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Citizen Science Project Spotlights

Zooniverse is a wonderful platform for connecting researchers with a community of people who all have a common interest – be it astronomy, history, cancer research, animals… there are so many projects you can be a part of. ”

Michelle Paulsen
Director of Education, Outreach, and Communications Programs, CIERA

Become the researcher and help contribute to scientific research! As part of our Virtual Earth Month celebration, each week sustainNU will highlight two new research projects on biology, climate, history, nature, social sciences, and/or outer space. These online projects, on Zooniverse, utilize the power of thousands of everyday people to accomplish large research endeavors. The ways in which you can help these researchers range from identifying features of galaxy photos to listening to manatee calls. Each project page provides you with the information you need to become a citizen scientist. Whether you are a natural investigator or have never participated in a science project, Zooniverse makes it easy to support these projects. 

Please let us know if you participate by sharing a tweet or Instagram story and using the hashtag #NUEarthMonth2020!

Week 4 Projects: 

The final citizen science projects explore the unknown. Dive deep to the seafloor or gaze into outer space while contributing to research.  

The Koster Seafloor Observatory

Topic: Oceanography, Marine Biology  

In this project, researchers need your help to explore the biodiversity of Sweden's marine habitats to measure how climate change and human activities are affecting these ecosystems. The project has 20 years of video data broken into 10-second clips allowing participants to identify corals, crabs, and starfish. Get lost in the beauty of the ocean and learn more about the colorful species hidden below. 
This project is a collaboration between the Ocean Data Factory,, University of Gothenburg, and SeAnalytics. 
"We are excited to bring you a new way to dive into Sweden's first marine national park. By classifying the underwater videos, you will get to see unique species and enable us to better understand the health of our marine ecosystems." – Project Research, Koster Seafloor Observatory 

Galaxy Zoo: Clump Scout

Topic: Astronomy 

Galaxy Zoo was the original project that launched the Zooniverse platform in 2007. Over the past decade, new sub-projects have been added, like Clump Scout, which focus on other areas of galaxy research. Clump Scout seeks to answer why local clumpy galaxies are less common now than they were in the past. Citizen scientists classify photos by identifying the clumps within each image. 
This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, the European Science Cluster of Astronomy, and Particle Physics ESFRI Research Infrastructures. 
"In the early Universe clumpy galaxies were everywhere. Nowadays they are few and far between. We need your help to discover what happened to them!" –  Project Researcher 

Week 3 Projects:

This week, sustainNU is featuring citizen science projects related to climate change in honor of Earth Day 2020’s theme of climate action. Check out the projects below to help researchers have a better understanding of climate change and then plan your Earth Day celebration!

Southern Weather Discovery

Topic: Weather, Climate Change

Capture historical weather data to support better understanding of future climate change! Using logbook pages from 19th and 20th century ships, you can help record Southern Ocean and Antarctic weather data. Even on the high seas, facing constant hardship, the sailors and explorers took consistent weather observations for navigation and scientific purposes. Once you input these data into the system, researchers can bring them to life in a weather animation to understand past weather patterns and historic climate trends.

This research is part of an initiative called ACRE Antarctica, and it is led by NIWA scientists from New Zealand. Initial support for setting up Southern Weather Discovery came from Deep South National Science Challenge.

"Are you ready to help us find data treasure from the waters surrounding Antarctica? With your help we will be able to understand more about New Zealand's most severe snow event from the 20th century!" - Petra Pearce, Climate Scientist

Fossil Atmospheres

Topic: Atmospheric Science, Climate Change, Paleobotany

The composition of the Earth’s atmosphere has changed over time. One way to understand the effect climate change plays on our world and our environment is to look at the geological past through fossil records. Ginkgo trees first appeared 250 million years ago, even before the dinosaurs! Researchers at the Smithsonian Institutes want to create a record of how the atmosphere has changed using ratios of different types of leaf cells from modern and fossil Ginkgo trees. Citizen scientists can help identify different types of microscopic cells on images of fossil leaves.

Fossil Atmospheres is a National Science Foundation-funded project based out of the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

“Ginkgo trees evolved before the dinosaurs, survived three mass extinctions, and one species is still living today.” – Smithsonian

Week 2 Projects:

Power to the People

Topic: Sustainability, Energy

Getting energy to rural communities and homes can be difficult, and millions of people live without electricity worldwide. Having access to electricity can improve quality of life and reduce poverty. Reaching rural areas with existing power grids can be expensive and not well matched to the needs of these communities. Mapping these locations allows for development of more efficient and sustainable energy solutions. In Power to the People, you can help identify rural homes on satellite images. Identification of these buildings, allows researchers at Oxford University to design algorithms, “which will accelerate the design process for community-appropriate rural electrical grids.” This project specifically looks at rural homes in sub-Saharan Africa, as most of the people who live without energy live in sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia.

"To get the hardest-to-reach people electrical access, we need to know where they live. Our citizen science efforts help us build the tools to find them. With better mapping for rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, we can design better design electrical systems to suit community needs and aspirations in a sustainable way. Citizen science lets us bring diverse perspectives to the challenge of rural electrification”Alycia Leonard, Energy and Power Group at University of Oxford.

Chicago Wildlife Watch 

Topic: Urban Wildlife, Nature, Biology 

See all of our Chicagoland wildlife neighbors – from coyotes to chipmunks – and help the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute understand how animals share the city with usMotion-triggered cameras across 100 sites in Cook, Lake, DuPage, and Will Counties are helping scientists understand the biodiversity of the Chicagoland area. Using the images from these cameras, you can identify where animals are and help researchers keep track of different species populations. This information will help protect Chicago’s urban wildlife.

Chicago Wildlife Watch was developed by the Adler Planetarium and the Lincoln Park Zoo.

"By helping us to identify animals in photos, you are playing a critical role in our research that aims to understand how wildlife live in cities, and how we can best conserve and coexist with wildlife in our increasingly urban planet." – Lincoln Park Zoo’s Urban Wildlife Institute

Week 1 Projects:

Earthquake Detective

Topic: Earth Science

Classify earthquakes, tremors, and other seismic events by viewing seismograms, which track the earth’s movement. This Northwestern-based research aims to improve understanding of the conditions under which these different events occur.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, this citizen science effort is a collaboration between Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Integrated Data-Driven Discovery in Earth and Astrophysical Sciences, and Earthscope.

"Finding evidence in data for tectonic tremor and tiny earthquakes is necessary because they occur often and thereby add unique information to what we learn about plate tectonics and seismic hazard from less frequent larger earthquakes.  It is not easy to find this evidence in seismograms because their signals are somewhat similar to noise signals of various anthropogenic and natural origins. Citizen scientists provide valuable help with these detections through Earthquake Detective. " --Suzan van der Lee, Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Wildwatch Burrowing Owl

Topic: Nature, Biology

Help researchers understand the behavior of the burrowing owl and provides useful data for conservation professionals across Southern California. Citizen scientist volunteers review photos taken by motion-activated field cameras to categorize the owls’ age and behavior. The project is run by the San Diego Zoo.

This project is crucial in monitoring burrowing owl populations in San Diego County,” said Colleen Wisinski, conservation program specialist, SDZG. “We’d like to know more about the population dynamics in Otay Mesa—is it stable? Declining? Are chicks surviving in artificial burrows we construct for them? Our volunteers will be a huge help to parse the photo data.” – quote taken from Zooniverse.