Editor’s Choice: This press release highlights the critical partnership between citizen science and libraries that needs to be further explored and exploited. It makes so much sense to link libraries with citizen science – after all, libraries serve as a community’s shared access point to a wealth of information that can provide the stepping stones for many a citizen scientist’s journey. –LFF–

Excerpt: Arizona State University (ASU) aims to position public libraries as key facilitators of citizen science, a collaborative process between scientists and the general public to spur the collection of data.

Through a new grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), researchers from the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and ASU Library will develop field-tested, replicable resource toolkits for public libraries to provide to everyday people contributing to real research, from right where they are.

ASU’s 2016 Citizen Science Maker Summit: (from left to right) Narendra Das, a research scientists at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Dan Stanton, associate librarian for academic services at ASU Library and co-investigator on the grant; Darlene Cavalier, professor of practice in ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society and principal investigator on the grant; Catherine Hoffman, managing director of SciStarter; Micah Lande, assistant professor and Tooker Professor at The Polytechnic School; and Brianne Fisher, former ASU graduate student.

Source: Lewis, B., 2017. ASU Partners with public libraries to advance citizen science. Available at: https://asunow.asu.edu/20170913-asu-partners-public-libraries-advance-citizen-science, 13 September 2017 [Last accessed on 2 October 2017].

Excerpt: [A]s the University of Manitoba’s Whiskerprint Project shows, citizen science can not only aid researchers, but also cultivate the next generation of environmental stewards and enrich STEM education among fledgling scientists.

Led by University of Manitoba professor and behavioral ecologist Dr. Jane Waterman, the Whiskerprint Project is pioneering the use of whisker pattern analysis to identify individual polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba. In an interview with Mongabay-Wildtech, Waterman addressed the need to identify and track individuals in order to investigate bear behaviors and interactions, potential human-polar bear conflict, and impacts of climate change on the bears – whose habitat requires sea ice currently under threat. The “virtual mark-and-capture” method of identification and data collection offers a noninvasive process through which direct human contact with polar bears can be limited.

[A]s a polar bear’s whiskers grow, they part the bear’s fur, revealing spots where the animal’s black skin can be visible against its white coat. These spots create a distinctive pattern on each side of the bear’s face that can be used to distinguish individuals from each other. An algorithm developed by software developer and evolutionary biologist Dr. Carlos Anderson has allowed the research team to match whisker patterns from polar bear profiles. While similar to a NASA algorithm created to map stars and adapted to identify spot patterns of whale sharks, Anderson’s software further allows the polar bear researchers to compare the size, shape, and location of facial spots in relation to each other.

Source: Pedris, L., 2017. Spot the pattern: Whisker-prints and citizen science, 15 September 2017. Available at https://news.mongabay.com/wildtech/2017/09/spot-the-pattern-whisker-prints-citizen-science/ [Last accessed 3 October 2017].

Abstract: Citizen science is emerging as an increasingly viable way to support existing water monitoring efforts. This article assesses whether water quality data collected by large numbers of volunteers are as reliable as data collected under strict oversight of a government agency, and considers the potential of citizen science to expand spatial and temporal coverage of water monitoring networks. The analysis hinges on comparison of data on water temperature and dissolved oxygen (DO) in freshwater streams and rivers collected by four entities: the United States Geological Survey (USGS) network of field scientists, the USGS network of automated sensors, the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream volunteer water monitoring program, and the University of Rhode Island Watershed Watch (URIWW) volunteer water monitoring program. We find that volunteer-collected data exhibit the expected relationship between temperature and DO. Furthermore, we find that volunteer- and USGS-collected data lie in roughly the same range, although volunteer-collected DO measurements are lower on average (by approximately 1 mg/L in Georgia and 1.8 mg/L in Rhode Island). The results indicate that volunteer-collected data can provide reliable information about freshwater DO levels. These data could be useful for informing water management decisions—such as deciding where to focus restoration efforts—but may not be appropriate for applications in which highly precise data are required. We also comment on the growth potential of volunteer water monitoring efforts. Encouraging volunteers to collect data in high-priority or undersampled areas may help expand spatial and temporal coverage of volunteer monitoring networks while retaining high levels of participation.

Source: Safford, H., Peters, C.A., 2017. Citizen Science for Dissolved Oxygen Monitoring: Case Studies from Georgia and Rhode Island. Environmental Engineering Science. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1089/ees.2017.0218

Excerpt: My greatest frustration with science class when I was in school was during labs. For some reason I saw them for what they were…rule-following exercises. Think about it for a second. The lab stations are set up the same way, everyone gets the same handout, and there are correct conclusions that everyone should come to…if they followed the rules.

That concept is what fueled my endeavors in my classroom to make science as authentic and exciting as possible for my students. Now I know that “real” science isn’t glorious or sexy all of the time — in fact, most of the time. But, my job was to inspire my students, to build interest and to help them engage with what was going on around them.

Source: Runberg, D., 2017. Citizen Science With the micro:bit, 22 August 2017. Available at http://blog.sparkfuneducation.com/citizen-science-with-the-microbit [Last accessed 3 October 2017].

Abstract: This study explores the motivations and barriers for participation and persistence in an innovative citizen science pilot project with Virginia Master Naturalist volunteers. The project combines self-guided online training, in-person meetings, and collaboration through social networking and “mental modeling” to support on-the-ground development and execution of citizen science projects developed by participants. Results suggest that the two strongest motivators for volunteers to participate in the project were an interest in the environment and an interest in protecting a local natural resource. Our findings indicate that volunteers with more prior experience participating in citizen science projects and those with higher gross incomes were more likely to persist in the project. Our data also suggest that decisions to persist or drop out of the project were influenced by volunteers’ time commitment, their ability to use the online tools, the perceived relevance of the resources, and the saliency of the project. Projects that arose from pre-existing environmental issues seemed to be more salient and may have enhanced volunteer persistence. We discuss the influence of our findings and the implications for the development of future citizen science projects.

Source: Frensley, T., et al., 2017. Bridging the Benefits of Online and Community Supported Citizen Science: A Case Study on Motivation and Retention with Conservation-Oriented Volunteers. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice 2(1), p.4. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/cstp.84

Excerpt: People who give up their time for online volunteering are mainly motivated by a desire to learn, a new study has found. The research surveyed volunteers on ‘citizen science’ projects and suggests that this type of volunteering could be used to increase general knowledge of science within society. The study, led by Dr Joe Cox from the Department of Economics and Finance, discovered that an appetite to learn more about the subject was the number one driver for online volunteers, followed by being part of a community. It also revealed that many volunteers are motivated by a desire for escapism.

Source: University of Portsmouth Press Office, 2017. Citizen science volunteers driven by desire to learn. University of Portsmouth News, July 31, 2017.

Abstract: In the last few years, contributions of the general public in scientific projects has increased due to the advancement of communication and computing technologies. Internet played an important role in connecting scientists and volunteers who are interested in participating in their scientific projects. However, despite potential benefits, only a limited number of crowdsourcing based large-scale science (citizen science) projects have been deployed due to the complexity involved in setting them up and running them. In this paper, we present CitizenGrid – an online middleware platform which addresses security and deployment complexity issues by making use of cloud computing and virtualisation technologies. CitizenGrid incentivises scientists to make their small-to-medium scale applications available as citizen science projects by: 1) providing a directory of projects through a web-based portal that makes applications easy to discover; 2) providing flexibility to participate in, monitor, and control multiple citizen science projects from a common interface; 3) supporting diverse categories of citizen science projects. The paper describes the design, development and evaluation of CitizenGrid and its use cases.

Source: Yadav, P., Cohen, J., Darlington, J., 2017. CitizenGrid: An Online Middleware for Crowdsourcing Scientific Research. Computers and Society. arXiv:1707.09489v1

Excerpt: Fred Isberner is a retired healthcare professor in Carbondale, Illinois. But on 21 August, the 69-year-old will be collecting data about the Sun’s superheated outer atmosphere during a total solar eclipse. Isberner is one of thousands of people across the United States who plan to gather data during the event. Their combined efforts will be one of the largest, one-off citizen-science efforts yet.

“It absolutely has the potential to be the biggest,” says Scott McIntosh, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado.

Total solar eclipses occur about once every 18 months, but they often pass over remote areas such as the ocean. The 21 August eclipse is rare because it will be visible over a heavily populated landmass — the continental United States. About 12 million people live in the path of totality, which stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. Scientists and volunteers plan to take advantage of the situation to gather data and encourage the public to participate in research.

Source: Lallensack, R., 2017. Citizen Scientists Chase Total Solar Eclipse, 9 August 2017. Available at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/citizen-scientists-chase-total-solar-eclipse/ [Last accessed 31 August 2017].

Excerpt: Saturday, citizen scientists throughout the U.S. gathered at watersheds to celebrate National Lakes Appreciation Month by conducting similar studies. Vincent Kaping, 10, of Felton, said he was surprised the disk wasn’t a more complex tool. He thought it would have some filter or other contraptions attached to it. “I was thinking that it would be a machine,” Kaping said. He took two readings; both were about 6 feet of visibility marked when the disk disappeared in the green water about midday.

Source: Todd, M., 2017. Loch Lomond’s algal bloom evident after citizen scientists test waters. Santa Cruz Sentinel, 29 July 2017.

Excerpt: The Cuyahoga Valley National Park will work to make students “citizen scientists,” with help from a $1 million donation to the National Park Foundation.

Starting with Woodridge High School, which sits on national park land in Peninsula, the park’s Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center will provide lesson plans and materials to classrooms, like a “national park in a box,” director Katie Wright said.

The focus is to educate students about water quality, particularly in the Cuyahoga Valley Watershed, Wright said. This will include “working with the Ohio EPA protocols to collect stream and river data,” according to a project overview.

Source: Morice, J., 2017. Donation boosts Cuyahoga Valley National Park educational programming with ‘Citizen Science’. Cleveland.com, 10 August.