Month: July 2010

Open Science Summit 2010 This Weekend

This weekend marks the launch of the inaugural Open Science Summit conference in Berkeley, CA. The new program intends to be the centralized resource for the continued development in the scientific community of a new “open source” approach to scientific progress. This path toward enlightenment certainly includes a powerful role of the citizen scientist and amateur research making real contributions along with the traditional institutional developments.

The entire conference is being steamed live online at [ WATCH NOW ]

Speakers and discussion panels have been brought together this weekend, and include professional scientists, hackers, students, and activists to discuss the future of scientific discovery. Primary topics to be covered include synthetic biology, personal genomics, gene patents, open access to data, do-it-yourself biology, bio-security, and the future of open source scientific publishing.

Drew Halley, a graduate student at UC Berkeley and a writer for Singularity Hub, is attending the conference, and will be posting exclusive reviews of each day, so we recommend reading his overviews to learn a great deal about what comes from this exciting new conference. [ READ Mr. Halley’s review of Thursday’s meetings. ]

If you watch any of the proceedings online, let DPR know what you learned. And, we would like to know what you think is important to consider for the future role of the citizen scientist in the progress of scientific understanding.

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“Scenes from the Open Science Summit” :: :: July 30, 2010 :: [ READ ]

“The Open Science Movement” :: Andrew Zimmerman Jones, Physics Guide :: June 14, 2010 :: [ READ ]

Open Science Summit [ VISIT ]

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Update August 8, 2010:

A final recap report of the Open Science Summit from Ronald Bailey
“Citizen Science, Microfinanced Research, Patent Trolls, and Pharma Prizes” :: :: August 3, 2010 :: [ READ ]

Map Your Backyard Habitat with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology–a premier citizen science research and support organization–is launching an exciting new program in the Fall of 2010. The Lab focuses most of its energy on aggregating and analyzing the efforts of thousands of volunteer citizen scientists to better understand the population and behavior of birds. Now, they are interested to better understand the habitats of birds, and not just the wild birds perched on remote mountain tops, but those right in your very own back yard.

The upcoming launch of will help researchers better understand the relationship between gardens, rural and urban greenspaces and the birds that live and thrive in these habitats. And, although it might at first seem odd to consider that your own yard would be considered a natural habitat, just remember that real nature creeps right up to your front door, and you don’t have to travel to exotic places to see and be a part of the real natural world.

The new interactive interface will use satellite imagery of your own green space as a canvas upon which you may overlay programmed images (or “avatars”) of vegetation and other features that you select to represent your yard. The system will then analyze your map and layout, and provide you feedback on the quality of your habitat and how yo can make it better for the birds.

YardMap will also act as a social media interface, and will allow other reporting habitat owners to communicate, review other layouts, and learn more about backyard habitats from others throughout the community of citizen scientists.

Sign up at the site and they will invite you to begin accessing the beta test of the system as soon as it is ready later this fall. We would like to learn about your experience here at Dynamic Patterns Research, so please let us know if you plan to participate.

Disney World Supports Citizen Science Programs

Having just recently returned from our first Walt Disney World family vacation, we were thoroughly impressed with the incredible organization and overall pure dedication of all the “cast members” to making sure that you have a “magical experience.” It is also great to know that the company has an equally pure dedication to supporting regional and worldwide environmental citizen science opportunities.

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has recently focused on ten Florida-based efforts from their 2010 round of $1.5 million in global funding initiatives. The funding works toward supporting the sustainability of endangered species around the world, and this year is helping with the restoration of coral reefs, sea turtles, and the scrub-jay bird in Florida.

The scrub-jay project is particularly interesting here because it is part of a citizen science program from the Nature Conservancy’s Jay Watch. The funding will bring about the recruitment of volunteers who will work across the state of Florida inventorying and mapping the bird’s habitats.

Learn more about how the DWC is supporting this citizen science program, and although the training is closed for the summer session, you may still consider taking part if you happen to be lucky enough to live near the Magic Kingdom.

“Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund Announces 2010 Florida-Based Program Grant Recipients” :: Chip & Co. :: July 26, 2010 :: [ READ MORE ]

Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund :: The Nature Conservancy’s Jay Watch

Virtual Birding from South Texas

Part of the enjoyment in birding includes directly experiencing nature, taking your time, breathing, listening, watching each rustle in the trees, and listening some more. Part of the limitations, however, might be that you only can experience your back yard, you don’t have enough financial resources to travel around the world chasing exotic species, or you just don’t have enough time to escape the real world long enough to enjoy the birds.

From an environmental scientists’ perspective, a significant limitation to monitoring the long-term bird activities and population in an extended area is the extensive people-hours required in waiting around to breath, listen, watch each rustle in the the trees, and then listening some more.

Some of these limitations can now be removed with a little creative technology in imaging and Internet-based process control with a new system referred to as a Networked Tele-Robotic Observatory Game. The new citizen science program located in southern Texas is the result of a collaborative effort between the Welder Wildlife Foundation, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Texas A&M’s Prof. Dezhen Song, UC Berkeley’s Prof. Ken Goldberg, and the National Science Foundation.

Visit the CONE (“Collaborative Observatories for Natural Environments”) site linked below, and within minutes you can be taking live images of birds enjoying the day at Welder. All you need is an email address, and it would be highly appropriate to watch the video tutorials before taking over the remote camera control from the other participants.

“Virtual birding available at Welder Wildlife refuge” :: Victoria Advocate :: May 28, 2010 :: [READ with video]

CONE at Welder Wildlife Refuge
:: [ VISIT ] :: [ ABOUT ] :: [ TUTORIAL ] ::

DPR is very excited about this remote laboratory project, and will be including it in our official recommendations of eLabs for Citizen Scientists. If you spend some time with CONE at Welder, or are aware of other similar virtual laboratory opportunities, please let us know so that we may all learn from your experiences.

Critiquing the Role of the Citizen Scientist

The role of the citizen scientist is certainly still an evolving one, and will likely eternally be in flux. Before the era of professional scientists comfortably sitting at respected universities and industrial businesses, which is now commonplace, the majority of scientific exploration was accomplished by the non-professional, or “natural philosopher”. In fact, the term “scientist” wasn’t even used until William Whewell coined the term in 1833. These days, not everyone can–nor should–follow a career path into professional research, but there is no reason why someone interested in learning about and even participating in scientific exploration should be excluded from the opportunities.

There is certainly a difference between data processors and pure scientists. One person plugs and chugs through data using a pre-defined set of rules and regulations. The other actually develops those rules, thoroughly thinks about how to use them, and makes conclusions about the results with skill. But, the inherent sensation in this comparison–that one somehow is less interesting than the other–misses the real purpose and excitement of citizen science efforts.

We certainly don’t need everyone to be converted into fundamental science researchers to profess at ivy league institutions. There are certainly many of them out there already, and the job market these days for new hires offers some slim pickings. The point, rather, of citizen science is to inspire and generate a broad appreciation for science and the universe in which we live.

Involving a wider spectrum of the population with accessible, fun, and interesting projects–even if they “only” require human-level data processing, which, by the way, in the realm of pattern recognition, is still so much more impressive than computer-based data processing!–can only positively support everyone involved. In addition, a culture with a greater population who has increased levels of science appreciation will also benefit in long-term sustainability, assuming you believe that a more clear understanding of science across the majority of individuals can only bring about good things.

So, although the “crowd sourcing” and citizen science projects in effect right now (GalaxyZoo being a primary example) might not require each participant to be a full-scale experimentalist, it seems like absolutely nothing is lost. If fact, it seems that because of this non-requirement, even more is gained for the larger picture, since the hurdles for participation are not insurmountable for nearly everyone.

The more non-professionals involved in doing real science–even if it is “just” data processing–will bring a greater appreciation to these non-professionals, which will only help support the professionals down the road (say, through successful data analysis resulting in new discoveries, or the increased willingness of citizens to pay those higher tax dollars into the NSF and NIH).

“Citizen Science Isn’t Enough Science For Citizens” :: Michael White’s Adaptive Complexity, Science 2.0 :: June 8, 2010 :: [READ]

“Experts Weigh in on Crowd Science Trend” :: genomeWeb’s The Daily Scan :: June 4, 2010 :: [READ]

“The Growth of ‘Citizen Science'” :: The Chronicle of Higher Education :: June 3, 2010 :: [READ]

Operation Deer Watch in Wisconsin

from Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has been given funding to increase its efforts to more accurately estimate the deer population throughout the state. Since 1960, the department has only used it’s staff and official employees of the state to help with the counting, and the breadth of the coverage has never been enough to calculate meaningful population estimates.

But, now, they are requesting the help from citizens to volunteer their observational skills and report what they see during August and September. Citizen Science makes its way into Wisconsin!

If you live in Wisconsin, and you would like to connect with the WDNR to help with the summer counting, visit the site linked below and get ready to keep a close eye out for those deer in your headlights beginning August 1!

“Citizens asked to survey deer afield” :: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel :: July 24, 2010 [ READ ]

Summer 2010 Operation Deer Watch from WDNR [ VISIT ]

Last updated April 5, 2020