Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Climate is defined as an average of thirty years of weather data. It is the norm, the average, what’s expected. When our planet’s climate veers from what’s expected, when a record is set, the question is – why?
You can make a simple model that shows how the color of ice and water impacts temperature.
This autumn, new records are being set for the minimum amount of sea ice in the Arctic. On August 26, the extent of ice diminished to less than it has ever been -- at least in the 30 years we've been watching it with satellites.
Plants have a lot going on as autumn temperatures cool. Some leaves turn bright yellow or red and fall from trees. Fruits grow large and ripe. Grasses become brittle and brown. Some flowers, like California poppies, bloom in the autumn too.Project BudBurst is looking for volunteers to take note of what plants are doing as the seasons change. During the “Fall into Phenology” event volunteers around the country will be heading outside between September 17 and 26 to collect data about how plants respond to changes in their environment.
Daniel Smith and his colleagues at Argonne National Laboratory are looking for volunteers who are about to move to a different house to join the Home Microbiome Study. They will be asked to collect samples every other day for six weeks to monitor how microbiomes of themselves and their house change in response to one another. This data will provide valuable information on how stable our microbiomes are, and whether our microbiomes colonize our house… or our house’s microbiome colonizes us!
Are you in the Philadelphia area? If so, you'll want to know about the new citizen science project: MyHeartMap Challenge! The project, a contest, is getting the public involved to make the first-of-its-kind map of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in Philadelphia. (And it's almost Valentine's Day so perhaps hearts are on your mind!)
From searching for invertebrates to measuring wind speed, everyone can gain new knowledge and skills and play their part in protecting the natural environment. This is the philosophy of Open Air Laboratories (OPAL), a project based in England that encourages the public to explore their surroundings, record their findings, and submit their results to the OPAL national database making their contribution available to scientists and others involved in environmental science and policy.
During Insect Discovery Tours -- part of the BioBlitz event -- elementary, middle and high school students, scientists, chaperones, and naturalists roamed areas of Saguaro National Park in small groups to hunt for insects. The scientists and naturalists worked with the students to identify the insects they found. To get a closer look, insects were sometimes coaxed into small magnifying boxes.
There should be more animated movies about citizen science, don’t you think? Thankfully, the people at a weather-focused citizen science project called the Community Collaborative Rain Hail and Snow project (known by the funny acronym CoCoRaHS) have made this video! It tells the story of how the project started and explains how people all over the country are getting involved. Watch and find out how you can become a CoCoRaHS volunteer too!
How do you know if water is clean enough to drink? How do you know if it's clean enough to for swimming or safe for animals? On September 18, 2011 people around the world will be taking a closer look at their local waterways during World Water Monitoring Day. Join in the project and help figure out whether the freshwater near you is clean.
On June 1, 2011 at 11:51 PM, a group of people assembled on the beach in Northpoint, New York. There was no moon shining that night, not even a sliver. The people carried flashlights or wore headlamps. They held clipboards and paper. Their mission: to report where horseshoe crabs were spotted along the beach.
During the last Ice Age, mammoths and mastodons roamed Florida. Today, fossil hunters like James Kennedy of Vero Beach, Florida find their bones. “I'm not a scientist,” said James in a recent interview for National Public Radio. “I just go out and dig up bones good. I'm good at finding them." But I’d contend that James is a scientist – a citizen scientist. Many people collect fossils. I like to think of these fossil hunters as “citizen paleontologists” and they can play important roles in scientific discovery.
Did you take a photo of white paper on the ground June 21 for the Albedo Project? Whether or not you participated, you can now take a look at the data at the Albedo Project website. Locations of all the photos are shown on a Google Map. Zoom in to find your data point. And if you’d like to peruse the photos of white paper, you can find them in Flickr. Photos were sent in from over 30 US states and 11 countries, pointing out that projects like this would not happen without participation by photo-snapping volunteers!
The Firefly Watch project gets the public involved collecting data about where fireflies are found. If you live east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and have ten minutes a week to look for fireflies in the evening, consider signing up as a volunteer.
It is becoming more apparent that people of all ages want to learn more than just the facts about climate change—they want to know what they can DO to address this problem.
For three years Dr. Kathleen Gorski and her high school 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!
Scientific American has been bringing science to people for over 160 years. Now the magazine is bringing people to science through a new online listing of citizen science opportunities. Early this month, Scientific American Online launched a Citizen Science section of the web site. This is part of a larger Education effort, which includes a number of science activities called Bring Science Home.
It seems strange to mark the location of a fish, doesn’t it? They can swim and move away from the marker, right? I wonder while standing on a dock waiting for the boat that will take about ten of us out to a reef. There, we will scuba dive for fun and also mark the locations of lionfish, an invasive species in the Caribbean. Volunteer divers on the Dutch island of Bonaire are helping Bonaire National Marine Park eliminate invasive lionfish from its coral reefs by marking the locations where the fish are found. A diver who spots a lionfish is instructed to attach a small flag, provided by the park, to a rock near the fish.
The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), a citizen science project that gets people all over the country reporting the amount of precipitation that falls where they live, offered a unique on-the-ground perspective about the devastating thunderstorms and tornadoes that struck the southeast United States on April 27 and the morning of April 28, 2011.
When the explosion happened at the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, we didn’t know exactly how much oil would eventually leak into the ocean and that, a year after the spill, there are still so many questions about how to restore the region. While there are many different perspectives on the effects of the spill to Gulf Coast residents, the marine ecosystem, and coastal wildlife, it is clear that it is going to take a long time for the area to recover fully. While there is a lot to make us feel blue about the situation in the Gulf, there are also thousands of people who are making a positive difference, people who, over the past year, have volunteered their time to help.
The apple tree in my backyard has been under surveillance for several weeks. In March it was an unassuming mass of brown twigs amidst late winter snow. Then those twigs started to have swollen buds. More recently, green leaves appeared. Now, as evidenced by this photo, there are tightly huddled pink petals amidst the leaves. Any day, I suspect flowers. My apple tree isn’t the only one under surveillance. It’s in good company -- one of thousands of plants around the United States that are monitored through the seasons with Project BudBurst.
When we set out for our short birding expedition in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, I had no idea that we would spot over 50 birds representing eighteen different species. We were at a workshop of teachers, and we were on a quest to find birds and then report our findings through eBird, a citizen science project run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. That day, we were on-the-ground bird reporters, helping scientists understand which species of birds are where and how environmental changes are affecting our feathered friends.
There’s a lot going on in my backyard. Small green leaves are emerging in the garden. Squirrels are running along the top of the fence. Birds are filling the peach tree with song. That’s what I saw this morning. To me, these are the amusing natural antics found in my quasi-urban backyard. But my observations can be something else too –- scientific data! People all over the country and all over the world are getting involved with scientific research by collecting data about the plants, animals, weather and water resources in their backyards, urban parks, natural areas and farms. And you can too!
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