AmSci Opportunities

Creepy Crawly Citizen Science Down Under

Citizen Science throughout the Southern Hemisphere has been growing recently, in particular with thanks to increasing efforts in Australia. In fact, Dynamic Patterns Research has just updated an Australia Regional list in our Opportunities section to feature some of these exiting new programs (view).

The most recent event, just launched on September 1, 2010 and sponsored by the citizen science-centric Australian Broadcasting Company and radio station 891 ABC Adelaide, is Operation Spider. This new “down under” citizen science program hopes to encourage people to get to know their crawly co-inhabitants, and report to the program what species of spiders exist in their spaces and how they behave when encountering a spider. (Yes, part of this research is to understand human behavior as well as the spiders!)

The main element of the project asks Southern Australians to complete a two-part online survey. First, is a review about how the observer feels toward spiders, and asks specific questions about how one would behave when encountering a specific species of spider. For example, if you see a daddy-long-legs in your living room would you (a) kill it yourself, (b) have someone else kill it for you, (c) “rescue” it and take it outside, (d) or leave it alone.

Second, the survey includes a worksheet to use while perusing your house and garden for recording observations of specific spiders. Images of certain anticipated species are available to assist in identifications.

Steve Donnellan and Chris Daniels presented a spider information talk to students from Rostrevor, Eden Hills and Belleview schools. (Brett Williamson)

View more images of the launch of Operation Spider on September 1, 2010.

An informative set of six Fact Sheets have also been developed to provide a nice range of educational materials for learning about spiders in Southern Australia. These include a general introduction to invertebrates and their evolution, how spiders live, eat, and make webs, and information on specific species that are expected to be found.

For the compositionally-creative citizen scientists, Operation Spider is also hosting a spider Poetry Competition. They are looking for 8-line short poems about spiders, and winners from four categories will be awarded a spider “prize pack” (valued at over $100!)

If you live in the southern “Down Under,” then start getting friendly with your spider neighbors, and take part in this fun citizen science project. The next time you want to squash an eight-legged crawly creature, you might discover that your feelings have changed from murderous to creepy affection!

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Operation Spider Fact Sheets [ VIEW ]

Operation Spider Survey from the University of South Australia [ VISIT ]

Operation Spider Poetry Competition [ SUBMIT ]

The Great World Wide Star Count 2010

The 2010 Great World Wide Start Count date has been set! A Windows to the Universe citizen science event, you can join with thousands of other people across the globe anytime from October 29 through November 12 in looking up to see how many stars you can see.

Last year, Dynamic Patterns Research participated (read more), and it was a great opportunity for father and 3 1/2-year old daughter to count, compare, learn about constellations, and start to think about the ridiculous notion that we are part of a universe that is so unfathomably enormous.

The goals of this program are to raise awareness of light pollution in your area and to increase the interest of the broader public in learning more astronomy. Developed by the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the Windows to the Universe Great World Wide Star Count is in its fourth year of data collection, and should continue to grow as a very interesting research resource for monitoring the evolving night-time global landscape of light output.

In fact, you can now take a look at the results from the previous three years [ VIEW DATA ], and begin to search for patterns and correlations between how many stars were seen and expected light output from the area. You might find initially, however, that the data is still very sparse, and for this resource to be particularly useful, a much larger set of results really will be required.

Since the data is also provided as a Google Earth KMZ file (download 2007, 2008, 2009), it’s very interesting to overlay the set with a light pollution map (download a North America map). As an example, we’ve completed a simple North American map overlay using Google Earth, and focused into our own data point in Illinois that we provided last year:

The darker the blue of each “data point dot” corresponds to more stars seen at the observation location. So, it seems that there are pretty dark dots at locations that would be expected to have lower visibility. However, this array of data is such a small data set to consider at this time that it is difficult to make any obvious conclusions. But, the potential to use more of this data to support very interesting and useful analysis should be apparent. And, all of the data is entirely accessible to the citizen scientist, so we can easily explore and consider the results.

When planning to make your own observations anytime between October 29 and November 12, all you need to do to prepare is a little stretching out of your neck for looking up (or, find a nice blanket to lie down on your back and view in comfort). If you live in the northern hemisphere, then gaze toward the constellation Cygnus, and toward the constellation Sagittarius if in the southern hemisphere. Simply “count” the stars that you can see at your location–or estimate the visual field that you observe–and match your viewing with the reference magnitude charts provided by the program. Then, simply report your observation online along with your latitude and longitude coordinates (find where you’re at on the globe). If you have any questions on how to participate, please feel free to comment here or contact us.

Learn more about star apparent magnitude [ READ :: READ :: READ ]

Please let us know if you plan to participate in this year’s count, and especially if you are interested in creating any of your own analysis of the results. The project really needs a significant increase in participation to provide a meaningful data set, so please spread the word to your friends and colleagues who you can encourage to join.

We would like to develop a team of citizen scientists who not only want to submit their own observation, but who also want to do an independent analysis on the annual global results. We will then present your thoughts and observations right here on Dynamic Patterns Research.

The Great World Wide Star Count :: October 29 through November 12, 2010 [ VISIT ]

Jellyfish Reporting by Citizen Scientists in Malta

The upside-down jellyfish is an uncommon species recently found around the Maltese Islands; from Spot the Jelly Fish

Growing up in the Midwest of the United States, and taking several trips over my lifetime to an Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico beach, I recall the vague consideration of the floating jellyfish. Maybe it’s hard to see them, but they will hurt a lot of you touch one of their venomous cells. And, there were certainly few horror stories that need not be transcribed here. Watching the Pixar classic “Finding Nemo” provides a daunting realization–albeit digitally conceived–of the beauty and the devastation of the jellyfish bloom.

Apparently, the jellyfish population in the Mediterranean Sea is of considerable concern to scientists, tourism officials, and beach combers alike. So much so, the Island of Malta has established a citizen science program to track the common and not-so-common jellyfish populations that surround their little paradise (visit). Lead by the University of Malta and the IOI-Kids of the International Ocean Institute, the “Spot the Jellyfish” program engages children, teachers, parents, and tourists to keep a keen eye out for the gelatinous monsters.

An incredible array of species have already been identified all around the islands, including the the surface-dwelling blue button (Porpita porpita), the cigar jellyfish (Olindias phosphorica), the comb jellies (ctenophores), the mauve stinger (Pelagia noctiluca), and the jelly-like invertebrate, the Portuguese_Man_o’_War.

Portuguese Man-O-War (Physalia physalis); Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

If you stare at images of these amazing creatures long enough, you might start considering that you live on another planet or are from a very different epoch of Earth’s history. They are such interesting creatures, yet they don’t seem to make much sense with their transparent, floating-with-the-current routine. Despite this thought, the species are numerous and they flourish in their blooming communities around the entire globe. So, somewhere along the time line, evolution found them to be stable, useful organisms.

An interactive map of the identified jellies around Malta–including those with and without stingers–is presented online (view) with reporting from within the previous twenty-four hours. Not only, then, can this be a vital research tool for better understanding the population dynamics of jellyfish species in the region, but it can also be used by tourists and locals wanting to take a break in the waves as to what sort of species have been recently observed.

In addition, the dynamic nature of the jellyfish blooms with respect to ocean climate, is not fully understood. Claudia E. Mills of the University of Washington has been studying these little buggers for over three decades, and is trying to determine what sort of impact regional ecological changes are having on species of jellies. With populations exploding in some areas and decreasing in others, a sort of species filtering might be underway. However, a better understanding of the connection between the local ecologies and the species must be developed first to predict the future of the jelly fish. Organized citizen science activities certainly can support this sort of research, and the Maltese program would provide a thorough template for a successful outreach to the public and their mass data collection efficiencies.

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“Jellyfish campaign reports uncommon species” :: TimesOfMalta.com :: July 30, 2010 :: [ READ ]

Spot the Jellyfish – An IOI-Kids Initiative :: [ VISIT ]

“Jellyfish blooms: are populations increasing globally in response to changing ocean conditions?” Mills, C. E., Hydrobiologia 451: 55–68 (2001) [ DOWNLOAD and READ pdf ]

:: UPDATE August 25, 2010 ::
TIME Magazine online featured a nice review report of Jellyfish citizen science activities in the Mediterranean:
“Stinging Season: Can We Learn to Love the Jellyfish?” :: TIME Magazine :: August 20, 2010 :: [ READ ]

Wild Turkey Survey in New York State

Wild turkey hen with poults, from NYS DEC

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has a great collection of wildlife observation citizen science programs available. Currently, they feature eight projects that request wildlife observations from birders, hikers, hunters… anyone enjoying the great outdoors [LEARN MORE].

Right now during the month of August, the DEC is looking for observations from across New York State to help them estimate the average number of wild turkey poults (the young from this year) per hen. If you live in the state, please consider partnering with this program this month, and you may learn more about it below and use the Sighting Survey form (linked below) to submit your observations.

“DEC Seeks Participants for Summer Turkey Survey” :: readMedia :: July 29, 2010 :: [ READ ]

“Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey” :: NYS DEC Website :: [ VISIT ]

Review detailed guidelines and start your observations today…
Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey form [ OPEN PDF ]

If you take part in this program during the month of August, please share with us here at Dynamic Patterns Research by commenting to on this article. We want to know about your experience!

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 YardMap.org 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

Last updated October 26, 2021