Archive for the ‘massachusetts’ tag

Snap a picture and measure albedo!

By June 14th, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Comments (4)

Turn a piece of paper into scientific data!

Turn a piece of paper into scientific data!

Wherever you are – anywhere in the world – on June 21st consider taking and submitting a photo of a blank white piece of paper between 5:00 and 8:00 pm.

Your photo will not be just a picture of a pretty white piece of paper, it will be scientific data used to calculate earth’s albedo – the proportion of solar energy that bounces back out to space when it hits the Earth’s surface.

For three years Dr. Kathleen Gorski and her students at Wilbraham and Monson Academy near Springfield, MA have been snapping pictures of white paper and using them to measure albedo by comparing the white paper to the surrounding ground surface.

Now they are opening the project up to anyone who would like to participate!

Here’s how you can get involved:

  1. Stick a reminder in your calendar for Tuesday June 21, 2011 between 5:00-8:00 pm so that you don’t forget. (Note: I added this step to Kathleen’s instructions because I know I will need a reminder!)
  2. Put a white card (index or business cards work well) on any ground surface with the white side facing up.
  3. Snap a digital photo. No particular position for the camera is required. Just hold it, look down, and take the shot. (Kathleen has found that any camera will do – a cell phone or SLR will both work. And any resolution will be fine.)
  4. Email the photo to
  5. 5. Include the location (either your city and state or your latitude and longitude).

Kathleen and her students will analyze the data, comparing the response of the white card to the response of the ground surface in each photograph using ImageJ software and will depict the data points on a map. They will be posting the results this summer or fall on a new project website, and Kathleen will be presenting about the project to teachers at the National Science Teachers Association meeting in Hartford, CT in the fall.

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Birds on the brain

By April 13th, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Comment

An adult Red-shouldered Hawk. Photo: Brian L. Sullivan

An adult Red-shouldered Hawk. Photo: Brian L. Sullivan

As spring revs up to full gear, I enjoy taking runs around my neighborhood to enjoy the colorful bursts of flower and bits of cheerful birdsong. If you too have a soft-spot for feathered creatures, consider becoming a citizen science observer for one of these three great projects!

If you live in a city or town, the first project is for you! The Cornell Lab of Ornithology runs a year-round celebration of urban birds. Right now there’s a contest on to see who can spot the craziest nesting place for birds. The funky nests in funky places challenge asks contestants to peer into and over anything they can think of to spot a nesting spot. Any nests on top of a telephone pole nearby? What about in that old woodpile out back? A previous contestant found a nest inside an old tractor!

Sneak up to the funky nest and take a picture (without disturbing the nesting occupants!) then email your story and photo to before June 1st to be considered.

For birders in the city or country, sign up with eBird, a world-wide, online bird-monitoring program gearing up to collect tons of bird-related data in 2011. Consider contributing your time (or funds) to their amazing effort to catalogue bird ranges throughout the western hemisphere (and beyond!). Over the past few years, the number of observations submitted by citizen scientists like you has grown by leaps and bounds. In 2010 alone, they report that over 1.3 million hours were spent by birders gathering data for eBird checklists!

This year eBird is working to make the collected data more accessible, through animated migration maps and other viewing tools. For now, you can take a look at the data they’ve already collected.

An American Oystercatcher on the Atlantic seashore. Photo: AOWG

An American Oystercatcher on the Atlantic seashore. Photo: AOWG

Finally, for those of you on the eastern seaboard, from Massachusetts down to Florida, keep an eye out for American Oystercatchers with colorful plastic bands on.

The bands were put on by scientists to help us better understand the migration patterns and habitat of these birds to aid conservation efforts. The color of the bling tells you in what state(s) the bird has been banded.

To report a sighting, fill out this online form.