • No minimum amount of participation is required, just as much as you can do.
  • The CoCoRaHS project is made to be classroom-friendly with lots of videos, online resources, and lesson plan support, through the NY based Paleontological Research Institution’s “Tracking Climate in Your Backyard” curriculum and the CoCoRaHS website.
  • CoCoRaHS is entirely online so it’s easy to access and use. You can upload data directly to their site or you can print forms and send them in.
  • There is plenty of data available from their website for downloading (by region and station location) for use in the classroom.
  • Students can see maps of precipitation amounts (even locally) and learn geography as well as meteorology.

Teaching Materials:

Educational materials are provided on the CoCoRaHS website along with 4-H lesson plans (elementary to middle school focused) and educational links. There are videos and slideshows on their site about snow measurement, ice accretion, measuring the water content of snow by weight, and reporting drought impacts in a region. Lesson plans from the 4-H page include making rainfall measurements, how to make a cloud in a bottle, cloud types and formation, reading temperature, making a tornado, and lightening. The lesson plans from the affiliated “Tracking Climate in Your Backyard” include water cycle based activities such as rain, snow, temperature activities, wind activities, and climate activities. These are geared towards 8-12 yr. olds.

CoCoRaHS shot 2

The CoCoRaHS project does ot have a minimum participation requirement. It helps if you can do as much as possible and this provides students with consistency for long term results.

Online Safety for Children

For this project only one account is required to upload information to the website. This should be the e-mail address of an adult or school account. Students do not need to make individual observations. Data collection should be reported as a “location.”

Common Core and Next Gen. Standards Met:


Next. Gen. Science:

K-ESS2-1 Use and share observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time.

Students may use the precipitation tracking from this project to help them describe weather patterns over time. The CoCoRaHS 4-H lesson plans on rainfall, clouds, and temperature are helpful support of weather patterns, as well as the “Temperature Through Time” Lesson plan from PRI.

K-ESS3-2 Ask questions to obtain information about the purpose of weather forecasting to prepare for, and respond to, severe weather.

Teachers may use the lesson from PRI “Pine-Cones-Mother Nature’s Weather Forecasters” for a hands-on lab.  Observations from the class may be used to support discussions.

Common Core:

Literacy:  W.K.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects. Students will share in research of precipitation amounts of over time.

Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively. MP.4 Model with mathematics. Students will measure precipitation amounts and model precipitation over time. K.MD.A.1 Describe measurable attributes of objects, such as length or weight.

Students may measure the depth of rainfall on a gauge as well as weighing the water. This may also be done with snow pre and post melting. The lesson plan from PRI “Light, Fluffy, Wet, Heavy: How much water is in that snow?” would be helpful.

Third Grade:

Next. Gen. Science: 3-ESS2-1 Represent data in tables and graphical displays to describe typical weather conditions expected during a particular season.

Teachers may use precipitation data collected by the class to describe weather conditions for the region. Data is also available for download by state and county on the CoCoRaHS website.

Common Core:

Literacy:  W.3.7 Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic. W.3.9 Recall information from experience or gather information from print or digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories. T

eachers may assign students to analyze data from the precipitation project as well as gathering information from the CoCoRaHS website or other outside sources to discuss patterns and trends over time.

Math: MP.2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively. MP.4 Model with mathematics. Teachers may assign students to analyze data from the precipitation project and model trends over time. 3.MD.A.2 Measure and estimate liquid volumes and masses of objects using standards units.

Teachers may use water weights and volumes collected during the duration of the class for measurement. The lesson plan from PRI “Light, Fluffy, Wet, Heavy: How much water is in that snow?” would be helpful. 3.MD.B.3 Draw a scaled picture graph and a scaled bar graph to represent a data set with several categories. Students may represent their precipitation data (mean and median) over time in graphic form.

Middle School & High School

MS-ESS2-5 Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions.

After collecting data about precipitation during and after major rain events (which may include barometric pressure, rainfall, and wind speed) students may discuss how air masses affected their data results and collected information. The lesson plans from the CoCoRaHS website on cloud types and formation, up drafts, rising air, and temperature may be helpful for demonstrations.

HS-lS4-5 Evaluate the evidence supporting claims that changes in environmental conditions may result in (1) increases in the number of individuals of some species, (2) the emergence of new species over time, and (3) the extinction of other species.

Teachers may have students analyze mean temperature and precipitation changes in areas that are known to have sensitive species living in them. Data may be uploaded from the CoCoRaHS website to look at trends over time. Information may then be extrapolated and discussed regarding animal responses to environmental variability. In particular data may be looked at in regions such as Canada where permafrost and glacial ice are important, or even in desert regions or areas where flooding has been significant over the past few years.

When not writing her blog The Infinite Spider, Karen McDonald is a guest blogger, curriculum developer, science content editor, and outdoor educator with over thirteen years in informal science education. She has an MS in Biology and a BS in Environmental Science and Philosophy. Currently she works for Smithsonian and contracts for Discovery Channel.

Bats, Bones, Zombees! Five macabre citizen science projects for Halloween.

By October 10th, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Comment 1

Drag your bones on over to our favorite, spooky research projects just in time for Halloween.

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Where is my Spider?

Share your photos of spiders. When we understand where spiders are living today, we will be better able to predict what may happen to spiders and agriculture in the future. Get started!


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Zombee Watch

Help researchers find out where honey bees are being parasitized by the Zombie Fly and how big a threat the fly is to honey bees. Get started!


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Dark Sky Meter

Combine your trick or treating with scientific data collection! The Dark Sky Meter (available for iPhones) allows citizen scientists to contribute to a global map of nighttime light pollution. Get started!


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Send Us Your Skeletons!

Are you a recreational fisher in Western Australia?Send your fish skeletons to the Department of Fisheries Western Australia. Learn why and get started here!


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Bat Detective

This online citizen science project from Zooniverse invites you to take part in wildlife conservation by listening to and identifying recordings of bat calls collected all over the world. Get started!



SciStarter is partnering up with WHYY, a National Public Radio station, to help share stories about citizen science projects and people in PA, NJ and DE. If you have a story to share, contact

If you’d like your citizen science project featured on SciStarter, email

Swimming With Invasives!

By July 30th, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Comment

Think you’re safe in your pools this summer? You better double check! This invasive species has been taking over the mid-Atlantic region of the east coast. Contributor Nick Fordes gives us the scoop.


I am always pleasantly surprised by the creativity of new citizen science projects.  Not only are projects using the power of crowdsourcing in unique ways, but they often integrate parts of our daily lives with opportunities to engage in science.  For example, there are citizen science projects that let you count road kill on your daily commute, take light measurements with your phone in your backyard, or even record videos of you and your dog playing!

A new project even lets you do citizen science while swimming in your pool.  All you have to do is check your pool filters once a week for a particularly interesting creature, the Asian Longhorned BeetleThe Annual Asian Longhorned Beetle Swimming Pool Survey is run by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and needs your help this summer (through August 30, 2013) to identify the beetles that end up in your pool. Why? The Asian Longhorned Beetle is an invasive species and is actually responsible for killing a large amount of trees throughout many Eastern states.

While the Asian Longhorned Beetle is not as much of a widespread threat as its friends the Western Pine Bark Beetle, it is harder for researchers to survey their numbers as the infected trees are not easily identifiable like the brown, leafless victims of the Pine Bark Beetle.  And, unfortunately, one of the most common ways of eradicating the beetle is to kill the infested trees.

Signing up for the project is easy, and once you show interest, you will be sent identification materials and instructions on how to take pictures of your beetles and preserve the specimens for collection.  You don’t even need a pool to participate! The project even has education materials so you can learn more about the Asian Longhorned Beetle.

Citizen science pioneers creative ways in which to use what is available to create engaging projects that are also economical.  In this case–a network of natural, watery bug traps help motivated citizen scientists looking for a way to cool off and contribute to some essential research.

Nick Fordes is a science enthusiast who enjoys doing, teaching, and communicating science.  Nick recently graduated from the University of Idaho with an M.S. in Water Resources.  His research involved creating a web-based participatory GIS application for use in watershed management. He has a true love for technology and appreciation for what the web-based communications can do for promoting science and increasing science literacy.   Nick most recently worked with the Council for Environmental Education, developing K-12 environmental science based curriculum.  In his spare time, Nick enjoys biking the bayous in Houston and fishing as often as he can.  He has been known to use his scientific knowledge to make a pretty mean brisket.

Photo: USFWS