Archive for the ‘usgs’ tag

Citizen Scientists Go Back to School

By September 10th, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Comment

It happens every year, and you’re right: it’s just not fair. After nearly three months of uninterrupted fun, gone are the barbeques, ball games and pool parties that dominated the summer schedule just as Labor Day signals the sudden arrival of the shorter, colder, and more structured days of the school year. But before you cast yourself into the depths of the autumn blues, rest assured that we are working hard to make this year’s science lessons a little different and—especially if you like nature and the outdoors—a little more fun!

Below is our third annual “Back-to-School” list of projects recommended to get teachers and students thinking about how to incorporate citizen science in the classroom. Check out our previous installments (2011, 2010) for additional ideas.

Participate in Project BudBurst: The National Ecological Observatory Network invites student citizen scientists to submit their observations of the phenophases (leafing, flowering, fruit ripening) of local grasses, shrubs and trees. This data will be compiled and compared to historical figures to help scientists learn more about the responsiveness of specific plant species to climate change. Their teachers, meanwhile, might consider enrolling in the BudBurst Academy, an online course for K-12 educators providing all the necessary information for implementing Project Budburst and engaging in citizen science in your classroom.

Plan your own BioBlitz: Even (or perhaps especially) if you missed the 2012 BioBlitz co-hosted by the National Park Service and the National Geographic Society, consider planning your own in your own neighborhood or schoolyard. These biodiversity snapshots provide valuable data for analysis of local species and their habitats.

Count some bugs: Don’t let those math skills go to waste! SciStarter features several opportunities to count stuff, particularly insects and other creepy crawlies. Just pick your favorite: dragonflies, butterflies, bumble bees, spiders, ants, and worms.

Heads up: So bugs aren’t you’re thing. No problem. How about some astronomy? You can grow tomatoes to assess the feasibility of long-term space travel; search for the compound that stores solar power and thus solves the world’s energy crisis; craft a story about your favorite astronomical bodies; or help astronomers search for and identify new planets and stars!

Be a mapmaker: The U.S. Geological Survey is considering the restoration of The National Map Corps, its volunteer mapping initiative, launching a pilot program in the state of Colorado. Anyone with an Internet connection can update the national map, adding the important man-made structures throughout the community such as hospitals, fire stations, and schools. The USGS could expand the program into other areas in the future if its initial efforts are successful. Come on Colorado!


Did You See It? The Landslide, I Mean

By July 19th, 2012 at 8:07 am | Comment

If you see a landslide, a swirling mass of unmoored dirt and rock and debris tumbling downhill at speeds of several tens of meters per second, run away as fast as you can. If it doesn’t bring you down, grab your computer and report it to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Landslide Hazards Program through their recently launched Did You See It? website.

Photo by North Carolina Department of Transportation. Courtesy of USGS.

Photo by North Carolina Department of Transportation. Courtesy of USGS.

The USGS will use your information to build a crowd sourced, national landslide database, a valuable resource for both scientists and citizens. The data will not only help researchers identify the areas of the country where landslides are most prevalent and better understand the conditions that most often lead to their occurrence, but also serve as a way for people to learn about risks to their persons or property.

“In the United States, more people have a chance of experiencing a landslide than any other natural disaster,” said Peter Lyttle, coordinator of the Landslide Hazards Program and a 36-year veteran of the USGS. “It’s kind of a stealth hazard.”

Thousands of landslides occur every year, claiming upwards of 25 lives and resulting in billions of dollars in damages and lost productivity, but unlike, say, earthquakes, there are relatively few scientists (perhaps 50, according to Lyttle) tracking and studying them in the United States. Lyttle hopes that Did You See It?, an homage to the enormously successful Did You Feel It? earthquake survey, will provide researchers with the vast amount of data his small staff could never collect on their own.

“The science is still in its very early days,” said Lyttle. “We’re still using a very broad brush.”

Photo by National Park Service. Courtesy of USGS.

Photo by National Park Service. Courtesy of USGS.

Knowing the exact location and time of a landslide will help the USGS pinpoint the areas at risk when other hazards–heavy rainfall in the East, sweeping wildfires in the West–threaten to undermine the underground. The need for awareness grows with us, as our population swells and communities demand development into vulnerable hillside areas.

“We’re putting ourselves at risk by expanding into these areas,” said Lyttle. “It takes a lot of manpower to make predictions and give early warning. We’re not capable of doing that for the whole country, so we want people to educate themselves if they’re in danger and learn what they can do to protect their homes.”

Did you feel the earthquake? Three ways to report it

By August 23rd, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Comments (4)

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake shook Virginia on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo: USGS)

Here are three ways you can report earthquake-related information and contribute to a global map of critical earthquake data.

Did you feel it? Help researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey learn more about the recent earthquake that shook parts of the east coast. Did you feel it? Share information and contribute to a map of shaking intensities and damage. Simple, no fuss, easy to navigate webform.

The US Geological Survey’s Twitter Earthquake Detection Program gathers real-time, earthquake-related messages from Twitter and applies place, time, and keyword filtering to gather geo-located accounts of shaking. Simply tweet your location and observations to @USGSTed .

Stanford University’s Quake-Catcher Network links existing networked laptops and desktops in hopes to form the world’s largest and densest earthquake monitoring system. You’ll need Quake-Catcher Network software (free), and a USB sensor (price varies).

If you participate in any of these projects, consider posting a review in the comments field, below this post. We’d like to share your experience with your fellow citizen scientists.


Earthquake research is shaking up citizen science

By May 6th, 2010 at 11:22 pm | Comment

Quake Catcher Network Globe

Quake-Catcher Network is one of several earthquake-related citizen science projects.

Recent earthquakes in China, Haiti, Chili, Mexico, and elsewhere have provided a clear reminder of the devastation and loss of human life that can occur when an earthquake strikes in populated areas. Though scientists cannot currently predict earthquakes, there is an amazing wealth of research being conducted around the world to provide a better understanding of the timing, impacts, mechanics, and history of earthquakes.

You can help! Below, I’ve listed a few of the earthquake-related citizen science projects in our Project Finder:

The Twitter Earthquake Detection Program is investigating the use of Twitter to collect and analyze citizen accounts of earthquakes around the world. The project gathers real-time, earthquake-related messages from Twitter and applies place, time, and keyword filtering to gather geo-located accounts of shaking.

“Did You Feel It?” provides an opportunity for people who experience an earthquake to help create a map of shaking intensities and damage. By answering basic questions like “Did the earthquake wake you up?” and “Did objects fall off shelves?,” anyone can share the effects of an earthquake and the extent of damage.  The resulting “Community Internet Intensity Maps” contribute greatly to the quick assessment of the scope of an earthquake emergency and provide valuable data for earthquake research.

Quake-Catcher Network is linking volunteers’ laptops and desktops in hopes of forming the world’s largest and densest earthquake monitoring system. Quake-Catcher Network provides the software, and you join other citizen scientists in improving earthquake monitoring, earthquake awareness, and the science of earthquakes.

Do you know of any other earthquake-related citizen science projects?  If so, please submit that project to our growing Project Finder database. You’ll help fellow citizen scientists find new opportunities and hopefully build more awareness for the project coordinators.