Citizen Science in the Rocky Mountains – Celebrate Halloween with the Colorado Spider Survey

By Arvind Suresh October 29th, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Comment

Love Creepy Crawlies? Check out our Halloween Picks!

What are you looking at? Family: Araneidae Genus: Neoscona - An orb weaving spider from Colorado

What are you looking at? Family: Araneidae Genus: Neoscona – An orb weaving spider from Colorado

Editors Note: This post was written by Aditi Joshi, a freelance science writer and a new contributor at SciStarter

As a kid, I avoided houses that had spider decorations during Halloween. Even today, I find spiders scary. Spiders add an extra ounce of spookiness to Halloween.  Spiders might be scary for some, but they’ve always fascinated Dr. Paula Cushing, an arachnologist (spider biologist) at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Colorado.

Cushing hoped to get a better sense of what kinds of spiders existed around her and what role they play in the ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains. To do that, she needed a map of where the spiders were and what kinds of spiders exist in the area. But an area spanning 104,000 square miles has a daunting array of spider species estimated to be over 650 in number. It wasn’t something that she or a small staff or professional scientists were going to be able to do on their own. They needed help.

Earlier, a scientist named Dr. Richard Bradley had done a project in Ohio, where he had recruited volunteers to help capture and tag spiders across his state. That project was wildly successful, and sixteen years ago, Cushing decided to follow suit with the Colorado Spider Survey.

A spider survey had never been done in Colorado before Cushing. “We started from zero spider specimen vials, and today we have a collection of over 50,000 vials,” Cushing says. Survey volunteers have identified and classified specimens from the entire Rocky Mountain region even going as far as Montana.

Colorado Spider Survey volunteers on a field trip with their beat sheets, sweep nets and vials.

Colorado Spider Survey volunteers on a field trip with their beat sheets, sweep nets and vials.

The project has since helped scientists understand the impact of urbanization on spiders and the ecology and distribution of spiders across Colorado. But Cushing also uses the opportunity to teach locals about their environment. Every year during the spring and summer, Cushing leads spider survey trainings for teens and adults who are interested in volunteering for the survey. She’s been able to train over eight hundred people, many of whom volunteered to help the survey grab and tag spiders.

Nina Shilodon, who’s been able to take some the lessons she’s learned in Cushing’s trainings into the classrooms, says that her adopted pet spider, Blueberry, has been able to get her kids’ attention in “spider storytelling” sessions. “When Blueberry comes crawling out she’s the one that brings the fun… whether a child is fearful or fascinated, they’re interested,” Shilodon says. And “they listen when one tells them about the different hunting styles, body parts, and environments that spiders inhabit.”

Cushing says the spider survey is a great way for people to become more intimate with biodiversity “of which otherwise one would not have been aware.”

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Click here to visit the project website and learn how to participate. If you loved reading about this citizen science project from SciStarter, use our project finder to search our database of more than 800 projects! What’s more, subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll send you handpicked citizen science projects once every two weeks!

Image Credits: Dr. Paula Cushing, Rick Teichler

 

Aditi Joshi, a freelance science writer, is an expert in the field of clinical psychophysiology. She holds a PhD in Human Physiology from the University of Oregon and has published several academic papers. Apart from science, she is interested in Native American art, and art history

 

Five Halloween Treats for Citizen Scientists

By Angus R. Chen October 17th, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Comment

 Zombees and spiders and bats,
Oh MY!
Drag your bones over,

give these projects a TRY!

Happy Halloween!

From the SciStarter team.

Here are  five projects to put a smile on your skull. 

 

Want a free SciStarter Tshirt? Take our quick survey before Tuesday, 10/21! (Update: Limited Quantities Available!)

 

loss-of-the-night-scistarter

Loss of the Night
Bring Citizen Science with you to Trick or Treat this year! This App helps you learn constellations as you  contribute to a global real-time map of light pollution. Get started!

zombee watch scistarter

ZomBeeWatch
There’s a Zombie Fly threatening our honeybees! Learn how to set a trap, catch a bee, and see if it’s been infected by the Zombie Fly.  Get started!

bat-detectives-scistarter

Bat Detective
By sorting the sounds in recordings into insect and bat calls, you will help biologists learn how to reliably distinguish bat ‘tweets’ to develop new automatic identification tools.  Get started!

istock spider

Colorado Spider Survey
Little is known about the biodiversity of spiders in Colorado and the impact urbanization is having on species distribution. Learn how to collect and identify spiders, which will be sent to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Get started! BONUS! The L.A. Spider Survey needs your help investigating these issues in the L.A. area!

istock earthworm

Great Lakes Worm Watch
Not fazed by creepy crawlies? Then this wormy project is for you! Help monitor earthworm distribution and habitat from ANYWHERE! Collect earthworms and habitat data, and learn how to do soil surveys. Get started!

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Image Credits

Loss of the Night – NASA

ZomBeeWatch – US Geological Survey

Bat Detective – National Park Service

Categories: Citizen Science

SciStarter among 18 winners of Knight Prototype Fund!

By Darlene Cavalier October 15th, 2014 at 5:36 pm | Comment

knight-logo-3000

The Knight Foundation today announced the latest winners of its Knight Prototype Fund. Eighteen projects will receive $35,000 to help them bring their concepts closer to fruition and one of the 18 projects is ours:

SciStarter ‘s project will connect data journalists and researchers with citizen scientists who are interested in helping them collect data about specific issues (i.e. water quality in a particular neighborhood).

The fund, launched in 2012, also gives winners a support network and the opportunity to receive human-centered design training in an effort bring early stage media ideas to a formal launch.

We are very honored to be in such great company and will post developments here.

Learn more about the other winners and the Knight Prototype Fund.

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Image Credit: Knight Foundation

 

 

The Sound of Science! 5 Citizen Science Projects That Need Your Ears

By Arvind Suresh October 7th, 2014 at 11:44 pm | Comment

In our latest newsletter we’ve picked citizen science projects where you can collaborate with scientists and use sounds and radio waves to track environmental health, understand our solar system, and even search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

And don’t forget to tune into NPR/WHYY’s Citizen Science radio series, produced in partnership with SciStarter.

And without further ado, here’s science you can do!

 

SETI@home

setihomeSETI, or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is a scientific effort seeking to determine if there is intelligent life outside Earth. Radio SETI listens for artificial radio signals coming from other stars. SETI@home is a radio SETI project that lets anyone with a computer and an Internet connection participate. Get started!

Radio JOVE

NASA’s Radio JOVE project enables students and amateradio joveur scientists to observe natural radio emissions from Jupiter, the Sun, and our galaxy. Learn about radio astronomy first-hand by building your own radio telescope from an inexpensive kit and/or using remote radio telescopes through the Internet.  Get started!

Frog Listening Network

tree-frog-324553_640Amphibians are considered “sentinels” of environmental health. By knowing where in our environment frogs are flourishing and where they may be vanishing, researchers can direct their efforts to protect key habitats. Learn how to identify amphibians in Florida, by their sounds!  Get started!

Citizen Weather Observer Program

cwp_logoJoin thousands of ham radio operators and other people with personal weather stations around the country volunteering their weather data for education and research.   Get started!

 

Interactive NASA Space Physics Ionosphere Radio Experiments (INSPIRE)

inspire_scienceforcitizensUse build-it-yourself kits to measure and record very low frequency radio emissions. Help advance our understanding of how they interact with the Earth’s ionosphere and magnetic fields. You’ll work with NASA space scientists on real scientific problems! Get started!

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Image Credits (In order)

SET@Home, NASA, Josch13 / Pixabay CC0, CWOP, INSPIRE

Categories: Citizen Science

Citizen Science on the Radio

By Lily Bui - Executive Editor October 6th, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Comment

sound science

Listen. Let’s get one thing straight: I am an unabashed public radio nerd.

So, when citizen science and public radio come together, I am nothing short of ecstatic. But it’s not just my public radio nerdiness for its own sake. Rather, this convergence speaks to a larger narrative (for me, at least) — that of citizen science being a form of public participation in science and public radio playing the role of representing public discourse.

In conjunction with SciStarter’s current audio/radio citizen science theme, I’ve put together a “playlist” of some examples of how public radio can engage citizen scientists and vice versa.

WHYY the Pulse

Producer Kimberly Haas features various citizen science projects, in partnership with SciStarter,  on The Pulse on WHYY. She has covered projects like Old Weather, Tiny Terrors, IceWatch, and other projects in order to (1) report on research findings and (2) recruit volunteers for the projects themselves.

Encyclopedia of Life podcast

If you haven’t listened to the EOL’s ‘One Species at a Time‘ podcast, go do it now. Producer Ari Daniel walks listeners through various species — from bees to  raptors to head lice (and much more) — and their traits. You can also help contribute to the Encyclopedia of Life with your own findings.

Science Friday

There might not be any on-air pieces about citizen science yet, but Science Friday certainly has a lot of educational opportunities around citizen science. For instance, the Jumping Spider Shake Down activity, you can both listen to and try to match spider courtship displays with the right vibration signals.

North County Public Radio

Over the summer, North County Public Radio covered the FrogWatch project and interviewed a citizen science volunteer for the segment. Listen along as the producer and volunteer embark on trying to spot one.

BBC Radio 4

This episode of ‘Saving Species’ series reports on citizen science efforts around species monitoring. Many scientific communities, such as an academic study by Jeremy Thomas (Professor of Ecology at Oxford) and colleagues acknowledge that without the input from these amateur wildlife watchers much of today’s understanding of the natural world would be impossible.

Are your ears tingling yet? Although I am acutely aware of my own biases, I hope that public radio does more with citizen science, and I hope that citizen science does more with public radio. There is potential for much, much mutual benefit in these kinds of collaborations.

For now, happy listening!

 


Lily Bui is a researcher and M.S. candidate at MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program. She holds dual degrees in International Studies and Spanish from the University of California Irvine. She is also the STEM Story Project Associate for Public Radio Exchange (PRX) in Cambridge, MA. Previously, she helped produce the radio show Re:sound for the Third Coast International Audio Festival, out of WBEZ Chicago. In past lives, she has worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; served in AmeriCorps in Montgomery County, Maryland; worked for a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter; and performed across the U.S. as a touring musician. In her spare time, she thinks of cheesy science puns. Follow @dangerbui.